Frist Predicts Tax, Premium Hikes With Democratic Health Bill

Former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist sees a voter backlash to a Democratic healthcare bill.

By + More

By Paul Bedard, Washington Whispers

Voters will be angry and mount a backlash against Democrats in upcoming elections unless the five different healthcare reform bills working through Congress are redrawn to prevent higher taxes and insurance premiums, according to former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist. The former lawmaker, a heart surgeon who teamed with Democrats to push some previous healthcare reforms, told Whispers that he would not vote for any of the five bills without major changes. Time today reported that Frist would support the legislation, but he told Whispers that he was "disappointed" with that story because it didn't reflect his view.

"A plan that I would support would be a plan that would bring in 20 million uninsured, scaled back the benefits toward catastrophic care, and thirdly had incentives for a value-based rather than a volume-based healthcare system," said Frist, who's promoting his new autobiography, A Heart to Serve: The Passion to Bring Health, Hope, and Healing. However, he said, none of the current bills meets his requirements. As for the Senate Finance Committee bill, he added, "clearly without amending it, I could not vote for it." His biggest complaint: "It doesn't bend the cost curve sufficiently for me."

So what does he see happening? "In late December, a healthcare bill will pass, certainly. It will probably bring 30 million people into the system. It will have significant and very constructive insurance reform. It will cause everyone's taxes to go up and healthcare premiums to go up, which is concerning to me in terms of the impact on the cost. It will not be a bipartisan bill," Frist predicted.

And he sees a "big backlash . . . if a partisan bill with 51, 52 votes passes that raises premiums and that an average person cannot answer, 'What did I get out of it?' " He did, however, say that with intensive lobbying from the president and GOP-inspired amendments, a more bipartisan bill could pass.

Check out our gallery of Whispers political caricatures.

Want your Whispers first? Check out U.S. News Weekly.