Sen. Isakson addresses public health-care option

Without any protesters and with no mention of “death panels” or state-funded abortions, Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., delivered a strong rebuke of the public health-care option being considered in Washington, saying it would equate to a single-payer plan.

Speaking Thursday to the Macon Lions Club, Isakson framed the issue as a “classic debate between single-payer health care and private sector delivery.”

He argued before the supportive crowd of approximately 60 people at lunchtime Thursday that a government run health-care option eventually would run insurance companies out of business.

“You won’t have a total single-payer health plan the first year,” he said. “It’s just a matter of time until (the competition) evaporates.”

After addressing health care, Isakson turned his attention to the state of the economy. He warned the audience that economic recovery would not happen overnight.

“Personally I think we’re in a recovery period that could take as long as five years,” he said. “I do think we’re at the bottom, and we’re bouncing at the bottom.”

Questions from the crowd focused on the topics of the day — health care and the economy.

While some members of Congress have run into some vocally angry and sometimes disruptive constituents during their summer recess, Isakson’s Lions Club meeting at Vineville Methodist Church was calm and didn’t include any audience interruptions of the senator. The event was not open to the general public, but some in attendance were invited guests.

Macon Lions Club President Fred Stofer said the meeting had the biggest crowd in years.

“More Lions have come to the meeting than they have for a long time,” he said.

He called Isakson’s remarks “very informative.”

Georgia Attorney General candidate Max Wood, a former U.S. attorney, attended the meeting. Wood, who is not a Lions Club member, said he was invited by the club’s president.

“I thought he showed an incredible depth of knowledge on the key issues,” Wood said about Isakson.

Audience member Mitchell Bennett from Kathleen said he thought Isakson had a “very, very good” understanding of the issues the nation faces.

“I’m glad to hear he’s on track with what I think,” Bennett said.

Later Thursday afternoon, Isakson met with The Telegraph’s editorial board and then sat for a brief interview with a reporter.

During the meeting he addressed some of recent controversies.

He said there was no place in America for certain extreme types of protest.

“There’s no place in America for swastikas. There’s no place in America for physical dissent,” he said.

But he reaffirmed his commitment to the Bill of Rights. He called for free unfettered debate on the issues of the day.

“I have had some people really take me to task, but they should,” he said. “It’s their tax money.”

The senator was pulled into a debate about a portion of the U.S. House of Representatives’ health-care bill on end-of-life counseling at President Obama’s New Hampshire town hall meeting Tuesday. Obama said Isakson was a chief sponsor of a bill that “allowed Medicare to reimburse people for consultations about end-of-life care, setting up living wills, the availability of hospice, et cetera,” according to a transcript on the White House Web site.

But in a news release that same day, Isakson denounced the president’s comments, saying he was not consulted in creating the controversial House amendment. He also said his Senate amendment was different from the House one.

In a Thursday interview with The Telegraph, Isakson said Obama “was trying to deflect attention away from what he was doing.”

Isakson was unwilling to say whether there was any entity described in the House health bill that warranted the name “death panel.”

“I’m not going to get into that debate,” he said.

To contact writer Eric Newcomer, call 744-4494.