JACKSON — Democratic U.S. Rep. Travis Childers told constituents Tuesday night he would not vote for a House health care reform bill in its current form.
The north Mississippi freshman lawmaker told more than 7,200 listeners during a town hall teleconference that private insurance companies should compete for business to decrease health costs.
“I’m a free-enterprise guy,” said Childers, whose family has run a nursing home and an assisted-living facility since the mid-1990s.
Childers is a fiscally conservative Blue Dog Democrat who went to Washington after winning a special election in April 2008. He won a full, two-year term in November, and Republicans are targeting him as a potentially vulnerable incumbent as they try to dent or overturn Democrats’ majority in 2010.
North Mississippi’s 1st District was represented by the GOP’s Roger Wicker for 13 years before he moved to the U.S. Senate.
Childers said he held the town hall meeting by teleconference, rather than in person, because it was the most effective way to speak directly to a large number of people. In some town hall meetings across the nation, Democrats have faced hostile questions from people opposed to health care legislation.
Childers said companies should stop denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions. He said he wants to see details before deciding whether he’d support a mandate for all Americans to have some type of health insurance.
Responding to questions from callers, Childers said he opposes any public funding for abortion and any public health coverage for people who are in the U.S. illegally.
He also said it is a “myth” that health care legislation would require people to go before “death panels” to discuss end-of-life issues.
When a caller said all Americans should have the same kind of health insurance that members of Congress have, Childers said his own coverage is similar to that of many federal employees. He said he pays $356 a month for a policy that provides catastrophic coverage but does not pay for every expense when he sees a dentist or doctor.
“I would not vote for a bill that I would not agree to be a part of,” he said.