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Fiorina Talks Health Care With DHMC Caregivers

Thursday, December 10, 2015
Lebanon — Carly Fiorina, the former Hewlett-Packard CEO who is seeking the Republican presidential nomination, pledged Wednesday to get rid of the Affordable Care Act and encourage competition among medical providers.

Speaking to about 175 people — including many wearing white doctors’ coats — who filled a small auditorium at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, Fiorina pledged to “repeal Obamacare and to promote the free market, real competition in health care.”

During a question period, John Birkmeyer, the Dartmouth-Hitchcock executive vice president who earlier had welcomed Fiorina to the hospital, observed that a political logjam in Washington might prevent repeal of the law and asked what one or two steps she would take to “fix it within the current framework.”

Fiorina rejected the premise of Birkmeyer’s question and said the 5-year-old health care reform law was too long and complicated.

The law had triggered a wave of mergers among hospitals and insurance and pharmaceutical companies, she said earlier.

“This is the terrible result of crony capitalism,” she said. “This is the terrible result of complexity.”

In place of Obamacare, states would be responsible for setting up “high-risk pools” to ensure consumers with pre-existing conditions and health care providers would be required to regularly tally and publish “their costs, their prices (and) their outcomes,” Fiorina said.

“We need to create a system that rewards improvement,” she said. “We need to create a system that puts power and information in the hands of consumers. We need to create a system that provides the opportunity for real 
competition.”

Frank McDougall, D-H’s vice president of government relations, later asked whether the plan that Fiorina would advocate to replace Obamacare would require insurers to sell policies to consumers with pre-existing conditions and require all consumers to have some form of coverage.

Fiorina, who had noted that she was a breast cancer survivor, affirmed that her plan would ensure access to insurance to consumers with pre-existing conditions, but passed over the question about the so-called individual mandate.

That’s a crucial link, Princeton Professor Paul Starr wrote in his 2013 history of health care reform efforts in the United States. The pitfall in a system that requires insurers to sell policies to consumers with pre-existing conditions but doesn’t have an individual mandate is that “healthy people would rationally wait to insure until they got sick, and no insurance system can work unless the healthy as well as the sick pay into it.”

As she left DHMC, Fiorina was asked again about whether her plan would include an individual mandate. She acknowledged that she heard the question but didn’t respond further, and members of her staff intervened to say that she was no longer available to answer questions.

Fiorina’s 20-minute speech sounded a theme of fierce populism.

“We have to take back the country,” she said. “I think we have to return to a citizen 
government.”

Fiorina said that too many people were “being crushed by a government that no longer serves those of us who pay for it and by a political class that no longer knows how to fix it.”

Fiorina laid the groundwork for her populist exposition by noting that she had worked as a secretary early in her career.

“It’s only in this country that a young woman can start out, as I did, typing, filing and answering the phones, and go on one day to become the chief executive of what we turned into the largest technology company in the world,” she said.

Fiorina, who is the daughter of a federal judge and graduated from Stanford, told a questioner that voters should “elect a president who is not a member of that political class but is qualified to do the job.”

Qualifications should include an understanding of how the economy, the world and bureaucracy work, of technology and of “leadership and executive decision-making,” she said.

Jocelyn Chertoff, the chairwoman of the D-H radiology department, noted that Fiorina had criticized President Obama for not having a plan to combat ISIS, and asked her to spell out what she would do.

“We must deny ISIS territory,” she said. “Their territory gives them legitimacy and power.”

ISIS’ territorial base could be eliminated, without committing tens of thousands of U.S. troops, by a “more effective bombing campaign,” the deployment of more special forces and by relying on “Sunni Arab” forces in the region to do more fighting, she said.

Fiorina was asked by D-H General Counsel John Kacavas whether she would support a system of universal background checks for all gun buyers.

Fiorina instead called for better enforcement of existing laws.

“We are not competently enforcing the laws that we have, period,” she said. “Politicians know how to pass laws but they never solve the problem. Before we rush off and do something else, can we please fix what’s already in place?”

Fiorina threw a couple of jabs in the direction of Donald Trump, the New York real estate developer who, in a CNN/WMUR New Hampshire primary poll released Tuesday, led the field with the backing of 32 percent of likely Republican voters. Fiorina was in seventh place with about 5 percent.

Fiorina said her leadership would be more effective than Trump’s in addressing the problem of unresponsive government.

“Donald Trump doesn’t know how to fix these problems, so he suggests that we throw out the Constitution,” she said. “He doesn’t have a plan, for example, for defeating ISIS, so he says, ‘Let’s bring back internment camps for U.S. citizens.’ ” Trump has called for temporarily denying entry to the United States to non-citizen Muslims, and says his proposal would not apply to American citizens, Th e New York Times reported Wednesday.

In a post-event news conference, Fiorina said Trump had “over-reacted” to the terrorist attack in San Berna rdino, Calif., while President Obama had “under-reacted.” Both responses, she said, were “very dangerous.”

Fiorina continued to lob rhetorical mortar shells at Trump during a dinnertime event that drew 300 people to an auditorium in the West Lebanon office of School Administrative Unit 88. Trump, she said, “distracts us with outrageous proposals but meanwhile he has no plan to win.”

Fiorina proffered a surprising verbal bouquet to Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who is seeking the Democratic nomination. “Bernie Sanders talks a lot about crony capitalism,” Fiorina said. “I agree with him. He’s wrong about how to fix it.”

Fiorina drew more applause with this mention of another potential rival: “In your heart of hearts, you can’t wait to see me debate Hillary 
Clinton.”

Rick Jurgens can be reached at rjurgens@vnews.com or 603-727-3229.




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