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Pennsylvania Republicans want to guarantee right to buy health care

HARRISBURG -- About 30 state House Republican lawmakers on Wednesday urged passage of legislation that would guarantee Pennsylvanians the right to choose health care plans, regardless of federal mandates.

"Do you want Obamacare?" said Rep. Matthew Baker, R-Tioga County, the bill's sponsor. "Do you want to pay higher taxes• Do you want less quality in heath care?"

Brett Marcy, a spokesman for House Majority Whip Todd Eachus, D-Luzerne County, called the bill "hollow political bluster."

"It seems the state House Republicans are only interested in perpetuating the right-wing propaganda of their national party," Marcy said. "The voters are tired of these lies and scare tactics, and they're tired of this kind of extremist political ideology."

Despite Republican Scott Brown's recent victory for a Massachusetts Senate seat as an opponent of federal health care, activists said they believe Congress will press ahead on the issue.

"I don't think it is dead," said Sharon Cherubin, executive director of UnitePA in Lancaster, who attended the event. "(State legislation) is a fail-safe measure. The big issue right now is, it's being mandated. It's unconstitutional."

But Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell said later that President Obama and Congress should forge ahead with a health care bill.

"I think there's a lot of misunderstanding in the public about health care," Rendell said. "We -- and I'm including myself -- haven't done a good job of explaining it."

Individual provisions are popular with the public, Rendell contended. He said the Massachusetts vote wasn't a referendum on Obama or health care and instead was a function of local politics.

Pennsylvania is one of 25 states, including Ohio and West Virginia, with legislation that would allow the state to "opt out" of federal health care mandates. In seven other states, legislators stated their intent to file such bills, said Christie Herrera, director of a task force for the American Legislative Exchange Council.

The Pennsylvania bill has been pending before the House Insurance Committee since October. Minority Policy Chairman Stan Saylor, R-York County, said he believes Democrats won't move the bill because "they are afraid to oppose Governor Rendell."

"They're our employees," said Tom Altman of Youngwood, a "tea party" activist attending the news conference. "If they've forgotten that, we're going to remind them."

"We know this is really about a takeover of one-sixth of the economy and establishing a European-style welfare state," said Rep. Curt Schroder, R-Chester County, sponsor of a companion constitutional amendment.

In response to the GOP news conference, the Pennsylvania Health Access Network, a coalition of 50 organizations, issued a statement saying health care overhaul is needed to rein in unsustainable costs and give hardworking Pennsylvanians greater freedom to care for their families and themselves.

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