The Republican candidate in New Hampshire's 2nd Congressional District Steve Negron says he does not think the government should be in the business of healthcare, although he supports federal funding for Medicaid to help needy populations.
NHPR's Peter Biello spoke with Negron about healthcare policy. All Things Considered is speaking will all congressional candidates in the New Hampshire this week.
(This transcript has been edited lightly for clarity.)
If you are elected to Congress how would you tackle the state's opioid crisis?
I think what we have to do is a better job of understanding what's happening on the front lines and then roll that up and figure out what it is that we need in conjunction with the state and how the federal government can help them. I have talked to Governor Sununu about this and we just got in $43 million, I think, for this “hub and spoke” model that's going to be coming out there. Those are the things that we have to talk to them about, what's working, what's not working. That's what I think we need to do. First thing is you need to go out and talk to the people that actually provide the services to try to help these folks that are struggling with this addiction and then take that forward to Washington to see what it is that we can do to help the state of New Hampshire.
The New Hampshire House of Representatives passed the expanded Medicaid bill back in May with some Republican lawmakers supporting the bill. You voted against it and you said on NHPR last week that you voted against it because you're not a “tax and spend” kind of guy. Is there a role for the government in helping people living in poverty to get health care?
Absolutely, and I think what we need to do is we need to be sensitive to the fact that people do need help. I think it's the way the bill was set up with the Medicaid expansion, it really was to be able to tax some folks to be able to provide that. I believe what has to happen is the federal government needs to fight for money to get to the state and then let the states understand what it is they need it to do. The bill, and I have to reread it again, as I remember it when we did a discussion on the House floor, I looked at that as yes, there is an opportunity. I think it was a five year expansion, I think, is that what it was? Where is there a way that we actually let the states then provide and not actually look at it as a tax on the other people. I think there's a common ground. That bill didn't provide that common ground and that was the reason what I why I didn't vote for it. But absolutely, people that are in need, those are why those programs are in place and that's what we need to do to provide to help for them.
Republicans in Congress came close to repealing the Affordable Care Act last year. Would you support efforts to repeal Obamacare?
First of all I don't think the government should be in the business of health care, but the way it is, you just can't take the rug out from people without having something in its place. And I think there's some things that you have to look at. I'm a huge believer of the free market. I believe we have to reduce the barriers of entry to other people to come into the state. We're limited to the amount of providers that are here in the state. We do comparative shopping all the time. We do it for milk and for eggs and for bread. We allow the people in New Hampshire their opportunity to go and find the best health care for them. But we can't do that right now. That's one half of the problem.
The other half is we have to allow individuals, when they go in to get health care as a consumer, we need to make sure that we empower them and that they know what they're getting when they spend their money. Right now when you get an explanation of benefits, and I see a procedure lists for example an MRI that's$3,000, I have no transparency into what that cost is. I need to be able to give to the individual, the consumer, the ability to shop where they feel is right for them.
When you say the government should not be in the business of healthcare, are you saying that Obamacare deserves to be repealed? That the government has waded too far into the realm of health care and it needs to back off?
Yes sir I do.
OK, and square that statement with what you said earlier about the federal government being sort of a way to assist states in helping its poorest citizens get some kind of health care coverage through Medicaid.
Well Medicaid certainly has federal funding that goes to the states. I think Medicaid is a little different animal than the Affordable Care Act, where Medicaid is a program that gives money from the federal government to the states.
But it’s a health care program, a government health care program.
A government healthcare program, but when you talk about Affordable Care Act, I'm reducing the barriers so that competition comes in, not dictated by the government. That competition comes in and then the free market then takes over. The free market and Medicaid I think are two separate things. I want to give the consumer the ability to pick what health care that they can afford and what they need.
How do you get your coverage and how does the way you get coverage shape your thoughts about what works for the rest of the country?
I've had coverage in many different ways. I had it as a dependent when my father was in the service. I had it when there wasn't even Tricare as active duty military. I've had it as an industry person when I actually went out and bought civilian coverage. I was a dependent for my wife when she was civil service and we had Blue Cross Blue Shield. Right now my family is on Tricare. So I've seen a lot of things that are out there. You need to have as many options out there and let you decide what's best for you because what's good for one family may not certainly be good for another. But I've had medical care in many different facets. And the good thing for me, I’ve been fortunate that I got to choose which way I wanted to go. I think we need to be able to do that for most Americans.