Former GOP leader Frist says he'd vote for healthcare bill

Bill Frist breaks with his party, and criticizes some of its opposition to the Democrats' legislation

By Alex Koppelman

Published October 3, 2009 12:15AM (EDT)

At this point, it would be a little surprising if even one or two of the Senate's Republicans broke ranks and voted for the Democrats' healthcare reform proposals. Any more than that would be downright shocking. But the man who led that group until just a couple years ago says if he were still in office, he would be crossing the aisle.

"I would end up voting for it," former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., told Time's Karen Tumulty. "As leader, I would take heat for it. ... That's what leadership is all about."

Frist, who is a surgeon, does have some issues with the reform bills as they're currently structured. But he likes other elements of it, Tumulty says, like the provision that prohibits insurance companies from denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions. He's even favor of the idea of an individual mandate -- that is, a requirement that anyone not covered by an employer or a government program like Medicare buy insurance -- which some conservatives argue is unconstitutional.

The former majority leader even criticized his party for some of their rhetoric during the debate. "Clearly, the death panels and public plan arguments have been overblown," he said.

Conservatives weren't always wild about Frist when he was majority leader; it's hard to imagine that he won't come under fire for breaking so publicly with them and his party on this issue.

Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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