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Santorum: Your body is a car

Last modified: 12/7/2011 12:00:00 AM
To control health care costs, Rick Santorum says Americans should treat their bodies more like their cars: Only the priciest procedures should go through insurance.

"You don't even turn in a little fender bender if it's only going to cost you a little bit more than your deductible," the Republican presidential candidate said last week during an interview with the Monitor's editorial board. "Why? Because you don't want your insurance to go up."

Here's a video of the interview.

With health care expenses, "consumers should pay for the maintenance of your vehicle, you being the vehicle," Santorum said. That would mean paying out of pocket for "minor scrapes and scratches" - like a broken arm, he suggested.

"It's a serious problem, but it's not a catastrophic event," he said.

Santorum, a former Pennsylvania senator, proposes that the government replace the health care reform that was passed last year and supported by President Obama with a model that more closely mirrors how car insurance works, with people submitting claims for only the most significant health procedures, like open heart surgery.

That would lead to lower insurance costs and enable companies to pass on savings to employees, who could then put the money pre-tax into a health savings account to pay for lesser medical expenses, Santorum said.

"You give the power, the purchasing power, to the consumer," Santorum said. He said people are capable of making educated decisions about their medical care: "How would you choose between a Ford F-150 and a Chevy Silverado?"

He also said consumers, rather than the government, should be responsible for controlling health care costs.

"One way or another, care is going to be rationed," Santorum said. "It's either going to be rationed from the top or from the bottom. . . . I'd rather have you do that and make mistakes than be prevented from getting care because the government thinks that I don't deserve it."

Health care reform has created uncertainty for businesses, as has the $1.3 trillion federal budget deficit, Santorum said.

He said he would address the deficit not by increasing taxes but by cutting spending, citing federal education spending, the State Department and food stamps among his primary targets.

"Is there a hunger problem if the poorest people in America are the most obese?" he said, responding to a Monitor editor's question about a recent New York Times report that said one in three Americans are poor or near poor.

Santorum said he would cut and cap spending on the food stamp program and put the money in block grants for states to individually administer.

Asked how he would address the New Hampshire Legislature's 2009 decision to legalize gay marriage, Santorum said he supports a federal marriage amendment.

With different marriage laws in different states, "it creates uncertainty, chaos and confusion," Santorum said. If a gay couple got married in New Hampshire, moved to Pennsylvania and wanted a divorce, what would happen? he said. "Are we going to have to have reciprocity and respect the marriage here in New Hampshire as a marriage in Pennsylvania?"

Santorum said he doesn't "have any problem if people want to live their life the way they want to live it." But gay marriage affects him personally, he said, because it "changes what marriage is" and deprives children of their right to a mother and father.

While it should be more difficult for couples to get divorced, "we don't as a society say that we want people to be divorced," Santorum said. "What you're saying with same-sex marriage is, you want people, you're designing a system around a system where children are denied their birthright."

During his interview at the Monitor - which lasted more than an hour - Santorum addressed a host of other topics:

• He supports U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan's plan on Medicare. "I believe we need to get to Medicare and Social Security sooner rather than later."

• He would not cut the payroll tax, since it pays for Social Security. "So why are we cutting payroll taxes and further putting Social Security in deeper deficits?"

• He would freeze defense spending and introduce business practices to make the department more efficient, reinvesting some of the savings. He wants more active-duty soldiers and a greater investment in defense technology.

• He believes Obama is "thwarting" American policy in regard to Iran and says the government must institute sanctions, use covert activity, support the pro-democracy movement and work with Israel to keep Iran from developing nuclear weapons. If the United States doesn't take those steps, there will be a nuclear arms race in the Middle East, and "you will see a proliferation of terror that we have never seen in the history of our country."

• He thinks schools should teach the "controversy" surrounding the theory of evolution. "Most Americans, as you know, don't believe in evolution. They believe that God had a role to play."

• He thinks he'd have more voter support if he got more media attention. "I'm not the guy with the bouffant hairdo that everybody wants to twirl around the dance floor with. I'm the guy you want to take home to Mom and Dad, but that's not the guy you're talking about, right?"

(Maddie Hanna can be reached at 369-3321 or mhanna@cmonitor.com.)


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