Congressman Tom Petri (R-WI) doesn't think ObamaCare goes far enough in allowing for a complete government take over of healthcare. The 73 year-old Republican was first elected to Congress more than three decades ago, and has repeatedly voiced his support for a so-called "single-payer" healthcare system. Such a plan would allow for a European-style healthcare reform that forces all consumers to get their insurance directly through a government entitlement program.
In 2009 as the Democrat controlled Congress debated President Barack Obama's signature healthcare reform plan, Petri sat on the House Education and Labor Committee (now called House Education and Workforce Committee). When Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) introduced an amendment that would have allowed states to opt-out of ObamaCare if they established their own single-payer government entitlement system, Petri voted in favor of it.
A single-payer healthcare plan is defined as "a system in which healthcare providers are paid for their services by the government rather than by private insurers."
In short, it gives government complete and direct control over the healthcare system and consumers' medical decisions.
Before introducing the single-payer amendment, Kucinich grabbed a lot of media attention during the 2008 presidential campaign cycle when he claimed at a primary debate that he once saw an Unidentified Flying Object.
Democrats in the House eventually stripped the Petri-Kucinich amendment from the final version of the Affordable Care Act.
But while Obama didn't sign a healthcare bill that included a single-payer option, the President and Petri share a mutual philosophical respect for the concept. "I happen to be a proponent of a single-payer, universal healthcare plan," Obama told a gathering of labor union members and leaders before running for president.
Asked about his position on single-payer healthcare, Petri confirmed he likes the idea saying, "I did support the public option on the uh, the state basis."
Petri explained that he cast his vote after "we had an amendment in our committee by Dennis Kucinich." If single-payer systems work in the states, Petri said he is open pushing the plan nationwide. "If the state gets it right we can copy them," he said.
The only difference between the President's expressed view and Petri's voting record is that Petri prefers to initially limit the public option to the state level.
Petri's embrace of a leftwing healthcare reform idea stands in stark contrast to the path charted by other Wisconsin Republicans like Gov. Scott Walker and Sen. Ron Johnson. In an interview with CNN late last year, Walker explained how strong his opposition to ObamaCare has been:
"I fought this every step of the way, ran against it twice, empowered my attorney general to join the federal lawsuit, did not take the state exchange, deferred to the federal exchange, and didn't take the Medicaid expansion."
For his part, Johnson has said he made the decision to leave the private sector and run for U.S. Senate in 2010 because of his opposition to ObamaCare. Johnson has also filed a lawsuit against part of the federal government's implementation of the legislation.
At times, Petri has said he opposes portions of ObamaCare. "I introduced several amendments to that plan," he said outside one townhall meeting. At another townhall gathering he said, "I offered a number of them [amendments] myself."
But the official Congressional record shows Petri may be misleading constituents when he says that. Only one amendment was introduced by Petri to change ObamaCare - the single-payer plan he backed was introduced by Kucinich.
Although he has voiced his concern with some parts of ObamaCare, and voted several times to repeal portions of it, Petri has never backed down from his support of a single-payer system. "I am open to government plans, and even single-payer, on the state level," he wrote in an editorial published by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in September 2009.
With numerous glitches, delayed deadlines and trouble signing people up, ObamaCare has been less than a success so far. A recent study found that of the roughly 7 million people who have signed up for ObamaCare, only an estimated 858,000 have paid for their insurance.