TOMAH — A Republican candidate for U.S. Senate condemned socialized medicine and said the Tomah Veterans Administration hospital is an example of government-run health care that doesn’t work.

Kevin Nicholson brought his campaign to the Monroe County Fair in Tomah Friday. He is one of five Republicans seeking the nomination to challenge Democratic incumbent Tammy Baldwin in November.

Kevin Nicholson

Kevin Nicholson

Nicholson criticized Baldwin for wanting to expand government health care and cited the Tomah VA as an example of its failure. He referred to the opioid medication scandal in Tomah and said “when people were caught up in the gears of a single-payer, government-run health care system — and by that, I’m talking about the Tomah VA — Tammy Baldwin turned a blind eye to it.”

“(Baldwin) is in favor of socialized, single-payer government-run health care,” he said. “She’s willing to spend money we don’t have on health care systems that don’t work ... she wants to take all of us in Wisconsin and put us in a system like the Tomah VA so she can ignore us when we actually have problems with our health care.”

He said market forces are needed throughout the health care system, including Medicare and Medicaid.

“We need more market forces in health care, not less,” Nicholson said. “We need price transparency and real consumer choice.”

He said everyone, including the medically indigent, would benefit from competition driving the down the cost of health care. He criticized using Medicaid to implement the Affordable Care Act.

“Obamacare put Medicaid at risk because it used Medicaid as a delivery mechanism for Obamacare,” he said. “That’s not acceptable to me — there’s a moral issue here. Tammy Baldwin is gambling with the future of Medicaid to play her socialist games when it comes to health care.”

He also favors returning to high-risk pools for people with pre-existing conditions. He said they were “economically solvent” until they were eliminated by ACA.

“We can tweak it a bit, but it was a good policy answer,” he said.

Social security

Nicholson said there should be no changes for current Social Security and Medicare recipients or those who are nearing retirement but said the programs must eventually change to remain solvent.

“If you’re receiving Social Security or you’re close to retirement, there should be no change in the program whatsoever,” Nicholson said.

For those who are further away from retirement, Nicholson said they “should be incentivized to save into defined contribution plans that actually allow them to grow their wealth throughout their entire life.”

He said means testing Social Security benefits for future recipients is “a totally reasonable answer.” He also proposed raising the eligibility age for future retirees because people are living longer.

Nicholson’s plan is similar to one offered by Wisconsin U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Janesville. Ryan proposed a plan in 2010 that would preserve existing Social Security and Medicare for current recipients and anyone 55 years and older. Nicholson didn’t offer a specific cutoff age.

Nicholson described himself as a strong supporter of President Donald Trump and said Friday’s announcement of 4.1 percent GDP growth confirms that Trump’s economic policies are working. He defended Trump’s trade policies and said they are necessary to open markets blocked to American producers.

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Tomah Journal editor Steve Rundio can be reached at steve.rundio@lee.net.

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