Bloomberg says ‘it would be a sin’ to block health care reform now

Bloomberg with Edwin Lee. (Dana Rubinstein)
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Mayor Michael Bloomberg this morning scolded Washington for holding "the country hostage" to the politics surrounding health care reform, something he said the country desperately needs.

"In terms of the health care thing, you had your chance to vote against it," said Bloomberg this morning in Brooklyn. "The public wanted it. Now I think we've gone so far down the road, it would be a sin not to try it and see whether it works. And if it works, great. And if it doesn't, you can always fix it."

Bloomberg has historically expressed some equivocation about President Obama's signature health care law.

When the Supreme Court upheld it last summer, he responded with non-celebratory statements about "democracy in action" and a promise to uphold the law.

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He's also expressed reservations about the law's ability to hold health care costs in check.

Today, he said, affirmatively, that Obamacare is definitely better than nothing.

"Look we for a long time have had an enormous problem with health care," he said. "It's gonna bankrupt us unless we figure out a ways to do something about it. I don't know that this is the perfect bill. It was written by committees. I would have done some things differently. But at this point, it was passed by a majority and we should put it in and see if it works."

And he's confident at least part of the bill makes sense.

"The idea of these exchanges really is a good idea," he said. "All it is it gives you a choice. It pulls all the information together so you can make a decision. ... When people say Obamacare is government, well, when they show up at an emergency room without insurance, that is the ultimate government health care provided, and we need to have people get their own private health care and pay for it. And that's really what exchanges do."

The Republican-controlled House has threatened to defund the government unless the Democratic-controlled Senate agrees to delay the implementation of Obamacare for a year. The Senate is not so inclined, and is likely to pass a spending bill that does not include a delay provision when it convenes this afternoon. The deadline for some sort of compromise is midnight.

I asked Bloomberg if he thinks the Senate should hold the line against House demands.

"The Senate and the House have to come together and stop this," he said. "This is going to be devastating to all of Washington. It's devastating to this country, in terms of we look like a third world country. It's going to hurt our economy. It leaves businesses up in the air in terms of making investments. If you tried to write a book or a novel or make a movie about this, nobody would believe it."

About 13 percent of New York City's budget is funded by the federal government, but Bloomberg said "the world isn't gonna come to an end" just yet.

"At the beginning it really doesn't hurt us," he said. "It is as you go into the process and people stop getting checks and services slowly get wound down, yes, if it lasted a long time. And we've talked to every one of our agencies to make sure, to the extent possible, we can either substitute for what the federal government was gonna do on a short-term basis or learn to cope and figure out how to keep the people of this city safe."