Sen. John McCain has been in politics and government a quarter century.
He's never before witnessed the current public groundswell, over healthcare and more.
"I don't think we can underestimate the anger and peaceful revolution going on in America right now," McCain told a town hall gathering of more than 700 Friday at the Oro Valley Church of the Nazarene.
Citizens have been "involved more than ever before, and I want to tell you something, I'm really glad of it," the Republican said. "I've never seen the turnout and the enthusiasm."
Americans are "angered and concerned about what we have tone to future generations of Americans," McCain said. He detailed the expenditures, for economic stimulus ($787 billion), to bail out banks and financial institutions ($700 billion), and to save the automobile companies ($83 billion), among others.
"I understand the banks are doing very well," McCain said. "We're not."
The public debt now nears $12 trillion, the 10-year deficit $7 trillion to $10 trillion.
"This is an unsustainable expenditure of our children's and our grandchildren's wealth," McCain said. "We can't keep doing that."
McCain is "unalterably opposed to having a government-imposed healthcare plan on Americans. It will bankrupt this country.
"Quality is not the problem; it's the cost," McCain said. "It seems to be me our goal should be to preserve the quality, and make healthcare and healthcare insurance available to all Americans.
"I would hope we could sit down as Americans to work together" toward solutions, he said. "Medicare is going broke."
He called for medical malpractice reform, pointing to Texas, where reform led to a decrease in premiums paid by doctors of as much as 35 percent. He called for portability of insurance plans across state lines, so Americans can purchase "the best health insurance policy for you and your family." A $5,000 refundable tax credit would allow people "to go anyplace in America and get the health insurance they want." He advocates for pools that can help people with pre-existing conditions find coverage. "That will not be cheap," he said. He called for encouragement of fitness and wellness practices.
"There are solutions out there that are doable, but they do not involve more and more of the federal government," McCain said. "Government is inherently inefficient.
"The objective we all share is to make sure health insurance is available and affordable for all Americans," McCain said. "Is a government takeover the best option?" He thinks not.
"I know what you want us to do," McCain said. "You want Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, vegetarian" to sit and "work this out. There has been no bipartisan approach on this issue on the part of" the president and the Democrats, he said.
As for the prospect of "reconciliation," with a simple majority of Democrats moving a bill through the Senate, McCain said, "they still have that ability to do so. I think it would destroy the essence of the Senate. They may try it."
He had words for the drug companies, "big Pharma," and their profits and lobbying lengths. "There was a deal made behind closed doors," McCain said. "What kind of a deal is that for the American people."
A nurse told McCain of "a tremendous financial drain" caused when people who are uninsured use emergency rooms for medical care. She urged a plan that gives those people at least one medical visit a year for preventive care. "Something has to be done for the uninsured," she said.
"You're exactly right about emergency room care," McCain said.
And, he said, "Medicare does not pay a sufficient amount" for services, so hospitals and providers "charge others more."
McCain breaks down the number of uninsured Americans, once pegged near 47 million (but now reduced into the 30-million range) by the Obama Administration. Of those, 5 million are college students, 9 million earn more than $75,000 a year, 10 million are in this country illegally, up to 12 million are eligible for publicly funded insurance.
"We're really talking about 12-15 million who are uninsured," McCain said.
Andrea Witte, a self-employed graphic designer, said her insurance premiums have more than doubled in the last five years. She asked for "a little leverage. Nobody's subsidizing me, and I'm not asking that."
"Nobody is more punished in the current market than the individual and the small business owner," McCain said.
Alex Kack, a 19-year-old who described himself as "a young, moderate conservative" and also "a young uninsured American," said the idea of tax credits for those who purchase health insurance is commendable, but "I don't feel it is a full solution."
"Give the poorest Americans that refundable tax credit," McCain said. "The transition for low-income Americans, that's the challenge."
Kack said Americans have "a right to be stupid enough not to take care of themselves."
"There is a constitutional issue here," McCain said. "There is a legitimate question, I think. Is it right to force people into a health program?"
"No," the crowd yelled.
Six months ago, "I would have said 'this is going to go through,'" McCain said. "What's stopping it is the American people."
"We need your participation," McCain concluded. "We must bring this situation to a halt of government takeover of healthcare in America."