By Howard Koplowitz
From health care to taxes, the country is in a downward spiral, Republican congressional candidate Dr. James Milano contends.
Milano, a 43-year-old emergency room physician at St. Francis Heart Hospital in Roslyn, L.I., said he is challenging U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-Bayside) because his philosophy on government is more in tune to northeast Queens than Ackerman’s.
Milano, who grew up in Queens but lives in Oyster Bay, L.I., said there is a “general discontent” among the population on issues ranging from immigration to health care to financial reform.
The 5th Congressional District covers northeast Queens and neighboring areas of Nassau County.
“This is one of the few times in American history when we’ve been faced with so many crises,” he said during a recent interview at TimesLedger Newspapers’ offices in Bayside.
Milano said he disagrees with the health-care law passed by Congress this year.
“The original intent of this health-care reform was to maintain quality care,” he said, but Milano claimed as time goes on, the health-care cost to the government will increase.
As a doctor, Milano said he has seen co-payments and prescription costs go up.
“This affects every American and is especially hard on the middle class,” he said.
He said the high costs of premiums on malpractice insurance and fear of lawsuits are driving doctors out of the state.
“There has to be some reforms on litigation,” Milano said, noting that state residents should be allowed to buy health insurance across state lines, which he said would increase competition within New York.
Milano, a political neophyte, said the health-care legislation was the “trigger” that pushed him into challenging Ackerman, but other issues were involved in his decision.
“A lot of people have lost their jobs with the financial collapse,” he said. “I would’ve never voted to bail out those banks.”
Milano also slammed the federal stimulus, saying the nationalï»¿ unemployment rate at 9.6 percent is still high.
“We haven’t had an unemployment [rate] this high for an extended period of time … in any time since the Great Depression,” he said.
Milano said he advocates cutting taxes on small businesses and the middle class.
“Are people better now than they were two and four years ago? No, they’re not better off,” he said.
Milano said he believes the size of government is “too big,” but said one area he would not cut is Medicare.
“They worked,” he said of seniors on Medicare. “They paid into the system and now they’re suffering.”
The emergency room physician said more needs to be done to reform the welfare system, saying he is in favor of job retraining programs for people who are out of work.
“Nobody wants to be on welfare,” he said. Having a job “is satisfaction that everyone needs.”
Milano said he believes his chances of winning the seat are high because of an anti-incumbent wave.
“People feel there’s hope,” he said. “I think it’s strong — in Queens and in Nassau. The anti-incumbent sentiment is very strong. I think I’m going to win.”
While elements of the Tea Party exist in the district, Milano said he agrees with their ideals but is not running as a function of the movement.
“They seem to have rallied behind my cause,” he said. “They don’t like the idea of government taking their money.”
Aside from his job, Milano, a father of four children, said he has been active in his children’s PTA meetings and was a baseball coach for eight years and a Knights of Columbus member.
“I want to make a change,” he said. “I want to have an impact on this district and this country.”
Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.