Frist Backing Health Care Bill? Not So Fast...

ABC News’ Aaron Katersky and Rick Klein report: Former Senate Republican leader Bill Frist declared last week that, were he still in the Senate, “I would end up voting for” the health care reform efforts now being debated in Congress.

“I would take heat for it,” Frist told Time’s Karen Tumulty. “That's what leadership is all about."

Or maybe not.

In an interview with ABC News Radio this morning, Frist, R-Tenn., offered significant caveats, and said he actually doesn’t support the Senate Finance Committee’s latest draft of health care reform -- considered the most conservative of five bills now circulating on Capitol Hill.

“There are five bills on the floor now -- none of them are perfect. People try to put words in my mouth saying ‘You support the Baucus bill.’ I don’t support the Baucus bill as written today,” said Frist, a former heart surgeon who left the Senate in 2007. He has a new book out about health care.

Frist added: “We will see a health care bill. There are five bills out there. I’m pushing the process; it’s not where I want it to be. It’s going to cost way too much and we’re not going to get all the uninsured into the marketplace.”

“The Republicans right now feel like they’ve been left out of the table,” Frist said. “There’s some egregious things in there that will cost all the taxpayers too much money and not give them anything.”

Democrats pounced on Frist’s comments in support of health care reform last week, noting that it made him one of three former Senate Republican leaders -- alongside Howard Baker and Bob Dole -- who are backing the type of reform President Obama is pushing for.

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