Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Alright, So Now What...?

Michael Steele, the Republican Party Chairman, is weighing in publicly on the health care debate. To be fair, he's probably gone on the record long before now but I haven't heard him, so I'll cut him some slack.

Here's an excerpt of his Washingtion Post op-ed:

"Americans are engaged in a critical debate over reforming our health-care system. While Republicans believe that reforms are necessary, President Obama's plan for a government-run health-care system is the wrong prescription. The Democrats' plan will hurt American families, small businesses and health-care providers by raising care costs, increasing the deficit, and not allowing patients to keep a doctor or insurance plan of their choice. Furthermore, under the Democrats' plan, senior citizens will pay a steeper price and will have their treatment options reduced or rationed."

"Republicans want reform that should, first, do no harm, especially to our seniors. That is why Republicans support a Seniors' Health Care Bill of Rights, which we are introducing today, to ensure that our greatest generation will receive access to quality health care. We also believe that any health-care reform should be fully paid for, but not funded on the backs of our nation's senior citizens."

Steele's column gives me a chance to ask two questions that I have been pondering for the past few weeks. He says, "...Republicans believe that reforms are necessary..." I think we hear everyone say that health care/health insurance/health care costs are 'a problem' or that 'we know that reform is needed'. Did they just get the memo? Did the Obama victory just reveal that? Because I'm not sure I've heard or seen in the past eight years or so any major effort to resolve what everyone suddenly 'knows' to be a problem now.

So the question is: if everyone 'knows' that reform is needed; that health care costs are out of control; that access should be for everyone regardless of their condition - why is it nothing has been done before now?!

Not since the Clinton administration has there been a major push to reform health care. And in the interregnum between Clinton and Obama, no health care measures, beyond individual health accounts have been proposed (although we did get a drug benefit plan that the government pays for - isn't that a form of socialized medicine?). I repeat, if everyone knows its a problem, why is it only now that we are trying to fix it.

The next question is - where is the alternative proposal? The Republican Party chairman says he knows it needs to be fixed and lays out a six point plan that doesn't fix the system. It doesn't propose to cut waste or inefficiency. It doesn't address the need to cover everyone - or even say why it shouldn't be done. If the Democrats have a plan that is no good, should the Republicans be pushing a plan that they think is good? Steele, unfortunately, raises the specter of a bogey man with the Democratic plan and then says calls for a 'bi-partisan' approach.

Excuse me - if the Republicans are saying that they will not support any plan proposed by the Democratic majority, whose practicing partisanship?

There are moral, fiscal and political reasons to have health care reform. Unless the goal is to do so in a way that keeps insurance companies making mega-billions, they shouldn't be that hard to find. We just need some legislators who want to.

By the way - which party controls the House and the Senate?
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My monthly DMN column can be read here...

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