In the lead up to last week’s White House Health Care Summit, Republicans publicly repudiated President Obama’s proposal to give Americans the choice of enrolling a new a public health plan.
Despite a show of bipartisanship and openness for debate, the GOP sent a letter to Obama, effectively taking this option off the table. At the summit, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), the ranking member of the powerful Senate Finance Committee, warned Obama that “there’s a lot of us that feel that the public option that the government is an unfair competitor.”
Over the weekend, Rep. Roy Blunt (R-MO) — the chairman of the Republican party’s health care task force– doubled down on this opposition and dedicated the Republican radio address to opposing so-called “government run programs”:
Some people are spending a lot of time talking about how to spend more of your money on bigger government run programs…That’s why real competition is the key – it encourages innovation so that the health care treatments and services available to you are the ones that you need and you want. Republicans are committed to common-sense solutions that promote competition and innovation…Republicans will lead the effort to make health care work for Americans.
If Republicans plan to “lead the effort” on health care reform, their current approach leaves much to the imagination. In fact, Blunt’s so-called health care task force is concerned about messaging, not policy; rhetorical flourishes, instead of real workable solutions and compromise.
But on a larger scale, government workers complaining about government-sponsored health care is a bit like governors complaining about the stimulus, but then accepting the funds. If Republicans are really concerned about subpar care or rationing of treatments, then they should publicly abandon their government sponsored insurance (which they receive through The Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) Program) and try their luck in the individual health insurance market. Until that exodus occurs, the Republican message sounds like hypocritical ideological stubbornness.
The FEHB, it should be noted, does not include a public option and is not a model for lowering health care costs. As Jacob Hacker points out, “the growth rate for FEHBP is virtually identical to that for private health insurance…This suggests that simply replicating FEHBP on a broader scale—without public plan choice—would be unlikely to provide the long-term cost restraint essential for successful reform.”
Government involvement in health care is certainly an uphill climb for the GOP. Most Americans support government involvement in health care and a large majority support a public option. After all, injecting competition into the health insurance market (in the form of a public plan) is a uniquely “American solution” — the very thing conservatives seem to be asking for.
Over at Health Beat, Maggie Mahar provides a thorough debunk of Blunt’s address.