Today’s Politico notes that the GOP is “stumbling” to find new ideas for reforming the health care system:
There’s no Republican plan yet. No Republicans leading the charge who have coalesced the party behind them. Their message is still vague and unformed. Their natural allies among insurers, drug makers and doctors remain at the negotiating table with the Democrats. So Republicans now worry the party has waited so long to figure out where it stands that it will make it harder to block what President Barack Obama is trying to do.
To the extent that Republicans are discussing health care, they’re relying on trite McCain-campaign talking points and old-hands from the 1990s. In other words, they’ve outsourced the conversation to attack dogs Conservatives for Patients Rights, Betsy McCaughey, and Sally Pipes and have, for the most part, relinquished the serious debate about how to lower costs, increase access and improve quality.
The truth is, and what the Politico article hints at, is that the GOP leadership has little understanding of the health care issues. So much so, in fact, that Rep. Michael Burgess (R-TX), M.D. published a “Health Care Primer for Members” in the run-up to the general election. The document, whose only notable feature is the resemblance of its front page to Sen. Baucus’ white paper, is like a ‘health care for dummies’ introduction to Medicare, Medicaid, SCHIP, FDA, CDC, NIH etc… The package contains most of Burgess’ editorials, poll data, and talking points that instruct GOP members to stress that “freedom is the foundation of life in America” and “we must work to pass forward-looking, long-lasting legislation dealing with doctors first.”
So while Sens Max Baucus and Ted Kennedy just sent the White House a letter “affirming their commitment to marking up health care legislation in June,” most Republicans are busy recycling old free-market ideology that even elementary economic textbooks dismiss as impractical.
The Washington Independent’s David Weigel makes this point:
Newt Gingrich, who’s a more credible expert on Republican health care strategy than he is on most other things, floats a pretty good argument: Republicans can pivot off voter anger and confusion with the government takeover of banks and auto companies to make the case that health care reform would amount to another takeover. Negative arguments like that are clearly better than any positive arguments the harried House Republicans will come up with in this short timeframe.