Commentary by James H. Shott
During the early days in the health care reform effort, the atmosphere was a heady one for Democrats, who for the first time in many years held not only the White House, but also both houses of Congress by solid margins. Consumed by having gained this high degree of power, they saw no need to consult with Republicans to develop a bi-partisan approach to improve the system, because they had the power to do what they wanted to do.
They were unable to resist the temptation to cram everything imaginable into the reform bill, and when they included measures that Republicans found unacceptable, Democrats began calling Republicans obstructionists, giving the clear impression that Republicans simply refused to participate, and only cared about stopping reform.
After locking themselves away and drafting legislation that they knew Republicans couldn’t support, then rejecting Republican proposals to modify the legislation, when Republicans predictably voted against the bill, they called them “the party of ‘No.’”
They denounced Republican opposition with comments like, “Republicans don’t want to help people who can’t afford health insurance,” “Republicans oppose health care reform,” and “Republicans want to maintain the status quo.” All of that may make for exciting political theater, but it accomplishes nothing positive.
Was the reform effort an honest attempt to create useful legislation? No. Was that characterization a fair evaluation of the Republican attitude toward reform? Again, no.
Calling the Republicans “the party of ‘No’” is an effort to distract our attention from the Democrats’ foray into the back rooms of the Capital where they worked against the wishes of their constituents behind closed – and locked – doors.
The Democrats’ contrived frustration at Republican refusal to support their radical reform measures is silly, although it serves their political purposes. They weren’t interested in bi-partisan input on health care reform in the first place, which is why they locked Republicans out of the process.
But just because the Democrats say Republicans were opposed to any kind of reform doesn’t mean that it is true, and in fact that claim is demonstrably false.
In May Republicans unveiled a plan that featured these 10 points:
• Lowering health care premiums for American families and small businesses, addressing Americans’ number-one priority for health care reform.
• Establishing Universal Access Programs to guarantee access to affordable health care for those with pre-existing conditions.
• Ending junk lawsuits by enacting medical liability reforms modeled after the successful state laws of California and Texas.
• Preventing insurers from unjustly cancelling a policy.
• Encouraging Small Business Health Plans to give small businesses the power to pool together and offer health care at lower prices, like corporations and labor unions do.
• Encouraging innovative state programs that reduce premiums and the number of uninsured.
• Allowing Americans to buy insurance across state lines, so those living in one state can purchase insurance in another.
• Promoting healthier lifestyles by giving employers greater flexibility to financially reward employees who adopt healthier lifestyles.
• Enhancing Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) by allowing qualified participants to use HSA funds to pay premiums for high deductible health insurance.
• Allowing dependents to remain on their parents’ policies through age 25.
And in early November House Republican Leader John Boehner offered an amendment to the Democrat bill, titled the “Common Sense Health Care Reform and Affordability Act,” which stated: “The purpose of this Act is to take meaningful steps to lower health care costs and increase access to health insurance coverage (especially for individuals with preexisting conditions) without: (1) raising taxes; (2) cutting Medicare benefits for seniors; (3) adding to the national deficit; (4) intervening in the doctor-patient relationship; or (5) instituting a government takeover of health care.”
There’s a fair chance you didn’t hear about either of those things, because the Democrats certainly weren’t going to tell you about a plan that you might like better than you like their plan, and the mainstream media certainly didn’t trumpet the Republican plan with the same enthusiasm as it did the Democrat bill.
These games are not all that unusual. Whenever a political party has a controlling majority in Congress, the potential for political tomfoolery exists, and both parties are guilty of having committed legislative malfeasance when they have held power. However, Democrats are the ones with power at this moment, and they alone are responsible for this badly flawed process.
The fact is that Democrats never cared what reforms Republicans favored; they were determined to ram through their partisan ideological plan to assert government control over private sector health care, and the public and Republicans be damned. Despite resounding defeats to the liberal agenda in recent elections in Virginia, New Jersey and Massachusetts, Democrat leaders still aren’t listening to – or perhaps cannot hear – the strong message against their version of health care reform from a majority of Americans, as reflected in multiple public opinion polls showing opposition by a 15- to-20-point margin.
While Republicans pray the Democrats’ deafness continues through November, the American people should pray they wake up before they ruin the world’s most technologically advanced health care system.