Squaring the Culture




"...and I will make justice the plumb line, and righteousness the level;
then hail will sweep away the refuge of lies,
and the waters will overflow the secret place."
Isaiah 28:17

02/09/2010 (8:56 am)

Congressional Republicans' Response

With a hat tip to reader John Cooper, here is the letter sent by Rep John Boehner (R, OH) and Rep Eric Cantor (R, VA) to Rahm Emmanuel in response to President Obama’s invitation to televised, bipartisan talks regarding the health care bill:

We welcome President Obama’s announcement of forthcoming bipartisan health care talks. In fact, you may remember that last May, Republicans asked President Obama to hold bipartisan discussions on health care in an attempt to find common ground on health care, but he declined and instead chose to work with only Democrats. Since then, the President has given dozens of speeches on health care reform, operating under the premise that the more the American people learn about his plan, the more they will come to like it. Just the opposite has occurred: a majority of Americans oppose the House and Senate health care bills and want them scrapped so we can start over with a step-by-step approach focused on lowering costs for families and small businesses.

Just as important, scrapping the House and Senate health care bills would help end the uncertainty they are creating for workers and businesses and thus strengthen our shared commitment to focusing on creating jobs. Assuming the President is sincere about moving forward on health care in a bipartisan way, does that mean he will agree to start over so that we can develop a bill that is truly worthy of the support and confidence of the American people? Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said today that the President is “absolutely not” resetting the legislative process for health care.

If the starting point for this meeting is the job-killing bills the American people have already soundly rejected, Republicans would rightly be reluctant to participate. Assuming the President is sincere about moving forward in a bipartisan way, does that mean he has taken off the table the idea of relying solely on Democratic votes and jamming through health care reform by way of reconciliation? As the President has noted recently, Democrats continue to hold large majorities in the House and Senate, which means they can attempt to pass a health care bill at any time through the reconciliation process.

Eliminating the possibility of reconciliation would represent an important show of good faith to Republicans and the American people.If the President intends to present any kind of legislative proposal at this discussion, will he make it available to members of Congress and the American people at least 72 hours beforehand? Our ability to move forward in a bipartisan way through this discussion rests on openness and transparency. Will the President include in this discussion congressional Democrats who have opposed the House and Senate health care bills? This bipartisan discussion should reflect the bipartisan opposition to both the House bill and the kickbacks and sweetheart deals in the Senate bill. Will the President be inviting officials and lawmakers from the states to participate in this discussion?

As you may know, legislation has been introduced in at least 36 state legislatures, similar to the proposal just passed by the Democratic-controlled Virginia State Senate, providing that no individual may be compelled to purchase health insurance. Additionally, governors of both parties have raised concerns about the additional costs that will be passed along to states under both the House and Senate bills. The President has also mentioned his commitment to have “experts” participate in health care discussions.

Will the Feb. 25 discussion involve such “experts?” Will those experts include the actuaries at the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), who have determined that the both the House and Senate health care bill raise costs – just the opposite of their intended effect – and jeopardize seniors’ access to high-quality care by imposing massive Medicare cuts? Will those experts include the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, which has stated that the GOP alternative would reduce premiums by up to 10 percent? Also, will Republicans be permitted to invite health care experts to participate? Finally, as you know, this is the first televised White House health care meeting involving the President since last March.

Many health care meetings of the closed-door variety have been held at the White House since then, including one where a sweetheart deal was worked out with union leaders. Will the special interest groups that the Obama Administration has cut deals with be included in this televised discussion?Of course, Americans have been dismayed by the fact that the President has broken his own pledge to hold televised health care talks. We can only hope this televised discussion is the beginning, not the end, of attempting to correct that mistake. Will the President require that any and all future health care discussions, including those held on Capitol Hill, meet this common-sense standard of transparency and openness?

Your answers to these critical questions will help determine whether this will be a truly open, bipartisan discussion or merely an intramural exercise before Democrats attempt to jam through a job-killing health care bill that the American people can’t afford and don’t support. ‘Bipartisanship’ is not writing proposals of your own behind closed doors, then unveiling them and demanding Republican support. Bipartisan ends require bipartisan means.These questions are also designed to try and make sense of the widening gap between the President’s rhetoric on bipartisanship and the reality. We cannot help but notice that each of the President’s recent bipartisan overtures has been coupled with harsh, misleading partisan attacks. For instance, the President decries Republican ‘obstruction’ when it was Republicans who first proposed bipartisan health care talks last May.

The President says Republicans are ‘sitting on the sidelines’ just days after holding up our health care alternative and reading from it word for word. The President has every right to use his bully pulpit as he sees fit, but this is the kind of credibility gap that has the American people so fed up with business as usual in Washington.We look forward to receiving your answers and continuing to discuss ways we can move forward in a bipartisan manner to address the challenges facing the American people.

Sincerely,

House Republican Leader John Boehner (R-OH)

House Republican Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA)

Not bad. It’s got the recognition that “bipartisan” requires a bipartisan process, not just talks after the fact. It also has the recognition that Obama has spoken disingenuously, accusing the Republicans of having no plan just days after reading their plan. And, it has the recognition that the proposed plan does not address the alleged core justification of reducing costs, while the Republican counter-proposal does. But the core of the response seems to be “Why are you still trying to resurrect a bill that nearly everybody has said they don’t want?”

Me, I hope there’s no bipartisan bill, because the Democrats don’t really want to solve health care, they want government domination of the economy, and I don’t think there’s any valid compromise with that. Health care was not on anybody’s “most pressing issues” list before the Democrats ratcheted up the spin machine for their pet government takeover wedge issue; there is no health care crisis, and there never was. Improving American health care pretty much consists of fixing what Democrats have broken. Two of the chief reasons for high medical costs are government price-fixing and rampant fraud in Medicare and Medicaid, two of Democrats’ Great Society failures (and also the leading cause of our very real fiscal crisis.) Democrats financed by tort lawyers have been the chief impediment to tort reform, which is required in order to fix another main component in our outlandish medical costs, namely frivolous lawsuits. The remaining major cost-inflater is government regulation of insurance, also favored by Democrats. It appears to me that if the Democrats really want to fix health care in America, their best move would be to vanish.

But if the Democrats really want to fix health care using their favorite bludgeon, an oversized Nanny State, they could do it without a complete takeover. A comment I read at Blue Crab Boulevard yesterday pointed out that food stamps solved the food problem for the poor without disturbing the food industry, and health stamps could likewise solve the health insurance problem for the mythical 30 million uninsured in America without disturbing the medical industry. The bill to accomplish this would be about 30 pages long, and the cost would be less than 1/3 of the cost of the Democrats’ current monstrosity. There are sound reasons why this is not a good plan, but it’s far, far better than the Democrats’ current plan, and it’s been mentioned by lots of Democrats. That they’re not pursuing it is the proof that their goal is not solving health care, nor caring for the poor, but extending the reach of government.

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2 Comments »

February 10, 2010 @ 3:55 pm #

I’d like to go out on a limb here and advocate the unthinkable (Well, I guess it’s not because I’m thinking it.)

It’s obvious to the most casual observer that the current Medicare/Ponzi system is unsustainable. It’s mathematically impossible for the younger working people to keep paying for the “unlimited wants” (*See: ECON 101) of our seniors out of the “limited means” (ibid) of those who work and pay taxes.

Rationing of some kind is inevitable if the system is to be saved. (Whether it should be saved is another issue.) Squeezing the doctors has reached it’s practical limit – many are already refusing to accept Medicare patients. More is required.

So what I propose it this: Go ahead and ration. Set some guidelines. Don’t force others pay for liver transplants for 70 y.o. alcoholics or hip replacements for 95 year old senile men.

In exchange for letting the government determine what they will and won’t pay for, I demand that the section of the 1965 Medicare law which forbids Medicare patients from paying for all or part of their treatment out of their own pocket be repealed.

That way, if someone makes it to 97 and the government won’t pay for a hip replacement, the patient can get one if they pay for it themselves.

IOW, I’m willing to accept cuts in Medicare services if the government allows the people an alternative. Free the people!

February 10, 2010 @ 7:28 pm #

John,

It’s long past due that somebody mention the unthinkable. I’m with you.

I don’t know the Medicare and Medicaid laws all that well, but I do know they’re shot through with corruption and fraud, and that the price-fixing under the rubric of Medicare and Medicaid is one of the primary causes of the inordinate price of medical care here in the states.

I like your demand, and I concur: no patient should be restricted from purchasing his own care under any circumstance. I also favor gradual reduction of benefits over time.

I favor immediate repeal of all schedules of payment, and that the program instead turn into a medical voucher system, in which the patient simply seeks care on the free market, and turns over Medicare vouchers to the provider of his or her choice. This puts medical choices in the hands of the consumer, and removes it from government bureaus.

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