Too little, too late from four GOP “leaders”

Alternate plan a thinly veiled attempt to derail real reform efforts

 

They had their turn. Republican obstructionists need to help Obama make meaningful health care reform.

Open letter to Senators Tom Coburn (R-OK) and Richard Burr (R-NC), Reps. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Devin Nunes (R-CA):

Last week you unveiled a proposal called “The Patient’s Choice Act of 2009,” a 14-page outline of which can be found here. After controlling Congress for 12 of the last 14 years, you have finally have discovered that the middle class has been suffering from a health care crisis, stating “It is time to publicly admit that the health care system in America is broken.”

Where have you been guys?  Those of us who are self-employed, and who have family members with pre-existing conditions, have known its been broken for a long time. But the most disturbing thing about your proposal is the festering cancer at its heart: a hatred and distrust towards the federal government that’s laced through every page of it.

One of the your more strident lines lines is early on: “The federal government would run a health care system — or a public plan option — with the compassion of the IRS, the efficiency of the post office and the incompetence of Katrina.”  Guys, I pay my taxes and the letter carrier shows up at my mailbox six days a week, rain or shine. Both agencies seem to work pretty well. Katrina was the incompetence and neglect of a specific administration (one of your guys, as I recall), not an indictment of a system of government.

Government is not the problem. We are the government. That especially means those of you who we elect to serve. Instead of this knee-jerk reaction that the government is always bad, why don’t you channel that energy constructively and work to improve it? If you can’t, step aside next election and let someone with a genuine passion to serve run for your seat.

Some things transcend the private sector, and the American public has woken up to the fact that health care needs is one of them. Health insurance companies are not in the business of paying for health care, they are in the business of denying health care claims. That’s not a criticism, that a simple fact of capitalism. These companies have an obligation to return profits to their investors, which means the more money they can collect in premiums, and the less money they pay out in claims, the more profitable they are.

It’s a nice platitude that competition in the private sector always improves services and drives down prices, and it also sounds good to say that solutions should not be mandated by the federal government. Sadly though, we’ve seen over-and-over again where states have tried pro-consumer health care reform and insurance carriers have fled the borders to more profitable pastures, leading to less choice and higher prices. Again, not a criticism. That’s just how the free market works.

Perhaps we (meaning you) need to wrap our heads around the thought that health care might be part of our public commons, and not a for-profit venture. And the health care problem needs a national solution. Lincoln solved the union-confederacy question quite some time ago..

The best solution to the health care crisis might be a single-payer system like every other developed country already has. Best, but not likely to happen. Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT), chair of the Senate Finance Committee where the bill must originate, has taken more than $400,000 in political contributions from the health care industry and is making sure proponents of single-payer health care won’t even get a seat at the table. See, the problem isn’t partisan — the lobbying money spreads across the aisle. I’m sure if I looked the four of you up I’d see similar contributions.

So the best many of us hope for is a hybrid that preserves but improves the private system we have now, but also offers a public option with fewer administrative costs. Medicare and the VA operate on a fraction of the administrative costs that private plans do. If you really feared that a public plan would be as bad as what you state, you wouldn’t be so worried by it.

Guys, regardless its too little and too late for you to be offering your own health care proposals — you aren’t driving the bus anymore, but you can still get out and push. Work with the administration to create a public option that serves the needs of our people. Make it so good that it challenges the private carriers to reinvent their own industry in order to compete. Isn’t that another tenant of capitalism? Shouldn’t risk and market forces cause these companies to adapt or die?

We little guys are sick of all the anti-government rhetoric as we think the pendulum has swung too far in the last decade or more. At one time, the “private sector” referred to little mom-and-pop businesses like mine, but now it seems to apply only to large, faceless multinational corporations that suck up little companies like a paper towel on a coffee spill. As our public servants you don’t need to be propping up these companies that are “too big to fail.”  You need to protect us.

The middle class has seen its retirement savings halved, and our home values too, as a direct result of the kind of corporate-protectionist thinking that props up your document. Haven’t we suffered enough?

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