Repeal, replace a non-starter for Republicans

opinions

March 30, 2010 - 12:00 AM

“Repeal and replace” is the catchy phrase adopted by the Republican leadership in Congress in response to passage of the administration’s health care bill.
In fidelity, Rep. Jerry Moran of the Kansas First District introduced a repeal bill.
Rep. Moran also wants to replace Sen. Sam Brownback, which may explain why he now solemnly intones the Republican slogan. But he surely does not believe that repeal is a political possibility. Why would either the Senate or the House reverse themselves after that year-long battle? And if that highly unlikely event did occur, a repeal bill would be vetoed and then require a two-thirds majority in both houses to pass. Nobody deserving of a seat in our nation’s legislature can believe that will happen.
Conclusion: Rep. Moran is posturing; grubbing for primary votes in his race with Rep. Todd Tiahrt for the Republican nomination.
The promise to “replace” seems just as disingenuous. If there were a Republican health reform plan, surely the Republican-dominated Congresses in place from 2001 to 2008, supported by Republican President George W. Bush, would have put it into action. They could have counted on broad support from Democrats, who have been trying to get the job done since President Harry Truman proposed it 60-plus years ago.
When they had the power, Republicans did nothing about health care but watch costs skyrocket and the numbers of the uninsured grow.
How should Republicans react to the bill’s passage now? Look for ways to do health reform better. For years they have argued for tort reform to bring down the cost of defensive medicine. They failed to achieve that goal while they had the clout, but President Obama signaled he was open to that reform. They should take him up on it.
Republican criticism that the bill does too little to control costs is on target. The United States spends nearly twice as much on health care as do other rich, industrialized nations, all of which cover all of their citizens. And costs continue to rise faster than the rate of inflation. It remains true that the rising cost of health care is unsustainable and must be reduced.
Cost-conscious Republicans should be able to find ways to bring U.S. health care spending closer to world levels. If other nations can provide care to all of their citizens, then our nation, the richest in the world, surely can. If other nations can create health care systems that require less than 11 percent of their national gross products, then so should our nation, which prides itself on its management skills and economic know-how. Instead, health care costs consume more than 16 percent of the U.S. GDP — the highest percentage of the largest GDP in the world.
If Republican members of Congress were willing to work with Democrats to bring health care costs down, much could be achieved. That hasn’t happened because there is no way to reduce costs without reducing income to sectors of the health care complex. Reducing income to voters creates anger, which it is why significant cost-cutting is much easier to achieve when the parties work together — and why it is so very difficult to achieve without political consensus.

In sum, the wisest political tactic Republicans can employ is to find ways to be better at solving the nation’s problems than the Democrats. They have yet to get on that road.

— Emerson Lynn, jr.

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