In all of the sturm and drang of the health care debate, the Republican party has been accused of being the 'party of no' and criticizing but not offering alternatives. Now, I'm no politician by any means, but in this hostile environment, if I were in the opposition, I would certainly have a plan ready for just such an accusation. So the big question is, are the democrats right, or do the republicans have a plan? The answer is surprising.
It turns out they have three.
The first, offered way back in May, is a bicameral effort called the 'Patient's Choice Act of 2009'. There are two versions submitted - one for the Senate (S.1099) and one for the House (H.R.2520). This bill, which has been referred to the Senate Finance Committee, would, in the words of Sen. Coburn (R-OK), "provide every American with access to affordable health care without a tax increase, more debt or waiting lines".
Then, in June, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) offered up the 'Health Care Freedom Plan' (S.1324), which, according to the Heritage Foundation, could reduce the number of uninsured Americans by over 22 million over five years. It also contains provisions for pre-existing conditions and health savings accounts. This bill has also been referred to the Senate Finance Committee.
And, finally, in July Rep. Tom Price offered up the 'Empowering Patients First Act' (H.R.3400). Rep. Price (R-GA) is a practicing physician whose budget neutral bill would emphasize preventive medicine, overhaul existing government health care offerings (IHS and VA -both in desperate need of restructuring), reduce fraud and abuse, and offer tax credits, as well as prohibit federal funding of abortions (something already in place - the Hyde Amendment- that would be overridden by the democrat health care plans). This bill has been referred to the Ways and Means, Education and Labor, Oversight and Government Reform, Energy and Commerce Committees, as well as the Judiciary, Rules, Budget and Appropriations Committees.
The only thing I don't see in these bills is Tort Reform, which is something desperately needed. Oh, and if you are wondering why tort reform isn't included in any of the democrat plans, former DNC Chairman Howard Dean explained it at a town hall meeting on Tuesday.
I personally advocate for streamlining the existing governmental medical entitlements (MediCare/Aid, IHS, VA) to cut down on fraud and waste, allow purchase of insurance across state lines, non-employer based availability and tort reform. The last three are vital to bringing down costs, which, in turn, would make insurance more affordable for more people, thus more would be insured, and all would have a huge range of options. This country does not lack choice - there are literally thousands of private insurance companies out there. But due to regulations on interstate commerce and employer based policies, accessability to this vast pool is limited. Opening up state lines would increase competition, resulting in more competitive costs and better coverage options. Uh-oh! There are those naughty free-market principles, rearing their ugly heads again!
So why don't the democrats acknowledge the republicans plans? Two reasons.
1) Keeping them as the party of no and refusing to aknowledge any conservative plans helps the democrats implement the Alinsky Rule #13 - 'Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it." Making them the party of no casts them as the villain (a necessary component of rule #13), not caring that the American people are suffering, only interested in blocking the democrats for purely political reasons. Conservatives have not fought these allegations very strenuously and liberals often mistake silence for acquiescence, thus their impression of winning the point. This perception is reinforced by the liberal echo chamber the MSM has become, who are not reporting the conservative proposals being offered up and are happily parroting the liberal talking points of 'party of no'. This tactic, however, does not distract attention enough to keep their own public approval ratings from dropping. The dog and pony show is doing another job, though - keeping attention off the republican options makes their bill the only option, and, after all, 'we have to do something!' right?
2)These plans would actually reform, not subject the insurance and health care industries to government control. And, let's face it, when it comes to ObamaCare (or is it KennedyCare now? rebrand, rebrand, rebrand!) it's all about control.
I don't know what is going on with the GOP lately - either they lack testicular fortitude, or they are hunkered down while the democrats tear themselves apart, writing (hopefully) sensible legislation. I'm hoping for the latter.
Considering there are three separate bills on the table, perhaps my hope isn't unfounded.