The GOP Can’t Be Trusted to Start Over on Health Care.

The Blair House Health Care Summit was 6 hours of Political pandering, campaigning, and occasional substance.

After watching the entire event on the internet, bypassing the political comments by the likes of Fox News and CNN, I found it fascinating, and politics as usual, all wrapped into a square cage match.

Here are some of the observations I text to my brother during the event.

Obama shakes hands

11:22 a.m. Tom Coburn, a Republican no less has just asked for under-cover patients to catch Medicare Fraud.

11:40 a.m. Paul Ryan is smart. But maybe a little naive.

12:39 p.m. How dumb would Eric Cantor and Sarah Palins kid be? Cantor is a empty suit.

2:33 p.m. I would love to have seen Bush in this environment. I’m sure Lorne Micheals wish that could have been arranged.

3:27 p.m. Every time they start drilling down on a specific issue, someone starts filibustering with talking points. I hate Frank Luntz.

4:41 p.m. Coburn just asked for another summit. Can anyone say delay tactic.

5:16 p.m. Obama summary was good. Stated it may not be politically in the best interest for the GOP to try to work with us, but that is what elections are for. No truer statement said all day.

Other things I observed from the event. The GOP only goal for this event was two fold. First, they want the President to start over. Second, they want reconciliation taken off the table. Can someone tell me how this helps the American people?

Starting over is not an option because of the actions of the GOP before the summit. They really cannot be trusted. There goal since March of 2009 was to delay and obstruct the health care reform process. This is not in dispute, Jim DeMint GOP congressman said this needs to be Obama’s Waterloo. The GOP has also used every stalling tactic in the book to bring Washington DC to a screeching halt. Using the filibuster over 100 times in the past year alone. The only reason Obama will not start over is because the GOP has not shown any real effort to reform Health Care.

As for Reconciliation, I agree this process should not be used to pass such a huge part of the American economy. But remember it has been used over 20 times since 1980, and it has been used to do such things as the Bush tax cuts, and his prescription drug plan. Huge pieces of legislation. In addition, remember Health Care reform has already been passed. If the House passes the Senate Bill, and then uses reconciliation to fix the problems such as the cornhusker kickback, that is what reconciliation is for when you have a party behaving like the GOP, filibustering every piece of legislation including every nominee. This is what I think the administration will do. Which is not passing Health Care reform with reconciliation, but fixing an already passed bill. This would be fact if they take this route, no matter what the GOP will say.

Ezra Klien of the Washington Post made some great observations. I would like to share a few.

The GOP kept saying we have the best health care system in the world. Obviously, saying what do we need to fix?

Klien’s perspective.

There’s a difference between the statements “America has the best health-care system in the world” and “With enough money, you can purchase the best health care in the world in America.” But that difference gets run over in political conversations. Sen. John Barrasso, for instance, just mentioned that a Canadian premier recently got heart surgery in Miami. Best health care in the world, baby!

America has about 50 million uninsured people within its borders. Canada has exactly 13 premiers. People should ask themselves a very simple question: Do they think they are likelier to lose their job and fall into the health-care situation of the uninsured or become an influential politician and enjoy the health-care options available to the most powerful people in the world?

If you’re a United States senator, America may have the best health-care in the world. But if you’re an ordinary person with the same vulnerability to bad luck that we all have, you’re better off being in Canada, or France, or Japan, or somewhere that doesn’t take your insurance away when Wall Street causes the economy to crash.

Klien also commented on the selling of insurance across state lines.

Among the main Republican talking points today is that the health-care system needs more competition, and the way to get that competition is to let insurers sell across state lines. Rep. Marcia Blackburn hit this particularly hard: The way to bring down costs, she argued, is to let consumers do the regulation, which means letting them pick insurance sold in other states.

This is nonsense. Selling insurance across state lines doesn’t increase competition between insurers, it decreases standards. I live in Washington, D.C. I can choose among many insurers right now. But it’s hard to do because the insurance market is poorly organized, and because my employer doesn’t give me many choices, and because choosing a different insurer and all new doctors is a pain in the neck. That’s why there’s fairly little competition in the system.

What I can’t do is choose an insurer who abides by Delaware’s regulations rather than D.C.’s. Lift that rule and what you have isn’t competition driven by consumers, but a regulatory competition to have the laxest regulations so you have the most insurance jobs in your state. It’s exactly what happened in the credit card market, and it’s why a bipartisan majority voted to impose new federal regulations on credit card companies last year.

Competition only flourishes in an environment of effective information. When you make the regulation less dependable, you make the product less dependable, which means you remove necessary information from the system and make it harder for individuals to figure out how to make good decisions. If I hear a lot of horror stories about people buying insurance that unexpectedly abandons them when they get sick, I’ll be less likely to try and change mine if I’m dissatisfied with it, as I can’t be confident that my next carrier will treat me better.

The major step forward for competition is the exchanges, which have regulators making sure the insurance is good enough to deserve the name; which allow consumers to rate the plans; which force the plans to offer standardized information so they easy to compare; which provide a large numbers of plans to choose from; which makes it easier to shop for your insurance in one place; and so on. Yet Blackburn didn’t make mention of them. Competition is a good idea. But there’s precious little Republican enthusiasm for the policies that would actually promote it.

For more on selling insurance across state lines, see this post. For more on exchanges, see this column.

Obama is in favor of selling insurance across State lines if and only if there is a baseline governmental regulation that the States have to follow. Is that a government takeover? Of course not. President Obama drove this point home by giving the following example. He said, and I’m paraphrasing here. We could lower the prices of food in this nation, and meat in particular, if we didn’t have the FDA to regulate how meat is processed. Would you want to strip that regulation for a cheaper piece of steak, leaving the regulation up to the meat processing company solely? Of course history has already answered this question. But now apply that to drug companies, and other industries. Baseline regulation is not a government takeover.

In my opinion the GOP has painted this bill as a socialist takeover of health care and they will have to live with that depiction. But remember this bill is not single payer, it does not have a public option, it does not have death panels, or anything close to that. In fact they had to take paid for end of life counseling out of the bill, because of the misrepresentation by the likes of Sarah Palin and Betsy McCoy among others. It was this irresponsible behavior by the GOP that has created the climate where the President could not possibly start over, because the GOP has not proved they are mature enough to have a real debate about health care.

William Armstrong
William Armstrong is a lifelong Michigan Fan now living in Tennessee, where he is starved for information regarding his Michigan Wolverines and the Big Ten in general. That is the reason he writes about University of Michigan Sport. Contact him at his blog