Health Care’s Biggest Hypocrite — Or Hero

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Health Care’s Biggest Hypocrite — Or Hero

Post  Admin on Fri Jan 08, 2010 9:19 pm

For Democrats who see their political prospects this
year as a tossup between catastrophic and merely horrible, there is hope on the
horizon from a most unlikely source. No, not Rush Limbaugh, who recently praised
his medical experience in the government-mandated, heavily unionized health care
system of Hawaii. Mahalo to him.

One of the most prominent supporters of the main ideas
behind the health care plan passed by the Democratic Senate is a top Republican
prospect for president in 2012 — Mitt Romney.

He is not, of course, backing the Democrats. No, that
would be political suicide. But until recently, he proudly claimed paternity for
sweeping changes in Massachusetts that look an awful lot like Obamacare, as it
will be known for the next two election cycles.

For now, the public doesn’t have a clue about
Republican contributions to the biggest proposed change in American social
policy in a generation. No surprise. Not a single one voted for the Senate
bill.

Instead, the party’s voice has been dominated by
people who make things up, and then condemn the rhetorical phantoms of their
making. For that kind of skillful ventriloquism, Sarah Palin was recently
awarded the “Lie of the Year” from Politifact.com, the public policy
fact-checking service. She got a rare “Pants on Fire” designation for her
whopper about nonexistent death panels.

Too bad the Republicans don’t get more credit, because
they have done much to shape the bill — indirectly and inadvertently — mainly
through Romney.

Asked recently about the Democratic bill, Romney
dismissed it as something “which no one understands.” Au contraire, to use the
language Romney mastered during his Mormon missionary days in France. Perhaps no
one understands it better than Mitt Romney.

As governor of Massachusetts, Romney helped produce a
pioneering attempt at universal health care. The law, signed in 2006, bears a
remarkable resemblance to the Senate bill.

There is no public option. But there is a requirement
that nearly everyone get health insurance, or pay a tax
penalty.
Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney speaks about his health care reform
bill in 2005.Chitose Suzuki/Associated Press Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney
speaks about his health care reform bill in Boston on April 6, 2005.
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There are subsidies for the poor and middle class.
And there is a public exchange, where people who work at home or own small
businesses can have access to the same kind of insurance as big
corporations.

Critics in Massachusetts say Romneycare is costing
more than advertised. But according to the ex-governor, this heavy-handed
approach — using tax penalties more stinging than the Senate plan to prod the
uninsured — is working as it’s supposed to; the state is about 96 percent
insured. Take it from the man likely to be the Republican frontrunner in 2012:
“It’s a good model.”

Well, that was six months ago. At the time, it
appeared that Democrats were going to pass some kind of government alternative
to private insurance. So, Romney touted a different way — his state plan and the
approximate model adopted last month by the Senate.

“Republicans are not the party of ‘no’ when it comes
to health care reform,” Romney said in July. “This Republican is proud to be the
first governor to insure all his state’s citizens.”

He may not be so proud now. His critics on the right,
from American Spectator magazine to arch-rival Mike Huckabee, have taken aim at
this unwitting ally of the Democratic plan.

Other Republicans have helped the Democrats as well.
Remember John McCain’s health care plan? Okay, nobody does. But you can look it
up: he wanted to tax the premiums of people with so-called Cadillac coverage.
The Senate bill would do just that — although it’s not as radical and
income-redistributing as McCain’s proposal.

The sad thing about the broken state of our politics
is that good solutions, once they get branded by one party or the other, are
quickly dismissed by the rabid partisans who drive early election cycles and
dominate the airwaves.

If Romney had the guts to back his convictions, he
would proudly praise the Senate plan for doing most of what he urged last summer
and bequeathed to his state three years ago. But as Will Rogers said, if you
ever injected truth into politics, you’d have no politics.
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In a few months, Romney will hit the road with a
book designed to compete with “Going Rogue,” Palin’s overstuffed mishmash of
platitudes and inaccuracies. He plans a 17-state “No Apology” tour, named for
the title of his tome: “No Apology: The Case for American Greatness.”

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One way to make good on that premise is to stand
by his ideas on health care, now part of the defining document of a Democratic
Congress in an election year.

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