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GOP Touts Alternatives to ObamaCare

Republicans channel Bill Clinton and talk of "third way" in health care reform. (Watch PJTV's virtual health care forum here.)

by
Jennifer Rubin

Bio

July 23, 2009 - 1:47 pm

The air seemed to go out of the ObamaCare balloon Thursday. He was greeted by scathing reviews of his mediocre press conference the night before. Then the House Energy and Commerce Committee for the third time canceled its mark-up on the health care bill, a sure sign the votes just weren’t there.

A Thursday conference with the Republican House leadership suggested renewed confidence on the GOP side. Rep. Roy Blunt, who had been charged with assembling a health care solutions group, proclaimed: “As the president has gotten less specific, we have been more specific.”

Minority Leader John Boehner then emphasized that the public should have the right to hear about the “cost and consequences” of government-run health care. As a former small businessman, he noted that the House Democrats’ plan would impact virtually every small business by placing either a mandate to provide health care insurance or a surtax. He was firm: “It is time to put this bill away.”

Minority Whip Eric Cantor of Virginia followed, criticizing the president for offering a “false choice” (Hmm, did someone else like to use that phrase?) between the status quo and government-run health care. He argued that the Republicans have a “third way” (another blast from the political past for those who remember Bill Clinton’s rhetoric).

But the star of the press conference may have been Shona Holmes, a Canadian who had to travel to the U.S. to get a life-saving and sight-saving diagnosis of a brain tumor that was causing her to go blind. She briefly explained her story, offering herself as a “good neighbor” who could offer needed information to Americans now contemplating a dramatic shift in their health care system. A Canadian reporter in the Q and A accused her of trying to “wreck” the Canadian system, in effect bringing shame on her country that was just delighted with its nationalized health care. With nary a blink of the eye, she kindly explained that it was critical for Americans to have all the facts and understand people do “fall through the cracks” in nationalized health care schemes.

Then it was off to a hearing chaired by Blunt. He began by declaring that it was important to understand “what might happen with a government competitor which becomes the only competitor” in the health insurance market. Again he emphasized that Republicans want improvement in health care and aren’t in favor of doing nothing as the president has claimed. Cantor used the rather thin gruel served up by Obama the night before to make the case that the president actually had demonstrated that there are “a lot of unanswered questions” and that it was time to see what a government-run health care system meant for the average family. He summed up: “There is a bipartisan majority against the bill.” The reason, he said, is in large part because of unease about what happens to health care in the a government-run system.

Other congressmen on the panel added their comments as well. Most noteworthy was Rep. Paul Ryan, who explained that when Democrats now talk about “cost containment” in a government-run system he gets “very fearful.” The reason: “Distant bureaucrats will make cookie cutter decisions” about health care and impose themselves on the doctor-patient relationship. He explained that “to get cost containment they will have to ration.”

But once again the star of the show was Holmes, who related in detail her experience and gave some insight into what government-run health care looks like. She was forced to leave Canada for a “timely diagnosis,” along with 24 other people during that same month who crossed the border to access the U.S. health care system for brain tumors. Canadian health care, it seems, is not the nirvana it is made out to be by U.S. liberals. As Holmes explained, one in six Canadians do not have a primary care doctor. She could not obtain a simple blood test because the government mandates lab hours and her schedule could not be accommodated.

She continued with a litany of facts. Two premature babies born in her town could not have received adequate care; one was taken to Buffalo and the other seven hours away to Ottawa. The government tries to adhere to “targeted wait times” to access doctors but “they are never near the targets.” Prescription drugs, eye exams,  and casts and crutches, to name a few items, must be paid for out-of-pocket in the supposedly “free” health care system. And if you want to see an ophthalmologist the wait is a year.

Clearly the Republicans are making some headway here. The Senate, and maybe even the House, is abandoning a quick vote on health care before the August recess. It seems the more they hear, the less Americans like ObamaCare. And that was precisely what the Republicans set out to demonstrate on Thursday.

On this one, they may, despite their small numbers, be succeeding.

Jennifer Rubin blogs at the Washington Post.
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