by Eric Martin
One of the reasons that it's hard to take GOP critiques of health care reform seriously is because, quite frequently, it is apparent that they are not arguing in good faith. For example, if keeping government expenditures on health care lower is really the primary goal, then stripping the government's ability to negotiate drug prices for Medicare purchases is the exact opposite course to take. But yet they took it with Bush's Medicare bill. In that instance, protecting pharmaceutical industry profits trumped the public interest - and their stated goal.
Now we see GOP politicians opposing a common sense policy that they should be fervently supporting for fear that it might make the public option more feasible by removing their biggest criticism: the prodigious cost. Krugman explains:
On Monday, Sens. Jon Kyl (R-AZ), Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and Pat Roberts (R-KS) introduced the “Preserving Access to Targeted, Individualized, and Effective New Treatments and Services (PATIENTS) Act of 2009,” a new bill prohibiting Medicare or Medicaid from using “comparative effectiveness research to deny coverage.”
How bad is it? Let me count the ways.
1. Politicians who rail against wasteful government spending are taking action to prevent the government from reining in...wasteful spending.
2. Politicians who warn that the burden of entitlements is killing the federal budget are stepping in to block...the single most painless route to reducing the growth of entitlements.
3. They’re doing it in the name of avoiding “rationing of health care”...but they’re specifically addressing taxpayer-funded care. If you want to go out and buy a medically useless treatment, Medicare won’t stop you.
4. These same politicians are, of course, opposed to efforts to expand coverage. In other words, it’s evil for government to “ration care” by only paying for things that work; it is, however, perfectly OK, indeed virtuous, to ration care by refusing to pay for any care at all.
This is no way to craft policy. It makes me extremely pessimistic that Obama will be able to get enough GOP Senators to support a good health care bill, and if that's the case, go for 51 votes via budget reconciliation. These are not people with which we can work.