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Op-Ed: Gop Can Back Health-care Reform, Just Not This Plan


Location: Unknown

Your recent editorial "Lawmakers keep up fight for health-care reform" (Oct. 25) perpetuates the misconception that responsible opposition to a deeply flawed piece of legislation translates into opposing reform more broadly. It does not.

Specifically, your statement that Republicans "have been content to oppose every health proposal brought forward" and that such opposition "is pure politics" could not be further from the truth.

I, along with what appears to be a majority of representatives in the House, oppose H.R. 3200 because it will exacerbate, rather than resolve, the problems with our health-care system. That does not mean that I don't recognize that our system has serious flaws. Nor does it mean that I am any less committed to reform than any of my colleagues. Indeed, I am co-sponsor of three pieces of legislation that I know will better address needed reform:

H.R. 3218, by Rep. John Shadegg, which would allow for small businesses, churches, alumni associations and other small institutions to pool together and offer health plans, much like the co-ops some Democrats have embraced,

H.R. 3713 by Rep. Mike Rogers, which accomplishes most of President Barack Obama's stated reform aims without imposing a public option.

H.R. 3400, by the Republican Study Committee, which allows insurance plans to be purchased across state lines and includes provisions I authored to allow seniors to opt out of Medicare without putting their Social Security benefits at risk. Many of these substantive efforts at reform were passed in the House in 2006 but failed to clear procedural roadblocks in the Senate.

Second, Republicans are in the distinct minority in Congress. Our votes alone are not sufficient to stop any bill the speaker and majority leader wish to have passed. If health-care reform is stalled, it is because Republicans and Democrats who know the issue well have practical problems with legislation before them.

In maligning our opposition to a public-option plan, "because it is politically too volatile, or because they are beholden to insurance companies for campaign contributions," you dismiss out of hand the notion that any members of Congress might actually have substance behind their position.

State-run public-option plans, like TennCare, have consistently driven health-care costs up and restricted access. Until public-option advocates can point to a plan that has worked, skeptics are right to reserve their support.

Many Republicans and Democrats in the Tennessee delegation have stated their reservations about the health-care bills -- not the principle of reform -- under consideration today. Very few have actually voted for it. Our own governor, perhaps the most experienced chief executive the nation has when it comes to health care, has warned us that plans under consideration could bankrupt Tennessee. These are not small concerns cooked up by insurance companies but substantive reservations based on painful past experience.

It is wrong to paint us as partisans or obstructionists because we have raised objections to a single bill whose sponsors have ignored the lessons of history.

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