Critical Condition

Marsha’s Medicine

Tennessee Republican congresswoman Marsha Blackburn co-authored an oped yesterday cautioning policymakers away from using Tennessee as any kind of model for health-care policy. Today she takes a few questions from National Review Online:

KATHRYN JEAN LOPEZ: Why is Tennessee not the model for national health care?


REP. MARSHA BLACKBURN: Like the president’s plan, TennCare came in on the promise of cost savings, increased access, and expanded care. It achieved the opposite. Costs exploded, threatening to bankrupt the state. Access was cut and care was rationed. By creating the illusion of “free care,” TennCare invited a system of waste, fraud, and abuse and ultimately collapsed under its own weight. When that happened, nearly 200,000 were removed from the program. We can’t afford that kind of failure on the national level. 

LOPEZ: The president is in Cleveland today. Is that the model?

REP. BLACKBURN: The Cleveland Clinic is a marvelous example of a health-care institution that has chosen to focus on quality of care, medical innovation, disease management, and wellness. They have been able to achieve medical gains thru research and development. My concern with the Obama health-care proposal is that we would compromise this type innovation and research. This type of clinic is a great example of why people around the world come to America for health care.

LOPEZ: Should there be such a thing as a national health-care model? Or is this something states can tackle? 

REP. BLACKBURN: A one-size-fits-all approach to healthcare would seem to me to be unworkable. Both health care and medical care should be personalized to the patient. While some reforms on cost, access, and insurance are needed, it would be difficult to have a national model. 

There should be a hard look at federal regulation of insurance. What is Washington doing that forces costs to rise? Representative Shadegg has a tremendous bill that would alter federal barriers so that a broader spectrum of entities can offer coverage and individuals are encouraged to buy coverage privately. That will bring health-care costs closer to market forces and expand coverage. As insurance is reviewed, liability reform should also be addressed.

Rep. Blackburn

LOPEZ: Speaker Pelosi says she has the votes. Is that the impression you have?

REP. BLACKBURN: The markup of her bill in the Energy and Commerce Committee could be delayed as late as Monday, our final week in session. I don’t read that as a signal that the votes are there.

LOPEZ: Are Republicans doing what they should be doing to provide Americans an alternative to what Obama is selling?

REP. BLACKBURN: Republican members have brought forward both ideas and legislation. We continue to offer alternatives that use market forces to address health care, as opposed to relying on the federal government to take control of the system and become the central player in the health-care delivery system. Republicans are focused on providing patient centered options for the American people. Representative Shadegg’s bill that I referenced earlier is a good example of the type of legislation that could resolve the health care access and cost issues using market forces.

LOPEZ: How did the president do at his press conference?

REP. BLACKBURN: The president is comfortable with the press and his performance at press conferences is always good. The problem is that the next day he always turns the policy-making power back to the Democratic leadership on the Hill. That always seems to cause problems.