Critical Condition

President vs. the People

Mitch McConnell on the Senate floor earlier today:

Yesterday, the President, to his credit, acknowledged what the American people have been telling us for weeks: that the Democratic health care proposals currently making their way through Congress aren’t where they need to be. I couldn’t agree with him more.

All of us recognize the need for reform. That’s not in question. And that’s why day after day, I have come to the floor of the Senate and proposed concrete, common-sense reforms that all of us can agree on, reforms that would  increase access, decrease costs, and guarantee that no one in this country would be forced to give up the care they currently have.

As I’ve said repeatedly, we should reform malpractice laws; encourage wellness and prevention programs that encourage healthier lifestyles like quitting smoking and fighting obesity; promote more competition in the private insurance market; and address the needs of small businesses in a way that doesn’t kill jobs in the middle of a recession.

Unfortunately, the administration seems bent on its own proposal for a government-driven plan that costs trillions of dollars and asks small businesses and seniors to pay for it.

Once this plan is implemented, the American people could be left with a system that none of them would recognize and that most of them would regret — a system in which health care is denied, delayed, and rationed, a system which delivers worse care than Americans currently receive at an even higher cost. Americans want reform. But they don’t want this. And they don’t want either of the two proposals we’ve seen so far.

Both proposals could lead to a government takeover of health care, increase long-term health care costs, and cost trillions of dollars — on the backs of seniors, small businesses, and by adding hundreds of billions of dollars to the already-staggering national debt.

The President has said that both of these bills need work. And in my view, Democrats in Congress should listen to the President and come up with something Americans really want.

This may take time. But Americans would rather that we get these reforms right than just get them written. When it comes to health care, Americans are sending a clear message: slow down and get it right. It’s a message many of us have been delivering for weeks, and it’s a message that one of the Senate’s top Democrats in the health care debate seemed to echo yesterday when he said that the critical test isn’t whether we meet a certain deadline but whether we get this reform right, whether it stands the test of history.

We know Americans reject an artificial deadline on closing Guantanamo without a plan on what to do to keep us safe from the detainees who are housed there. And they regret accepting a rushed and artificial deadline on the Stimulus. Health care is simply too important to rush — just to meet a date someone picked out of the air.

The arguments we’ve heard in favor of rushing just don’t square with reality.

The administration and some in Congress say that we have to pass these bills right away because rising health care costs are an imminent threat to the economy. Yet the Democrat plans we’ve seen so far would make the problem worse. According to the independent Congressional Budget Office, the Democrat proposals would very likely increase overall health care spending, not reduce it. There goes that argument.

Others say we need to pass these bills right away because people can’t live under the current system a day longer. Yet many of the proposals we’ve seen wouldn’t even go into effect for at least another four years. There goes that argument.

Some say that under the proposals we’ve seen Americans won’t lose the coverage they have. Yet independent studies show that millions would be pushed off plans they currently have and like. There goes that argument too.

The only possible explanation for passing a bill in two weeks that could hand over one sixth of the U.S. economy to the government is that the longer this plan sits out in the open, the more Americans oppose it. Already, Americans are shocked at the idea of funding a government takeover of health care on the backs of seniors through cuts to Medicare or through taxes on small businesses in the middle of a recession. They’re shocked to hear that the final proposal could force taxpayers to fund abortions. They have serious concerns about adding to the national debt. And they’re worried about the prospect of being forced off the plans they currently have. These concerns are serious. They should be taken seriously — not brushed aside in the service of some artificial deadline.

No one in Washington wants to block health care reform. But many of us do want to take the time that’s needed to deliver the kinds of reform that Americans actually want — not a so-called reform that leads to a government takeover of health care that leaves people paying more for worse care than they currently have.

The President was right. The proposals we’ve seen aren’t where they need to be. Not even close. But that doesn’t mean reform isn’t possible, that reform isn’t coming, or that anyone doesn’t want reform. What it does mean is that we need to take the time to get the health care reforms the American people really want. This is what they expect. And we should do no less.