In some ways, whether the newly Tea Party-infused House’s vote to repeal health care reform is merely a symbolic gesture is beside the point. Republicans love to point out that a plurality of Americans support repeal (it actually wavers around the 50-50 mark), but nobody seems to wonder how much of the public’s uncertainty is due to the relentless lies and distortions emanating from Fox News and GOP politicians.
Sarah Palin’s fictitious “death panels” proved to have the same staying power as George W. Bush’s WMD myth, and as recently as a week ago I heard yet another GOP politician refer to reform as a “government takeover of health care.” Government takeover? The public option was scrapped, the insurance industry remains as privately owned as it has always been, yet the right still behaves as though some kind of banana republic nationalization has taken place. They even continue to dicker over the mandate requiring all Americans to have health insurance by 2014, even though it was a Republican idea originally, even though nobody has explained why a law requiring health insurance is so much worse from laws requiring car insurance. Surely your ticker is more important than your Volvo.
To be sure, now that the GOP is on the upswing, they have to devote a little more time to specifying what their alternative health-care plan would look like. Amusingly, quite of a few of them are belatedly acknowledging that some parts of the evil Obamacare plan are actually quite good for Americans. Not even Glenn Beck can persuade the public that it’s their patriotic duty to be denied insurance because they have a pre-existing condition or having their children thrown off when they graduate college (arguably the time they need it the most since there’s often no job offer right away).
Yet we all know where Republican priorities truly lay. And listening to right-wing rhetoric regarding their “alternative” health care reforms, it’s not difficult to see that nothing has changed. Take a cue from the venerable Karl Rove, who in a recent op-ed advocated “sensible reforms” that “increased competition and choice” and “allowed insurance to be purchased across state lines.” Republican Texas Governor Rick Perry spoke for many in his party when he talked about including a provision that caps malpractice lawsuit awards.
See the pattern here? Even in its broadest terms, GOP health care reform would favor wealthy insurers and doctors, not average Americans. Just like when they decided that, in an economic climate where cops and firefighters are being laid off nationwide, what the nation really needed was to continue padding the wallets of the one class of people who’ve profited from the Great Recession.