Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Republicans: still lame

Tomorrow the Republicans will unveil the "Pledge to America," which is basically a modern day Contract With America-style campaign platform. CBS News has already posted a copy, and a quick skim reveals it to be rather underwhelming -- long on rhetoric and short on ideas. For example, here is the entire section on health care reform:
Our Plan to Repeal the Job Killing Health Care Law and Put in Place Real Reform

1. Repeal the Costly Health Care Takeover of 2010 : Because the new health care law kills jobs, raises taxes, and increases the cost of health care, we will immediately take action to repeal this law.

2. Enact Medical Liability Reform: Skyrocketing medical liability insurance rates have distorted the practice of medicine, routinely forcing doctors to order costly and often unnecessary tests to protect themselves from lawsuits, often referred to as “defensive medicine.” We will enact common-sense medical liability reforms to lower costs, rein in junk lawsuits and curb defensive medicine.

3. Purchase Health Insurance Across State Lines: Americans residing in a state with expensive health insurance plans are locked into those plans and do not currently have an opportunity to choose a lower cost option that best meets their needs. We will allow individuals to buy health care coverage outside of the state in which they live.

4. Expand Health Savings Accounts: Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) are popular savings accounts that provide cost-effective health insurance to those who might otherwise go uninsured. We will improve HSAs by making it easier for patients with high-deductible health plans to use them to obtain access to quality care. We will repeal the new health care law, which prevents the use of these savings accounts to purchase over-the-counter medicine.

5. Strengthen the Doctor-Patient Relationship: We will repeal President Obama’s government takeover of health care and replace it with common-sense reforms focused on strengthening the doctor-patient relationship.

6. Ensure Access For Patients With Pre-Existing Conditions: Health care should be accessible for all, regardless of pre-existing conditions or past illnesses. We will expand state high-risk pools, reinsurance programs and reduce the cost of coverage. We will make it illegal for an insurance company to deny coverage to someone with prior coverage on the basis of a pre-existing condition, eliminate annual and lifetime spending caps, and prevent insurers from dropping your coverage just because you get sick. We will incentivize states to develop innovative programs that lower premiums and reduce the number of uninsured Americans.

7. Permanently Prohibit Taxpayer Funding of Abortion: We will establish a government-wide prohibition on taxpayer funding of abortion and subsidies for insurance coverage that includes abortion, this includes enacting into law what is known as the Hyde Amendment. We will also enact into law conscience protections for health care providers, including doctors, nurses, and hospitals.
While President Obama's veto pen renders this almost completely academic, there is nothing here that strikes me as particularly bold. Items 1-4 are useful to varying extents, but they are insufficient to correct the runaway costs in US health care. Item #5 is basically meaningless -- no seriously, what does that even mean? -- while #7 is a sop to the pro-life crowd (although I think even pro-choice Republicans can see the virtue of government refusing to fund abortions).

Item #6 meanwhile strikes me as straight out of the Democratic party platform, and probably originates from the same guys who thought that "compassionate conservatism" was a good idea. It's another regulation on health insurance companies which will inevitably drive up costs. And relying on states to come up with "innovative programs" -- aren't you supposed to be the guys who realize how ineffective government programs are?

I'm still hoping for a huge Republican victory on November 2nd, but no one should be under any illusions that these guys are going to come to the table with any bright ideas after they take office. The virtue in electing Republicans is simply that they will serve as a seawall against the tide of legislative insanity currently emanating from the White House. Two years of gridlock with perhaps passage of a few bilateral free trade agreements is probably the best case scenario between now and 2012.

Update: Similar thoughts here.

Update: Andy Roth at the Club for Growth is not enthused either.

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