Of all the things that have been written in support of derailing health care reform, the oddest yet is a recent op-ed co-authored by Senator Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) that's appearing in the online version of The Advocate, which is arguably the most important magazine servicing the LGBT community in America. In it, Coburn argues against government-run health care, citing structural inefficiencies in the way the Ryan White CARE Act distributes AIDS prescriptions as an example of why public health care systems will eventually kill us all: "These bureaucratic inefficiencies and mismanagement have literally cost lives."
One of the things I wonder, right up front, is this: Of all the people to write an op-ed for The Advocate, why Tom Coburn? One would think that the piece's other co-author, GOProud's Christopher Barron, would be up to the task of penning the opinion himself. What does Coburn bring to the table? [NOTE: Well, as I have been reminded, he's an obstetrician, duh.] As it turns out, it's the Patients' Choice Act -- legislation that Coburn has co-sponsored with Senator Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and which Igor Volsky has found to be inadequate:
On the whole, the Patients' Choice Act fails to guarantee adequate, affordable and accessible coverage and it does does little, if anything, to control health care costs. Americans who can find coverage through a state-based health insurance Exchange would be guaranteed coverage -- insurers would not be able to exclude individuals with pre-existing conditions -- but it's unclear that they would be able to afford it. While a summary of the bill includes European-style "non-profit independent board " that "would penalize insurance companies that cherry pick healthy patients while rewarding companies that seek patients with pre-existing conditions," the bill does nothing to prevent higher prices based on sex, age, occupation, or medical condition. To finance these higher prices, Americans can rely on the meager tax credits they've stashed away in a Health Savings Account.
Over at The New Republic, Suzy Khimm notes that Coburn and Barron offer no explanation on how this legislation would improve upon the Ryan White CARE Act. More importantly, she notes that what Coburn offers the op-ed with this lternative is more than a little offset by Coburn's historical hostility to the gay community. Coburn has opposed gay marriage, gay adoption, and anonymous HIV testing, and he has called the "gay agenda" the "greatest threat to our freedom that we face today." By "today," by the way, he meant 2004, a time when America was supposed to be fighting terrorists in two wars, who were a threat to freedom.
Khimm also notes that "just last month, Coburn's chief of staff declared that 'all pornography is homosexual pornography,' warning that smut could lead young people to adopt that dreaded gay lifestyle." Of course, the most notable thing the Coburn has ever said about the gay community was probably this:
"Lesbianism is so rampant in some of the schools in southeast Oklahoma that they'll only let one girl go to the bathroom. Now think about it. Think about that issue. How is it that that's happened to us?"
Anyway, his name is Tom Coburn and he is here to recruit you!