Conservative critics of the president are now using the swine flu crisis to build their case against a public option for health insurance coverage.
On Thursday, Dana Perino, former Bush White House Press Secretary, said that the administration's handling of the flu epidemic -- particularly the delays in getting a sufficient supply of vaccine to meet public demand -- provided a clear case against allowing more government intervention in the health care industry.
"Which brings me to a larger point," Perino writes, in an entry on Politico, "does anyone think this episode inspires confidence in Americans that the government should be taking over all aspects of our healthcare system instead of taking step-by-step measures to improve the one we currently have? Perhaps people aren't connecting the dots just yet, but the underlying tension is there and I do think this makes an argument against a public option. If moms and dads are upset about waiting for a flu vaccine distribution run by the federal government, do they want to depend on the government for their basic health care? Uh, no."
Well, uh, yes. For starters, the Obama administration isn't holding back vaccines on purpose. The issue has to do with the pace of manufacturing, which has largely not kept up with the growth in demand. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced on Monday, that the government had a supply of about 16.5 million doses of vaccine -- a large amount but millions of doses below that which is needed.
Still, the shortage of vaccines tells us relatively nothing about the role government would play in providing health insurance. At the very least, its important to note that those who actually have government-run health care (Medicare) generally love the product they receive. Moreover, the fear of rationed care is an old canard that has been debunked by many fact-checking organizations.
The irony, in the end, of Perino's statement is that she is chastising the Obama administration's handling of a major flu outbreak in the first place. Using catastrophe to make a political point was a not uncommon tactic during the Bush years. But is it really fair to charge that government of being incapable of handling a national crisis when the person your old boss appointed to deal with federal emergencies was a former Arabian horse dealer?
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