Gov. Ed Rendell (D-Penn.) delivered a stern message on Thursday to those Republicans (including his state's attorney general) who want to repeal the president's health care reform, deem it unconstitutional or drastically change its language or implementation.
"Once you cross the Rubicon and do something that every other developed country in the world has, there's no going back," he said. "No going back. I mean, can you imagine, how would you like to be the politician who votes to take health care away from 1.2 million Pennsylvanians? Not gonna happen. This is all good fire for political campaigns but in reality it's not going to happen."
The Pennsylvania governor, in a briefing sponsored by Health Affairs magazine, spent a good portion of his discussion addressing the heavy responsibilities that fall on states to implement the health care bill recently signed into law. Rendell predicted that the most daunting task will involve setting up the exchanges -- which will require a devotion of state resources and time that could prove daunting if officials are to meet the 2014 start date.
His comments on the effort by GOP officials -- including Pennsylvania Attorney General and Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Corbett -- to demonize the bill and declare it unconstitutional, however, were the most direct.
"When Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid were all enacted, you heard the same stuff," he said. "Go look up the Republican senators in Social Security and Medicare: 'Socialism! Communism!' the same stuff. It's just closing your eyes and not realizing what era you're in. Now, who defended Medicare [this go-round]? The president wisely wants to take some of the waste out of Medicare. And who defended Medicare? The same people who called it some Communist plot five decades ago."
"So we're not going back," Rendell continued. "But we should do that mandatory legislation. I would like to see mandatory legislation on cost control. I'd like to see it get a little tougher. I'd like to see us, [sic] is this doesn't ratchet cost down enough...There is plenty of stuff I'd like to do. And I hope it gets done. But the basic bill itself, we're never going back."
Rendell added that he'd love the challenge of getting the exchanges up and running. But he's term-limited and will be out of public office for the first time in 30 years following the next election. Asked how health care reform would have affected his reelection chances had he run -- and, by extension, how the bill will play in the 2010 races -- he was surprisingly frank.
"It probably slightly hurts," he said. "But I think it's a minuscule issue compared to the economy... If we were to have six more months of significant job growth, say 100,000 a month, plus, I think they'll turn around and it'll not be a big issue at all."
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