THE BLOG
01/07/2010 10:05 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

GOP Rep. Mike Coffman Says Single-Payer Government Health Care "Works"

There's no other way to read this story from Politics Daily and the Denver Post than to read it as Colorado Republican Rep. Mike Coffman admitting that government-sponsored single-payer health care "works":

Coffman, a former Marine who keeps buff at age 54, was jogging on the golf course bordering his home in Aurora, Colo., when he stumbled on a rock or some other obstruction hidden in the snow. He fell, cracking his ankle.

The congressman and his wife went to an urgent care clinic in a strip mall, where he paid $30 for a temporary cast and a prescription, and later he went to the famed Steadman Hawkins Clinic in Vail, where he paid $350 for an expert opinion, he told The Denver Post.

"I successfully tested our health care system," he said, with a laugh. "It works,"' he told the Post.

Of course the health care system worked for him, many Coloradans undoubtedly thought when they read the item in Saturday's Post. Coffman, a Republican member of Congress who voted against the health care reform bill in the House last year, is covered by the Cadillac of American health-care plans, the Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) Plan.

That's why his X-ray, temporary cast and prescription cost him only $30. But if he didn't have insurance -- like some 45 million Americans --- the tab most likely would be closer to $375 ($150 for the visit, $150 for the splint, and $75 for the X-ray, according to prices quoted at a popular downtown Denver urgent-care clinic).

The FEHB is a single-payer government-sponsored health care system. The federal government is the single payer in that system.* And as Coffman says very explicitly, "It works."

So why is Coffman, all Republican lawmakers, and a big chunk of Democratic lawmakers, so opposed to single payer that they ruled it "off the table" as part of the debate over national health care? Why aren't all Americans entitled to the very same health care system as members of Congress, if those members of Congress acknowledge their system "works"?

(h/t Steve Benen at the Washington Monthly)

* NOTE: The FEHB is one form of single-payer - a form where the government is the single payer, but pays to insurance companies which administer benefits. There are other forms of single-payer where the government pays directly to health care providers (this is, for instance, the VA system). The point here is not to debate which of the forms are better - only to point out that the FEHB is a government-sponsored single-payer system - ie. the single payer is the government. It is exactly the kind of system that - if expanded to let everyone in - could be a single-payer system for the nation. And it's a system that Coffman says "works" - even as he rails on government health care.