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It's Paternity Test Time for Newt, Mitt and Obamacare

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It's paternity test time for Obamacare.

Beneath the bogeyman label that the GOP leadership has attached to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the truth is that health reform has almost as many Republican as Democratic fathers. If you care about the country as much as political hand-to-hand combat, that is a good thing.

The gasps of horror following Newt Gingrich's too-candid confession about Paul Ryan's radical Medicare reform plan and the harrumphs of indignation that greeted Mitt Romney's less-than candid confession about the alleged sins of his Massachusetts plan are primarily political theater. Republicans and Democrats certainly disagree about the individual mandate for insurance coverage, but, as Gingrich noted, often it's a matter of degree.

More to the point, the bulk of health reform that deals with making our health care system more effective and efficient includes many common-sense provisions that have had bipartisan support for years. As I write in a recent column for Kaiser Health News about Newt and the Health Wonks, the pre-candidate Gingrich advocated reforms such as "data-driven reimbursement" informed by best practices, a national electronic health network and a focus on prevention and wellness. All those items -- and others supported by Gingrich, GOP legislators and even the 2008 Republican platform -- are in the HITECH Act, part of the budget stimulus package, and the Affordable Care Act.

Don't believe it? Read Gingrich's 2006 testimony to the Senate Commerce Committee. Or, for a list of Republican-sponsored bills from which provisions were incorporated into the final reform legislation, click here. You'll be surprised at some of the names.

Romney's sin, of course, was allowing the Republican pedigree to be attached to the purpose of universal coverage at a time when ideologues of the right have declared it an impossible achievement. And here I thought the GOP opposed political correctness.

All this shouldn't be a surprise. Heck, Ronald Reagan, with the bipartisan support of Congress, took the biggest step in modern American history to make the Medicare program a smart payer. Sharply debating the difference between proper government oversight and bureaucratic red tape is good for the nation. Demonizing efforts to obtain more value for the taxpayer dollar care just because the buyer is the government is the kind of cynical thinking that prefers red ink to getting real about reducing it.