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Robert J. Elisberg Headshot

GOP Takes the "Care" Out of Health Care

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In one sentence, Republicans at last week's health care summit explained to the American public why the GOP's insistence of leadership has been empty, shameless, disingenuous and harmful to the nation.

Not bad for one sentence.

Actually, it was less. The Republicans were able to do it in just a phrase.

As I sat in front of my television and heard Rep. John Kline (R-MN) say the unconscionable, it was hard to believe that this wasn't a Saturday Night Live comedy sketch. But it was all too true, albeit not remotely funny.

But there it was, nonetheless. Rep. John Kline*, on the Republican health care panel team, actually, truly, remarkably did say:

"We don't hear people complaining about the insurance polices..."

Yes. Honest.

He really said that.

Really.

Let me pause a moment. I'd like to note something that might be of interest to the good congressman. Assuming he's listening.

I live in California and am one of the lucky sods with health insurance from Anthem Blue Cross. You know, the company owned by Wellpoint, who just announced they would be raising rates 39% because they had a bad year and only made $4 billion in profits. (Last year's premiums were raised an amount so ungodly I was sure it was a typo. But at least I feel patriotic helping American big business succeed so richly.)

I'm holding a letter they just sent me. "While we strive to keep costs as low as possible, it is necessary to adjust our rates to cover the escalating cost of health care," it reads. And then for fun, they added that the company "will usually adjust rates every 12 months; however, we may adjust more frequently in accordance with the terms of your health benefit plan."

When it comes to keeping costs low, I'm not sure of their definition of "strive," but it appears to be different from mine. That aside, I should make clear that I'm one of the lucky ones, because my premiums didn't get raised the 39% that the news reported Wellpoint was initiating. It was only 37.75%.

For the moment, that's been put on hold because even Congress recognized that this increase was despicable, and is investigating. But Wellpoint/Anthem has already still said they're going to try to go ahead. Not just this year, but also that pesky "more frequently" in the future. But I appreciate their thoughtfulness telling me in advance.

Anyway, back to Rep. Kline (R-MN). You remember him. The one who stated, "We don't hear people complaining about the insurance polices..."

Okay. I didn't want to say anything, but to help out a U.S. congressman -- I'm complaining. I really would rather not complain, mind you, but if it has to be me, if I have to be the one person who complains about his health insurance policy so that John Kline and the Republican Party can hear it, well...so be it. It's my civic duty.

Now, of course, there are two possibilities here. And two only. 1) John Kline truly believes that no one is complaining about health insurance policies and therefore is a buffoon, or 2) he knows that people are complaining and is a liar.

That's it. Those are the only two choices. It ain't pretty.

Here's the thing: for all the coverage I've seen of the entire Republican input to the health care debate, this has been their attitude, as well. John Kline was there at the summit as one of their top spokesmen. And this was their spokesman's attitude.

How could it be otherwise? After all, pretty much everything that has come from Republicans during the health care debate begins with a lie. Republican response to the Democrat's efforts to reform this health care crisis in America begins with -- "Listen to us. We care about health care. We have a better plan. We know what to do."

It's a lie. And it's a provable lie because Republicans ran the White House for the previous eight years. For five of those years, they also controlled both the Senate and House. And in all of that time, not once did the Republicans do what the Democrats did the moment they finally took over the White House -- and that's push to stop the crisis and reform health care. Not once. And not just during the years of the George Bush Administration. The reality is they haven't EVER done it. Republicans have never tried to reform health care. Worse, whenever Democrats have tried to do something to fix the disastrous problem, Republican have risen up en masse to fight it. Block it furiously every step of the way. Strip it of meaning until it was dead, dead, dead.

And now, they're trying to flimflam the American public that they care about health care and have a better solution than the Democrats.

It's a lie. It's a gutter trash lie. And anyone who believes the lie and defends it is at best a fool. And at worst, complicit.

I just mention this in case no Republicans have ever heard anyone complain.

(CORRECTION: In an earlier version, I mis-identified Rep. John Kline. While watching the comment live, I did my best to see the speaker's name and tried to track it down online. I thought I had done so, and gotten the name right. I hadn't. But the transcript shows the quote to have come from Rep. Kline. It was NOT said by Rep. Bill Cassidy. I apologize to the congressman and readers for the confusion and my error. The quote, again, is from Rep. John Kline.)