THE BLOG
06/24/2010 11:02 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Orrin Hatch Comes Out for Socialized Medicine

Orrin Hatch has shocked the political world by offering legislation in favor of government health care. After voting against the recent bill in Congress, the senator now believes that the government should be involved with the public's health. Indeed, going even further, he says that the government should protect those who can least-afford health care. The unemployed. And those on welfare.

Sen. Hatch (R-Utah) has introduced an amendment that drug tests should be administered to people out of work before they can received unemployment insurance. This is not a punitive act against the needy, he insists, but rather is purely a matter of health. A matter of the government stepping in, so that these users can get the treatment they deserve.

"This amendment is a way to help people get off of drugs," the senator states. And showing a concerned, progressive side few people knew existed, added emphatically, "It does get the help for them that they really need."

But Orrin Hatch goes deeper in his embracing of government health care. Because after the government administers these tests, "then states could enroll them in either a state or federal drug treatment program."

Federal drug tests. Federal drug treatment. Giving help to the needy. It's almost as if Orrin Hatch has become a socialist. But, no, he's just become a humanitarian.

Now, certainly, there can be many arguments on both side of the issue whether this is a good thing. Whether it will cost more money. Whether people should be tested for all manner of abuses or all illegal acts. Whether anyone getting any type of compensation from the federal government should have to pass a test of what is allowable by them. Whether someone who's had an abortion or been arrested for drunk driving or spent any time in jail or even gotten a parking citation should be allowed to get unemployment insurance, or a federal grant, or a federal paycheck.

No, all that's another matter entirely. That's for another debate at another time. This is in praise of a wonderful man, doing a wonderful thing. Orrin Hatch, a seriously right-wing Republican, going against the party line -- a party line he himself so fiercely fought to hold -- and saying, yes, it is important for the government to be concerned with the health of our citizens. Yes, when the most vulnerable of our citizens, the unemployed, can't do for themselves, then the government should step in and help them. Give them medical tests for drug use. And more.

And why? Because, as Orrin Hatch said, it gets them the help "they really need."

Sometimes you have to look past your own demons and do what's right. And if it means Orrin Hatch supporting socialized medicine, so be it.

Good for Sen. Hatch. He once was blind, but now he sees.

Admittedly, this program isn't the solution to what is a far larger problem. After all, the nation is full of employed people who are on drugs, as well, and deserve the same help that Sen. Hatch says drug abusers need. But it's a first step. And a noble one.

And it's a step that others in Hatch's home state of Utah support, including State Rep. Carl Wimmer (R-Herriman) who had introduced a similar bill, though he had to drop it for a conflict with federal law. But Mr. Wimmer believes just as strongly that the government should offer health care. "Clearly, people who have a drug addiction need help," he told the Salt Lake Tribune.

Indeed, they do. All such people. Carl Wimmer has honed in on the issue and focused on its essence. "People who have a drug addiction need help." For decades, this call has been the domain of those dismissed by the far right as "bleeding hearts.' But now, Orrin Hatch and the Carl Wimmers of the world have stood tall to address this reality on both the federal and state level. To get government involved in bringing that medical help to people who need it.

Their words.

And surely we take them at their words for they must be good men. Honest men. Honorable men. Men who say they believe that people with a drug addiction need help, and federal drug programs are the way to provide it.

Orrin Hatch calls for government-mandated federal health care. Remarkable.

If only he'd voted that way when he had the chance.