Republican radio address

For the weekend of August 22-23, 2009

Greetings, this is Josh Tardy, leader of the Republicans in the Maine House.

As we watch the unfolding debate about health care, I’m reminded of the ancient Chinese curse – “May you live in interesting times.” Congress goes back to Washington in a couple of weeks, and the stage is set for the biggest political war in decades. On one side stand the Democrats, who are fighting to lay the groundwork for the liberals’ Holy Grail – a nationalized, single-payer health care system. Their centerpiece is the public option, which would ultimately become the only option. It would crowd out private health insurance companies and kick millions of workers out of their coverage, forcing them into a government-run plan.

On the other side stand most Americans, who absolutely reject this Democratic assault on health care freedom. Across the country, outraged citizens are speaking their minds as members of Congress desperately try to defend the indefensible. After so-called negotiations with the drug companies and the American Medical Association, the Obama administration figured they had neutralized serious opposition. They never imagined that ordinary citizens would rise up by the millions and demand that Washington stop the financial insanity.

The projected cost of Obamacare is $1.6 trillion. This is money we don’t have, and it would come on top of a national debt of $11 trillion. For entitlement programs like Medicare and Medicaid, the unfunded liability runs to $56 trillion. Even Warren Buffett, an Obama supporter, warned this week that the United States risks becoming a banana republic.

The Obama plan will make the problem much worse, while also killing jobs. According to Obama’s own economic advisor, the combination of new taxes and mandates will wipe out more than four million jobs. And just this week came news that the Canadian single-payer system is on the verge of implosion. It’s going broke. But facts don’t seem to matter to the single-payer zealots, who have been waiting for this moment of total control of government to make their big move. It will be a sad day indeed if the Democrats are able to jam this thing through over the objection of the American people.

In all this commotion about Obamacare, another solution to our health care problems has been overlooked. The mainstream media certainly won’t report it, preferring to slam Republicans as the party of the status quo. But Republicans in Congress have crafted a plan that lowers health care costs and enhances health insurance without creating new government programs or raising taxes. This is a commonsense plan that builds on the strength of our health system and solves legitimate problems.

Let me mention a few of the provisions. To lower insurance costs, the plan brings greater fairness to the tax code by extending tax savings to folks who have to buy health coverage on their own. These are people who don’t have insurance through their employers. They would get a tax deduction equal to the cost of an individual or family policy. It also would provide substantial insurance tax credits to low and modest income citizens. Provisions like these would make quality coverage accessible to every American. The plan also encourages states to create a Universal Access Program to guarantee that all citizens can obtain affordable coverage, regardless of pre-existing conditions. And the number of uninsured Americans would drop by seven million by allowing young people to remain on their parents’ health policies to the age of 25.

The Republican proposal recognizes that one of the biggest obstacles for small businesses when it comes to retaining employees and creating new jobs is the cost of insurance. It helps small businesses to band together across state lines to provide their employees with high-quality, low-cost coverage – the same coverage provided by big companies and unions. And it strengthens employer-provided coverage by helping the 10 million uninsured Americans who are already eligible for an employer insurance plan. The proposal does this by encouraging employers to move to opt-out, rather than opt-in rules. Another boost to small business would come from tax credits to reduce the administrative costs of running an insurance plan.

The GOP plan also aims to crack down on waste and fraud. It provides Medicare and Medicaid with additional authority and resources to root out white-collar crime that costs taxpayers tens of billions of dollars. Medicare fraud alone is ripping us off for $60 billion a year.

There are dozens more provisions in the Republican plan dealing with wellness incentives, cost reduction and continuity of coverage. There is nothing radical about it. Democrats and Republicans could support it. If Obamacare flames out in Congress – and we should all hope that it does – this is a plan the whole country could get behind. It’s time to bring some sanity back into this debate

This is Josh Tardy. Thanks very much for listening.