Republican radio address

For the weekend of October 31 - November 1, 2009

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

No matter what happens in next week’s election, we will still have to confront a major issue that could touch all Americans in deeply personal ways. I’m speaking of the health care reform drama now unfolding in Congress. Critical developments in the last few days have given us a clear picture of what the Democrats plan to do. It is equally clear that if they get their way, America’s health care system will take a brutal hit. Hospitals, doctors and other providers will be underpaid for their services, forcing some hospitals to close and some doctors to leave the field. Ten million senior citizens will lose their Medicare Advantage coverage. But the biggest losers will be our kids, as the Democrats load another costly entitlement program on top of our $12 trillion national debt. As New Hampshire Senator Judd Gregg said last week, “We are going to fundamentally undermine the quality of life for our children.”

We have been misled and deceived throughout this entire health care saga. President Obama promised that the deliberations would take place in full view of the public. He even said we’d be able to follow the health care action on C-Span, the way you might watch a poker tournament on ESPN. Instead, the White House worked out insider deals with drug companies and other players to bring them on board.

On Capitol Hill, the Democratic leaders have holed up behind closed doors to redesign one-sixth of the U.S. economy. This is the kind of thing you’d expect in a banana republic. In the Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid just dropped the bombshell that the Senate version would include the infamous “public option.” That was enough to drive away Senator Olympia Snowe, who said all along that she could not vote for a bill with a public option. She understands that it is Democratic code for a total government takeover of health care under a single payer system. In the House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced yesterday that her bill will also include a public option.

We are now entering the crucial endgame phase of this political war. The Democrats will disappear behind closed doors to merge the Senate bill and the House bill into a monstrosity sure to run more than 1,000 pages. Few members of Congress will bother to read it. But they know, and we know, that the public option is ground-zero of this fight. Harry Reid says his version will let states opt out of the public option, but that is political gibberish. No states will opt out because they would still have to pay all their taxes in the health care overhaul and get nothing in return.

In their crafty way, the Democrats know that a public option would inevitably lead to a single payer system run by federal bureaucrats. There is no way private insurance companies could compete with a heavily subsidized government program. To make it even worse, all private health insurance plans will have to include the twin killers of guaranteed issue and community rating. These are the same mandates that have turned Maine’s health insurance market into one of the most costly and dysfunctional in the nation. People could wait until they are sick and then sign up for health coverage. That’s like being able to buy retroactive car insurance after you have an accident. As private enterprise insurance companies fold, the public option would gradually become the only option.

That’s the danger point for the health care industry. The feds already run two socialized health programs, Medicare and Medicaid. Both are notorious for underpaying doctors and hospitals, usually much less than the actual cost of the service. To survive, health care providers make up the difference with payments from private insurance companies. Indeed, one of the dirty little secrets of our system is that the federal government’s own programs are responsible for the sky-high cost of private insurance. They shift the real cost of Medicare and Medicaid to private payers, forcing employers, employees and individual customers to subsidize those socialist systems.

You really can’t blame the feds. Medicare is almost bankrupt, and Medicaid costs are exploding. Waste and fraud are rampant in both – tens of billions of dollars worth every year. If the Democrats succeed in creating a public option and ultimately a single payer system, there will be three sources of income for the health care establishment – Medicare, Medicaid and the public option. As costs grow out of control for all three, reimbursement rates will be cut even deeper. And hospitals and doctors will no longer have a private insurance system to bail them out. Good luck getting health care when that day comes. We thank Senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins for shunning the public option and hope that other senators wake up before it’s too late.

This is Josh Tardy. Thank you for listening.