By SENATOR DAVID DURENBERGER
Tim Pawlenty used a recent appearance on Fox News Sunday to show a tougher demeanor and to prove he will not make health care cost containment and access a priority. As Governor of Massachusetts Mitt Romney worked with the Democratic legislature and the health care industry to expand access to all residents of the state and to commit to cost containing behavior change. The coverage reforms came right out of conservative health policy playbooks at Wharton (in the 1980s) and the Heritage Foundation (in the 1990s) and the cost containment was to be accomplished by voluntary action of Massachusetts health systems and health plans. On which they have since foundered, leaving Romney to take the heat.
When President Obama made his commitment to reform of national coverage, access, insurance, payment, and delivery system policy, national Republicans refused to cooperate. The legislative policy approach he advocated came mostly from a bipartisan Senate Finance Committee report from 2008. Elements of it came from the bipartisan approach Romney took in Massachusetts. Congressional Republicans unanimously refused to participate in the process. Today every elected Republican has committed to repealing Obamacare (and now Obama-ney care).
What changed? The definition of Republican. The election power of Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, Jim DeMint and the Rupert Murdoch/WSJ/Fox version of facts to bring out the “just vote No on government and on Obama” in a substantial enough minority of Americans turned the trick. While Pawlenty and Bachmann represent a state which has been committed to universal coverage and healthcare cost containment for decades, neither has done much to make it a reality in our state. Assuming “repeal and replace” implies state action is preferable to national, they’ve nothing to show for their efforts so far.
Senator David Durenberger, Minnesota, served in the US Senate from 1978 – 1995.