How is it that coverage of the health care reform debate has now moved off the front pages of two of our country's major newspapers and has been reduced to nothing more than a brief summation in today's editions of The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times? With health care accounting for somewhere between one sixth and one seventh of our total economy, a weekend of Senators debating reform and the topic front and center as one of the major concerns cited by voters, it is amazing that the story is not at the top of the headlines. It is, however, one of the hot topics on talk radio debate and with the American public.
Headlines or not the president paid an unusual visit to Capitol Hill to help facilitate a compromise on the public option. Republicans are throwing concerns about the public option around as if it was a replay of "The Communist Manifesto." And at the same time they are going after the Democrats for trying to streamline Medicare. Those Republicans are made up of the same genetic material as the naysayers who were opposed to Medicare in 1965. Their debate this weekend was laughable for its hypocrisy. They are saying that granny is going to suffer by cutting $500 billion out of the Medicare budget. But the facts are different.
The cost savings from Medicare will be achieved by creating an annual wellness benefit, providing free preventive benefits and covering the much famed "doughnut hole" which was a gap in drug coverage. For those of us are coming round the age corner this makes all the sense in the world. Having lost over 40 pounds in the last several years ( I am 4'10") I am already saving my insurance company thousands. After my weight loss, my blood pressure went to perfect and my cholesterol level went down considerably. These are the kind of savings these Medicare prevention initiatives can make. Republican Leader Mitch McConnell and Senator Grassley and Senator Judd Gregg among others are just trying to torpedo any real change in health care, they are doing this to scare the American public and help get more Republicans elected in the Senate.
That this stance is sour grapes on the part of Republicans was evident when Senator Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) said in a conference call " If we're able to stop Obama on this, it will be his Waterloo (the defeat of Napoleon)." -- The Republicans are saying that the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) numbers are wrong and they've offered up their own study of the numbers. The Democrats have a study (from the Center for American Progress) showing there are going to be greater cost savings than the Congressional Budget Office "scoring" shows.With two studies showing a total health care savings and one that says it will cost more I'll go with the CBO figures. The cost savings make sense in a streamlined health care system with computerized medical records and prevention initiatives.
The other area being floated is the so-called "public option." When asked by pollsters most Americans say they want the same kind of terrific coverage that members of Congress get. This weekend a proposal was made that would include private insurers in part of the public option. With a public option that includes the private insurers it would not look like "socialized" health care and everyone -- including the health care lobby would wind up getting a piece of the pie. This needs to be considered and it would do an end run around the majority of Republicans whose main objective is to deep six health care for the benefit of their party rather than the American citizen.
Ellen Ratner is Washington bureau chief of Talk Radio News Service and a Fox News contributor.