Mitch McConnell at CPAC by Gage Skidmore/Flickr
On June 25 Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell replied in my hometown newspaper to a shorter version of my opednews column "Mitch McConnell is the face of a broken Senate. Below is my reply, a close version of what appeared today in the Danville Advocate-Messenger:
On June 25 Sen. McConnell replied to my column of June 16: "McConnell face of a broken Senate." His reply did not address most of my argument, so I'll begin with a quick summary of what I actually wrote.
I had two criticisms of McConnell's conduct as a senator. The first was about the greatly increased use of the filibuster by the GOP Senate minority under his leadership. Thanks to them, and with the tacit consent of Democratic senators, the new normal is that a 60-vote supermajority is necessary for all substantial legislation.
This has made the legislative process dysfunctional. Hence my reference to "a broken Senate." My point was that the legislative paralysis will harm our nation. McConnell's reply did not address this issue at all. All he did was explain his opposition to Obamacare.
My second criticism of McConnell was that his contribution to American political life is mostly obstruction. He seems to offer no solutions to major problems. I took his opposition to Obamacare as an example.
Let me say upfront that I'm not a cheerleader for Obamacare (the Affordable Care Act or ACA). I would have greatly preferred a single-payer plan, a Medicare For Everyone. Medicare for the elderly is a very successful and popular program which demonstrates that the U.S. knows how to run a single-payer system. The Canadian version provides coverage for all citizens at half what the U.S. pays per person for health care, and with outcomes at least as good as ours..
However, Obamacare is a whole lot better than nothing. Yet nothing is what McConnell offers as an alternative.
Here are some urgently needed changes that Obamacare brings: (1) insurance companies cannot deny coverage for preexisting conditions; (2) they cannot refuse to renew policies for people who get seriously ill; (3) they cannot impose annual or lifetime caps on coverage that leave people one serious illness away from bankruptcy; and (4) by a combination of a universal mandate, expanded Medicaid, and premium subsidies, it will enable as many as half of those now uninsured to get coverage.
McConnell offers no alternative way to address these four urgent problems. Instead, as he reaffirmed in his reply to my column: "It's 100 percent accurate that I'm determined to block, obstruct, rip out, repeal the disaster that is Obamacare and replace it with commonsense reforms that Americans want."
The only "commonsense reforms" he has mentioned are tort reform and letting people buy insurance across state lines, neither of which does much for the four problems above. As he told a shocked Chris Wallace on Fox News last July, getting insurance for the uninsured is just "not the issue." For him, at least.
As far as McConnell is concerned, all that the American health-care system needs is the occasional tweak sometime in the indefinite future. As he explained to Wallace, we already have "the finest health care system in the world." From what planet could it seem that a grossly wasteful system that neglects so many citizens' needs is the "finest" in the world?
In his reply to my column, McConnell faults Obama for his lack of bipartisanship in "unilaterally forcing" the ACA through Congress, as if the law were a purely Democratic idea. Yet it is essentially the same as the Massachusetts Health Care Insurance Reform law (aka Romneycare) signed by Republican Gov. Mitt Romney in 2006. (For a point-by-point comparison chart of the main features, click here and here .)
As reported by Igor Volsky of THINKPROGRESS, Romneycare has helped to lower medical costs even while greatly reducing the number of uninsured in Massachusetts. This law was a splendid piece of bipartisanship. At the signing ceremony,
"Romney thanked the Bush administration for approving federal authorizations to fund the law and praised the late Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) for his "essential' work in shaping and advancing the bill through the state legislature."
Romney also gave "special thanks" to the [conservative] Heritage Foundation, two of whose experts helped design the program. One of them, Dr. Robert Emmet Moffit, then got up to praise the law for creating a "market that is patient-centered and consumer-based, which will ease access to affordable coverage for thousands of Bay State citizens."
Romneycare has had its implementation problems, and it is not a total success. Obamacare faces similar prospects. However, like Romneycare, it is much better than nothing. Any decent society should be trying to get adequate health care to as many citizens as possible. What kind of society would dismiss this, like Sen. McConnell, as "not the issue"?
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