Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Latest Republican Posturing on Health Reform

Ever since South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford turned down $700 million in stimulus funds just prior to visiting his sweetie in Argentina, Republicans have been competing with each other to see who is fiercest in fighting the federal government.

Georgia insurance commissioner John Oxendine is the most recent entrant into the "my resistance is longest and fiercest" contest. In an effort to distinguish himself from other candidates in the Republican gubernatorial primary, Commissioner Oxendine has refused to create a high risk insurance pool for Georgians with medical conditions that make access to insurance overly expensive.

Oxendine says his refusal is not political. Here's the opening of his letter to Secretary Sebelius - decide for yourself:
I am in receipt of your April 2 letter detailing the first step in the recently enacted federal takeover of the United States health care system.

The new federal health legislation was hastily drafted behind closed doors and passed as a result of numerous back room deals in defiance of the will of a majority of the American people. The legislation represents nothing less than a government takeover of approximately 17 percent of the United States economy.
I wish I could read the minds of the Oxendines of politics and talk radio to fathom how much they believe the talking points they repeat in zombie-like fashion and how much they are choosing to manipulate our longstanding and not unwarranted preference for individual responsibility and local initiative rather than large federal programs. My hunch is that the leaders are cynical manipulators and the tea party participants are, in large measure, well intentioned people who've been played upon by demagogues.

I'm in the middle of teaching the required Harvard Medical School medical ethics course. Like the U.S. population itself the students array themselves along the political spectrum. But all of them share a strong moral conviction that every American should have access to decent health care. I'm sure the same is true for medical students in Georgia as well. The near total absence in Republican rhetoric of any acknowledgment of our societal responsibility to ensure decent care for all may be effective demagoguery, but it's a deep disservice to the idealistic spirit we need and want in the next generation of caretakers.

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