Feb. 13, 2016 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Fear Stalks Debate on Health Reform

Bill Clark/Roll Call
Sen. Jon Kyl, meeting with reporters Monday in the Senate Daily Press Gallery, spearheaded GOP efforts to define weaknesses in the Obama health proposal.

The politics of fear began to dominate the health care reform debate Monday — much as it did in 1993 and 1994 during the fight over President Bill Clinton’s plan — as both sides raged about the dire consequence of each other’s approach.

President Barack Obama sought to take the offensive during a speech to the American Medical Association in Chicago, in part by listing a cascade of calamities he predicted would befall the nation if his proposals are rejected. But he also repeatedly accused opponents of seeking to scare people with charges that he wants to socialize medicine.

Republicans were sounding like a “Harry and Louise” echo chamber, reviving the tone of the TV ads that portrayed the Clinton health care proposal as a threat to people’s existing coverage. Those ads famously helped sink the Clinton initiative.

Obama made clear that he understands the central role that fear has assumed in the health debate.

“We also know that there are those who will try and scuttle this opportunity no matter what — who will use the same scare tactics and fear-mongering that’s worked in the past, who will give warnings about socialized medicine and government takeovers, long lines and rationed care, decisions made by bureaucrats and not doctors,” he said.

Congressional Republicans spent the day charging that Obama’s reform plans would lead to a government takeover of the health care industry, in turn resulting in medical rationing and diminishing quality of care. And they added a new twist: charging Obama with rushing the process in order to dupe the American people.

Republicans suggested Obama is fully aware his reform plans are likely to be met with public resistance and is pushing Congress to approve legislation before voters can figure out what he is doing.

“There’s a reason why the president says: ‘If we don’t get this done soon, it’s not going to happen.’ Why? Why does he say that?” Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) asked rhetorically during a briefing with reporters.

“Because,” Kyl said, “he knows that momentum will inevitably slow for something that will be extraordinarily costly, will deny people the coverage that they already have, will ration their health care and could provide some kind of government insurance company that’s going to drive out the private insurance companies.”

Republicans are almost unanimous in their opposition. They argue that inclusion of a government-run insurance option would financially undercut private insurers. Without the pressure to make a profit, advertise and engage in other normal business practices, the public plan would drive private insurers out of business, they say, creating a health care system with fewer choices and causing Americans who like their insurance to lose their coverage.

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