viernes, 21 de enero de 2011

GOP's childish opposition to healthcare reform

la-fi-lazarus That's basically what former Senate Republican leader Bill Frist told his GOP compadres this week as they set about trying to dismantle the national healthcare reform law.

"It is not the bill that I would have drafted," he said during an appearance at the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington. "But it is the law of the land and it is the platform, the fundamental platform, upon which all future efforts to make that system better, for that patient, for that family, will be based."

Frist's high-minded approach to healthcare reform stood in stark contrast to Republican members of the House of Representatives, who voted unanimously Wednesday to repeal the reform law and replace it with … what?

That's still unclear, even though it's been 10 months since President Obama signed the legislation into law, and even though Republican candidates campaigned for much of last year on ending "Obamacare."

The repeal bill will now likely perish in the Democratic-controlled Senate, and in any case would almost certainly face a presidential veto if it miraculously made it that far. But House Republicans say they'll still obstruct the healthcare law by blocking funds to implement its provisions.

It's hard not to think of a bunch of spoiled children throwing a tantrum because they didn't get their way.

The healthcare reform law, while imperfect, is a done deal. The prudent thing to do at this point is to build on it rather than waste time with fruitless — and needlessly divisive — political grandstanding.

And the Republicans have outdone themselves for misinforming the American people about what the reform law will and will not do.

Aside from scurrilous talk of "death panels" and "socialized medicine," House Republicans have reimagined healthcare reform as a jobs bill, rather than as a long-overdue revamping of how medical treatment is accessed and delivered in a country with about 50 million people lacking insurance coverage.

They titled their legislation the "Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act." They claimed that 650,000 jobs will be lost if the law is allowed to stand.

And don't take their word for it, House Republicans insisted. That alarming job-loss figure is attributable to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

Except it isn't.

What the budget office actually estimated in a report last year was that the reform law "will reduce the amount of labor used in the economy by a small amount — roughly half a percent — primarily by reducing the amount of labor that workers choose to supply."

In other words, there will be a small reduction in the amount of work that gets done because some people will voluntarily choose to work less. For example, a worker might retire early because healthcare will be more readily available.

That's not an estimate of job loss or production. It's an estimate of labor performed by workers.

But House Republicans donned their fuzzy-math hats and seized upon that half-percent number as representing a portion of the roughly 131 million jobs in the U.S. economy. Half a percent of 131 million is 650,000. Therefore, 650,000 jobs will be lost.

That's not what the budget office said or even implied. If not a deliberate invention by healthcare reform foes, it was a gross misreading of what the budget office had actually concluded.

And even though reform critics warn of a pricey new entitlement program, the budget office estimated that the cost of the law would actually be more than offset by revenue from taxes and projected cuts in Medicare spending.