Republicans Test Public Plan Supporters’ Will
Congressional Republicans are pushing an idea unlikely to garner much traction that would force members of Congress who vote for a government-run public plan for health insurance coverage to enroll in it, Politico reports. "Rep. John Fleming (R-La.), a family physician, kicked off the quixotic bid last week, urging House members to give up their right to participate in the much-revered Federal Employees Health Benefits Program if they support a government-run program as part of the health care reform package. Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma are pushing the same concept in the Senate, preparing separate amendments that would require members - and maybe even their staffs - to sign up for the public option."
The amendments are unlikely to gain much ground in either chamber, but have sparked the interest of right-wing bloggers and pundits. "The guiding principle for reform this time around is to allow people to keep the coverage they already have. But with lawmakers weighing the creation of a public insurance option, some Republicans say those who vote for it should be forced into the program, which they claim won't match up to private insurance," (Brown, 7/14).
In a separate story, Politico examines Republican messaging: "Republican consultant Alex Castellanos coins a new phrase that he believes will slow down reform by making voters nervous: 'the Obama experiment. ... This is 20 percent of our economy. This is our health care and our future. If we screw this up, it could last for generations. And Congress is trying to do this in two months! This should scare the living daylights out of all of us,' he wrote. 'President Obama is experimenting with America, too much, too soon, and too fast.'"
"For months, Republicans have been searching for an effective way to oppose the Democrats' government-centric plans without appearing to oppose health reform. Castellanos' memo follows one written in May by another GOP messaging expert, Frank Lutz. But with Democrats starting to talk about a health reform bill that could cost $1 trillion and be paid for with tax increases and cuts to Medicaid and Medicare, Republicans are sensing an opening" (Frates, 7/13).