Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Oh, Those Ironic Republicans!

You ever have one of those surreal moments? One of those where the irony is thick and sweet, and essentially missed by those under discussion?

I had one of those when I saw my local paper today. It has this story of Senators Kit Bond, Mitch McConnell, and John McCain coming to hold a carefully controlled, invitation-only presentation on health care at Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City. The best and most ironic statements were these from Bond and McConnell:

Bond said Missourians “don’t want a government bureaucrat standing between them and their provider.”

McConnell, the Senate minority leader from Kentucky, said if government got into the insurance business, it would wipe out the private insurance industry.

“Then the doctors and hospitals will be working for the government,” he said.

What made these statements so ironic was their proclamation in the context of a children's hospital. While I don't know the specifics of Children's Mercy, I know that Medicaid and State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) funds are essential, even critical sources of revenue for children's health care. If it weren't for government supported insurance programs, many if not most children's hospitals wouldn't be able to keep their doors open. So, one could argue that these doctors and hospitals are already working for the government. Certainly, they wouldn't be able to provide care without those government dollars.

Which of course aren't ever enough. That's because the dollars are set by Federal funds provided to states, with legislators expected to provide matching funds from state revenues. Of course, with their many hard choices to make, state legislators are constantly setting limits on which children qualify, largely by parental income. They will also make distinctions by residence and by citizenship in enabling legislation. So, if government bureaucrats aren't standing between patients and providers, state legislators certainly are. Actually, because state legislators are, government bureaucrats have no choice.

So, these Republican senators have stepped out into an ironic moment worthy of the attention of Olbermann. The only thing sad is that they probably have no idea. It would be good if they realized their self-satire. It would be better if they were really committed to the health care of the children and families around them.

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