Republicans are missing a superb opportunity to take political advantage of the health care crisis. As a result of their ill-founded, ill-considered and hardheaded approach to so many national and international problems during President George Bush’s presidency and the disastrous results of their policies, the Republican Party has lost the following of many of the moderate conservatives who formerly joined their far right base to form the coalition that kept them in power. With health care, Republicans have been presented with an opportunity to regroup and rejuvenate their party but as yet they have neither recognized nor seized upon it.
It should be apparent to the Republican Party that a majority of Americans desire a fair and effective form of universal health care. So far arguments based on compassion, basic human rights, more efficient medical care and financial common sense have not been heard by Republicans. Moreover, they have failed even to be em-barrassed by the scandalous revelations that the United States is the only industrialized democracy that does not provide universal health care, that medical bankruptcies occur only in the United States and that the claim of “the best health care in the world” applies only to those who can afford it.
To most Americans the only evident Republican health care plan is the opposition to any health care plan proposed by the Democrats. Their stance has not served them well (unless you believe Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and Ann Coulter). The pity of it all for the Republicans is that they could be doing much better.
If nothing else, Republicans pride themselves with their notions that they are the premiere pro-business party and the sole champions of national security. If they would only recognize that they could reframe the health care debate in the Republican language of business and national security and that by initiating a fair and effec-tive universal health care plan themselves they could sow the seeds of their political redemption. Republicans should be arguing that a healthy citizenry is a strong citizenry and better able to defend the United States and then planning to take the credit for achieving universal health care that would serve them well in coming elec-tions.
Here is how the Republicans could not only achieve what 75 percent of Americans want (and gain their votes) but also provide for their private insurance corporate contributors and their big business base: Their plan should encourage every citizen to have the right to sign up for Medicare (though of course the Republicans will want to call it something else, like “Republicancare”). As seniors already know, though Medicare delivers basic health care, it does not cover every medical need and those who can afford it subscribe to private insurance company supplemental coverage. So the Republican plan would protect and cater to private insurance compa-nies by providing them with the opportunity of selling similar policies to the entire country. Their plan would also relieve businesses of the burden of providing health care, making American businesses more efficient at home and more competitive abroad.
The end result would be that all citizens would have basic health care, those who can afford more could purchase it, the nation would be physically stronger and better able to defend itself, private business would prosper and Republicans will be able to tout themselves to the country as having brought about universal health care, helped business and improved national security — a win-win-win-win proposition for everyone, except perhaps for the Democratic Party.
Republicans, carpe diem!
Sidney R. Block is a physician in Bangor.