Clarence Page: Health care deja vu
Now that Chief Justice John Roberts has upheld President Barack Obama's health care law, the chief has fallen off so many conservative Christmas lists that some sound eager to revoke his citizenship.
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They'll get over it, I'm sure. But as its opponents talk about changing the dreaded “Obamacare” — through election victories, they hope — they remain curiously vague about what they want to change it to, or whether they really want to change it at all.
For example, when Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell was asked last weekend how his party would provide coverage to the nation's 30 million uninsured, he sounded like those folks had nothing to do with the debate.
“That is not the issue,” McConnell told “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace. “The question is how to go step by step to improve the American health care system. It is already the finest health care system in the world.” Yet, he still wants to “improve” it? Without caring about the uninsured?
Struck by the senator's burst of candor, Wallace interrupted, “You don't think 30 million uninsured is an issue?”
“We're not going to turn the American health care system into a western European system,” McConnell said. “That's exactly what is at the heart of Obamacare. They want to ... have the federal government take over all American health care. The federal government can't handle Medicare or Medicaid.”
Here we go again. The senator sounded like a replay of the Grand Old Party's talking points from the health care debates of three years ago, when Obamacare was a mere glimmer in its co-sponsors' eyes.
Instead of offering some new ideas, Republican leaders sound content to fight over the old ones, like the mandate that requires everyone to purchase insurance, the central issue of the Supreme Court case.
“The idea that the federal government can mandate that the American people purchase a product is shocking to me,” House Speaker John Boehner said. Yet, Justice Roberts zeroed in on an essential truth: Our Constitution may not allow government to force you to buy something, but it does allow government to tax you for not buying something.