Last Wednesday night when Republican Congressman Joe Wilson of South Carolina angrily pointed towards President Barack Obama and shouted, “You lie!” he took the wind out of the sails of a planned Republican protest.
After the speech to a joint session of Congress, East Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert (R-Tyler) and other Republicans participated in a demonstration of opposition to the President’s healthcare approach by holding a protest sign that read “What Bill?” That protest got little coverage after Wilson’s commentary grabbed all of the headlines.
The protest was intended to draw attention to the fact that the House Democrats’ health care bill, H.R. 3200, does not exactly jibe with what the President described in his speech as “his plan.” (Something that I have written about in this blog.) Gohmert told his home town paper, The Daily Sentinel, that was the message he was expressing with signs that said, ‘What Bill?’ and ‘What Plan?’
Gohmert has introduced his own healthcare bill, H.R. 3478, which is still in committee and is not likely to reach the House floor. It would expand Health Savings Accounts (HSA) for individuals and businesses and allow them to deposit as much money into those accounts as they wish. That money would be exempt from taxes but could only be used to cover medical expenses. Individual coverage under Gohmert’s plan would include a $2,500 annual deductible for individuals and a $3,500 annual deductible for families and households. Under his bill, Gohmert says that senior citizens could chose between their current Medicare plan or the government-paid deductible plan plus whatever cash they put inside an HSA to cover costs above the deductible.
I like this idea and wish that more members of Congress were trying to advance these concepts. After all, these types of consumer-driven health plans have proven themselves to be able to achieve the goals that the President articulated for his healthcare reform initiatives, namely provide insurance to those who don’t have it while slowing the growth of health care costs for our families, our businesses, and our government. Everyone can agree we need this.
With Democrats controlling both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, the Gohmert bill will never see the light of day. But what can happen is for Republicans to come back to the table with Senator Max Baucus and help him write a bill that makes sense. It is time for Senators Mike Enzi and Chuck Grassley to reengage.
Even former Republican Presidential candidate, Bob Dole, according to the New York Time, has, at the request of Senator Max Baucus, Democrat of Montana and chairman of the Finance Committee, recently reached out to Republicans to produce a bipartisan bill by next week.
Dole was quoted as saying, “I wasn’t trying to sell them anything. I’m just saying to them, ‘Don’t throw in the towel.’ ”
He’s right, don’t throw in the towel. It is time to move beyond the heated rhetoric of August and negotiate a workable plan.