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Broun Joins Palin in Backing GOP Plan to Privatize Medicare

October 27, 2009

Among the more comic story lines of the Republican war on health care reform has been the Party's side-splitting defense of Medicare. After all, the GOP not only tried to block the program in the 1960's, but tried again to gut it thirty years later. But after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell warned Democrats were intent on "sticking it to seniors with cuts to Medicare" and RNC chief Michael Steele called for "no cuts to Medicare to pay for another program," the GOP has predictably returned to form. As it turns out, Georgia Rep. Paul Broun is just the latest Republican to join Sarah Palin in seeking to privatize Medicare out of existence.
While a recent survey revealed that 59% of conservatives and 62% of McCain voters believe that Medicare is not a government program, the Republican leadership remains intent on making it so. As ThinkProgress reported Monday, Broun has proposed legislation that would roll back the Medicare system and replace it with a system of vouchers that seniors could use to purchase private insurance:

U.S. Rep. Paul Broun introduced his own health care reform bill last week that would, among other things, privatize the Medicare insurance program for seniors.
Broun's bill would replace government benefits with vouchers that could be spent on private insurance or put in tax-free medical savings accounts.

As it turns out, Broun's warning shot is just the latest salvo this year in the perpetual Republican war on the program that provides health insurance for 46 million Americans. As Steve Benen of the Washington Monthly noted:

In April, 137 Republicans voted in support of a GOP alternative budget. It didn't generate a lot of attention, but the plan, drafted by the House Budget Committee's Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) called for "replacing the traditional Medicare program with subsidies to help retirees enroll in private health care plans."
The AP noted at the time that Republican leaders were "clearly nervous that votes in favor of the GOP alternative have exposed their members to political danger."

(In July, New York Democrat Anthony Weiner called their bluff, introducing an amendment that would eliminate "government-run Medicare." No Republicans voted for it.)
Perhaps the highest profile Republican leading the charge to privatize Medicare is former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. After her earlier fear-mongering over mythical "death panels," in September Palin went rogue on the op-ed page of the Wall Street Journal, regurgitating the right-wing call for vouchers:

Instead of poll-driven "solutions," let's talk about real health-care reform: market-oriented, patient-centered, and result-driven. As the Cato Institute's Michael Cannon and others have argued, such policies include giving all individuals the same tax benefits received by those who get coverage through their employers; providing Medicare recipients with vouchers that allow them to purchase their own coverage; reforming tort laws to potentially save billions each year in wasteful spending; and changing costly state regulations to allow people to buy insurance across state lines. Rather than another top-down government plan, let's give Americans control over their own health care.

Of course, Paul Broun is hardly the ideal pitch man for the GOP's Medicare privatization push, having previously argued both that Barack Obama is "showing me signs of being Marxist" and "that's exactly what Hitler did in Nazi Germany and it's exactly what the Soviet Union did." But Broun is well within the mainstream of Republican thought not only when it comes to Medicare, but to the GOP's solution for the American health care crisis overall: the emergency room. Like George W. Bush, Tom Delay and Mitch McConnell before him, Broun helpfully explained:

"People who have depression, who have chronic diseases in this country...can always get care in this country by going to the emergency room."


Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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