Leader Blues

Saturday, January 23, 2010

EDITORIAL >> Politician flip-flops

Has there ever been a season richer with irony? Democrats write a national health-insurance bill closely modeled on the Republican health plan of 35 years ago. On the verge of enactment, it is torpedoed by the election of a Republican U. S. senator in Massachusetts who had voted proudly for a plan just about like it in that state’s legislature.

State Sen. Scott Brown, who was elected to the U. S. Senate in a special election Tuesday, voted four years ago for the Massachusetts health- reform bill of Mitt Romney, the Republican governor of the time. It required nearly every resident of the state to purchase health insurance and gave subsidies to people earning up to 300 percent of the federal poverty line to help them pay the premiums. People who refuse to buy insurance are subject to tax penalties.

That is the substance of the bill passed by the U. S. Senate last month, and it was modeled after the comprehensive health-insurance plan proposed by President Richard Nixon in 1974 and his successor, President Gerald Ford, but rejected that year by the Democratic Congress.

Although Brown says he is proud of his vote for the Massachusetts health plan, he will join all the Republicans in the U. S. Senate and block the national version of it.

He provides the 41st vote against any bill that comes out of a Senate-House conference on the health bills. Brown’s election effectively kills health reform for this season and perhaps for a generation.

It makes no sense other than the obvious political calculation: Democrats fail. Brown said he would vote against the national bill but assured the people of Massachusetts that they would still enjoy health coverage under the state plan.

Massachusetts people now have the coverage that the Democratic bill would provide to people in Arkansas and elsewhere, and many Massachusetts voters were afraid that the national bill would require them to help subsidize insurance for the rest of the country. About 97 percent of the people of the state now are insured.

The people of Massachusetts now know that even if they lose their jobs or if family members contract a terrible disease they still will be insured.

No one else in the United States, not even those who have good health insurance, have that guarantee and will not have it.

Thanks, Sen. Brown! Thanks, Massachusetts!

—Ernie Dumas