The Dispatch offers this short report on Mary Jo Kilroy's health care tele-townhall:
U.S. Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy last night insisted that congressional Democrats are not considering "socialized medicine'" in their efforts to approve a sweeping overhaul of the nation's health-care system.
In a town-hall meeting she conducted last night by telephone, Kilroy said any reform of the health system will result in private insurance companies still covering two-thirds of Americans. "We want to be sure at the end of the day we will be lowering the costs of health care," she said. "Nothing to be afraid of there."
But Kilroy, D-Columbus, asserted that any reform plan should include a federal insurance program that would compete with private insurers, saying that "a public option in competition with private insurance can reduce costs for all of us."
"If you have insurance right now, you shouldn't worry about a public option," she said.
If you believe that then I have some ocean front property in Kilroy's district I would like to sell you.
First of all, no matter how much they squawk, the Democrats do want to socialize health care. On a basic level they want to use government to spread the costs over a larger group to save money (at least in theory). The healthy and wealthy pay more so the sick and poor pay less (or nothing). This could be good or bad (most everyone is in favor of a basic safety net) depending on the scope and the mechanism (I prefer direct payments for those at the very bottom and a larger role for private charity but that is another post). The problem comes when socialize means more than helping the less fortunate and means a takeover of a huge chunk of the economy. But regardless the left should quite pretending they don't want to socialize the process.
And more specifically, government mandates on who is covered and how combined with a dominant government option leads inexorably to a socialized system (which was the point from the start).
Secondly, Kilroy is shamelessly pretending that government is just going to play a market-like competitive role with private insurance. If everyone is required to have coverage and the government determines what is proper coverage and how much is reasonable to charge government is in the drivers seat. Since government will not be structured like a private company nor have the same constraints (profit margin, liquidity, etc.) it is unlikely that it will simply incent private companies to do better. Instead, it will lead to patients being dumped into the government system. Government can never be just another competitor.
Also, politicians who create these type of programs are unlikely to set modest goals for them and then leave them alone. The nature of the beast always means power grabs and expansion. Again, this leads not to government as the insurer of last resort but government actively crowding out private plans.
And when was the last time you saw a government program actually save money? Save money how exactly? By being more efficient or better run? Has the CBO - even while under intense political pressure - come up with these savings?
No, so it has to happen by either rationing care or setting prices. Which undercuts the private market driven nature Kilroy is so intent on rhetorically preserving. Which is why you should be worried about a public option.
Kilroy doesn't really think that health care reform is just about having government keep private companies honest with a small public option. She knows full well that if Democrats can get their foot in the door with this plan then they can simply expand and strengthen the government's role over time. They have used this strategy in this area ever since Hillary Clinton crashed and burned with her health care monstrosity.
But Kilroy thinks her constituents are too slow to pick up on her sleight of hand on this issue. So she puts together conference call where her staff screens out Republicans or anyone who disagrees with her and puts on this happy face. As if health care reform is just about controlling costs and not a threat to anyone.
Luckily voters will have a chance to prove they are not stupid in November 2010. In the meantime, why not call Kilroy's office and tell her you don't appreciate her refusal to take questions from those she disagrees with (Republicans are her constituents too) and that you don't buy her public option rhetoric.
Oh, and why not check out Steve Stivers campaign.