It's hard to figure out where the Republican Party stands on health care reform. Just ask Chairman Michael Steele, who seems as vexed as you, me and everybody else.
Just take these side-by-side excerpts form Steele's oped piece in the Washington Post and his follow-up interview on NPR. Below are portions comparing and contrasting Michael Steele with, well, himself:
On "Government Run Health Care"
" While Republicans believe that reforms are necessary, President Obama's plan for a government-run health-care system is the wrong prescription."
INSKEEP: Here's another thing that I'm trying to figure out: Within a couple of paragraphs of writing we need to protect Medicare, you write that you oppose President Obama's, quote, plan for a government-run health care system.
Mr. STEELE: Mm-hmm.
INSKEEP: Now you're a veteran public policy official. You're aware that Medicare is a government-run health care program.
On Cuts to Medicare
" First, we need to protect Medicare and not cut it in the name of "health-insurance reform." As the president frequently, and correctly, points out, Medicare will go deep into the red in less than a decade. But he and congressional Democrats are planning to raid, not aid, Medicare by cutting $500 billion from the program to fund his health-care experiment. "
INSKEEP: So you would be in favor of certain Medicare cuts?
Mr. STEELE: Absolutely....
On the Patient-Doctor Relationship
"Furthermore, under the Democrats' plan, senior citizens will pay a steeper price and will have their treatment options reduced or rationed."
Later: "...we need to prohibit government from getting between seniors and their doctors. The government-run health-care experiment that Obama and the Democrats propose will give seniors less power to control their own medical decisions and create government boards that would decide what treatments would or would not be funded. Republicans oppose any new government entity overruling a doctor's decision about how to treat his or her patient."
"Simply put, we believe that health-care reform must be centered on patients, not government. "
INSKEEP: ...When a private insurance company pays now, what is your impression of who decides what that private insurance company is going to cover? Is that purely between the doctor and the patient now?
Mr. STEELE: Sometimes it is, and sometimes it isn't. It depends on the type of treatment and the medicines that are at stake. And I've had this same experience my own self where I - you know, I've needed a certain type of, you know, medication and it, you know - the insurance company is like, well, you can have it, but we'll only pay for this amount or this portion. I don't like that any more than I like the government doing it.
My point is, you know, if the government's going to do, it's going to do it 10 times worse and it's going to be more pronounced than the private insurers. And I don't - I think that's a feature we can fix right now. And sure, there are issues in the insurance market that we can regulate a little bit better and that we can control better to maximize the benefits to the consumers. That's something that, yeah, we can rightly reform and fix. If the...
INSKEEP: Wait a minute, wait, wait. You would trust the government to look into that?
Mr. STEELE: No. I'm talking about the - I'm talking about private - I'm talking about...
INSKEEP: Who is...
Mr. STEELE: ...citizens. I'm talking about...
INSKEEP: You said that's something that should be looked into. Who is it that should look into that?
Mr. STEELE: I'm talking about those who - well, who regulates the insurance markets?
INSKEEP: That would be the government, I believe.
On Scare Tactics:
...we need to outlaw any effort to ration health care based on age. Obama has promoted a program of "comparative effectiveness research" that he claims will be used only to study competing medical treatments. But this program could actually lead to government boards rationing treatments based on age.
...we need to prevent government from dictating the terms of end-of-life care. Many of the most significant costs of care come in the last six months of a patient's life, and every American household must consider how to treat their loved ones. Obama's government-run health "reform" would pay for seniors' meetings with a doctor to discuss end-of-life care. While nonthreatening at first, something that is quite normal for a family to do becomes troublesome when the government gets involved.
NSKEEP: ...Do you find it challenging to get into this complicated debate and explain things to people in a way that it's honest to the facts and still very clear and doesn't just kind of scare people with soundbites?
Mr. STEELE: That's a good point, then. Well no. Look, no one's trying to scare people with soundbites. I mean, you know, I've not done that....