GOP Senator: Plan To Defund Obamacare Is Dishonest Hype

A top Republican Senator blasts the plan by some of his colleagues to "defund" Obamacare.

Senators Make Amendments To Stimulus Package Ahead Of Vote

Republican Senator Tom Coburn, hardly a squish when it comes to fiscal issues, isn’t much of a fan of the plan being pushed by some of his fellow Republicans to shutdown the government unless the President’s health care plan is defunded:

In a phone interview from his home state of Oklahoma, Coburn slammed a dozen fellow Republican senators who have signed a pledge not to vote for any continuing resolution or appropriations bill that funds Obamacare, which is set to go fully into effect on January 1, 2014. “I’d love to defund it,” said Coburn, a physician who has opposed the president’s national health care scheme from the beginning. “I’d be leading the charge if I thought this would work. But it will not work.” (For details on the problems with the defunding plan, see here.)

Coburn’s case against the proposal is simple: Republicans, having failed to win control of the White House and Senate in 2012, do not have the votes to cut off Obamacare funding. Given that, he sees the defunding proposal as not just wrongheaded but also an effort to mislead conservatives across the country who long to see Republicans stop Obamacare. “The worst thing is being dishonest with your base about what you can accomplish, ginning everybody up and then creating disappointment,” Coburn said. “It’s a terribly dangerous and not successful strategy.”

“You’re going to set an expectation among the conservatives in our party that we can achieve something that we’re not able to achieve,” Coburn continued. “It’s not an achievable strategy. It’s creating the false impression that you can do something when you can’t. And it’s dishonest.”

Even though Republicans don’t have the votes to defund Obamacare, they do have the power, if they choose, to bring the government to a halt. Coburn sees that as a disastrous possible result of the plan. “You’re not going to stop the funding, but what you will do is shut down the government,” he said. “Among that group of senators that has been considering this, I was the only one who was here for that,” a reference to the government shutdowns of 1995 and 1996, when Coburn was a member of the House. “The president is never going to sign a bill defunding Obamacare. Do you think he’s going to cave?”

“The strategy that has been laid out is a good way for Republicans to lose the House.”

National Review’s Ramesh Ponnuru sees it as a guaranteed losing strategy for the GOP:

The chance that Democrats would go along — would give up on their signature legislative initiative of the last decade soon after having won the presidential election and gained Senate and House seats — approaches zero percent. So if Republicans stay firm in this demand, the result will be either a government shutdown or a partial shutdown combined with a debt default.

Either would be highly unpopular, and each party would blame the other. The public, however, would almost certainly blame Republicans, for five reasons.

First, Republicans are less popular than the Democrats and thus all else equal will lose partisan finger-pointing contests. Second, the executive has natural advantages over a group of legislators in a crisis atmosphere. Third, people will be naturally inclined to assume that the more anti-government party must be responsible. Fourth, some Republicans will say that government shutdowns or defaults are just what the country needs, and those quotes will affect the image of all Republicans. And fifth, the news media will surely side with the Democrats.

As I explained yesterday, Coburn and Ponnuru are correct, of course. Even if accepting for the sake of argument that Republicans are right about the Affordable Care Act being bad policy that needs to be repealed, the simple fact of the matter is that the political strategy that Senators like Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, and others are advocating would be nothing less than political suicide. Without a majority in the Senate, preferably one capable of defeating a filibuster, and control of the White House any discussion about repealing the Affordable Care Act is nothing more than sheer fantasy, and those Senators who are presenting it as a viable strategy are doing nothing more than lying to their constituents and their fellow Republicans. There can really only be two alternatives, actually. Either they are so suicidal that they don’t care how much they damage their own party, or they have no real intention of actually trying to go through with their plan. No matter which one it is, though, it’s completely irresponsible “governing.”

As I said, Coburn’s criticism really ought to hit home on the right. He’s been at the forefront of those Senators advocating fiscal conservatism for years, and he’s been a big critic of the Affordable Care Act as well. So, the question is whether Coburn will be listened to or whether he’ll be dismissed as a RINO sellout. Personally I’m guessing that he won’t be listened to and that Cruz, Lee, and the others will continue to lead their party to disaster.

FILED UNDER: Congress, Deficit and Debt, Health Care, US Politics, ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. gVOR08 says:

    On it’s face, four things can happen to the Republican Party:
    1 – The Tea Party takes control.
    2 – The Tea Party breaks off and forms a third party.
    3 – The establishment regains control, throwing a few sops to the TP to keep them in as they do to the Evangelicals.
    4 – The establishment breaks off, forming a third party or taking over the Democrats.
    Number 3 has always seemed most likely and this Coburn thing is one of many stories that appear to be part of an establishment resurgence. If John Boehner found the stones to criticize Steve King for extremism on immigration, he must feel that someone’s got is back.

    Anybody know if the Koch bros and their ilk are still funding the TP?




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  2. Tillman says:

    There can really only be two alternatives, actually. Either they are so suicidal that they don’t care how much they damage their own party, or they have no real intention of actually trying to go through with their plan. No matter which one it is, though, it’s completely irresponsible “governing.”

    They’ve been governing?

    Gosh, I hope they shutdown the government and default on the nation’s debt. Let’s get this over with. They’re going to do it one day or another, so the sooner they do the quicker we can heal from it. Delaying it at this point is just going to exacerbate the harm done down the road.

    Yes, I am taking for granted that maniacs will sabotage the full faith and credit of the United States, and telling them to do it now before it coincides with another stock market bubble and dooms us all.




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  3. Eric Florack says:

    Of course the left wont give up. wherein lies the point.
    but how much credibilty will the gop have left if they do, particulalrly when such a large plurality of americans want Obamacare snuffed out?




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  4. anjin-san says:

    Of course the left wont give up.

    Ah those wacky Democrats. Determined to give American citizens the same access to health care that the citizens of every other advanced country in the world enjoy. Bastards!




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  5. Argon says:

    The GOP had plenty of time to come up with workable alternatives. Then when a Democrat pushed through one of their own ideas they go full nutcase in the opposite direction. Feh.

    So Eric, what’s the alternative that has any significant appeal among the ‘plurality of Americans’? Do you think the GOP can sell their ‘crawl off into the words to die’ healthcare plan?




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  6. al-Ameda says:

    Imagine no Republicans. America’s decline is over, and we look forward to a bright future, a nation on the move, a country of optimism and accomplishment. Let’s make it happen, create a separate Republican nation and forcibly relocate them.




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  7. edmondo says:

    There seems to be a long list of Congressional attempts to defund bad policy. Why would this instance be any different?

    http://www.thenation.com/article/congress-stop-funding-torture#

    http://hnn.us/articles/31400.html




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  8. OzarkHillbilly says:

    He’s been at the forefront of those Senators advocating fiscal conservatism for years,

    Ahh yes, the fabled “fiscal Conservative”. Goes right up there with unicorns, fairy dust, trickle down economics, and the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.




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  9. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @al-Ameda:

    Imagine no Republicans.

    I don’t have to. That day is here. Oh, they say they are Republicans, but they bear no resemblance to any of the Republicans I knew growing up. They are something else. I think the last dying rump of the Confederacy.




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  10. Lynda says:

    @Eric Florack:

    such a large plurality of americans want Obamacare snuffed out?

    So why didn’t they vote that way then? Even for low information voters it was crystal clear that if Obama was re-elected Obamacare would be implemented – the clue is in the moniker!

    However, not only was the Electoral College a wipeout but Obama also won the popular vote 51% to 47% with voter turnout levels the highest in 40 years.

    Either people like Obamacare more than you think or find Republican alternatives are even less appealing….




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  11. Tillman says:

    @Lynda:

    with voter turnout levels the highest in 40 years.

    Maybe in absolute terms, but in terms of percentage of the electorate, 2008 was higher.




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  12. David in KC says:

    @Eric Florack: I think the plurality that you are thinking of either thinks the ACA is fine or didn’t go far enough. A minority wants to go back to where we were at before.




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  13. Lynda says:

    @Tillman:

    The initial reports just after the election that I saw showed that but I was getting my data from here

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_United_States_presidential_elections_by_popular_vote_margin

    which has voter turnout 2012 at 57.5% and 2008 at 57.48% but if you have more up to date info please post the link.




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  14. Lynda says:

    @Tillman:
    Having looked into the data a little closer I misunderstood some of the finer points of how they define turnout so would like to amend my comment to “with voter turnout levels amongst the highest in recent years”. Thanks for the catch.




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  15. Tyrell says:

    I feel that one thing that could be done is to appoint a special committee of doctors, nurses, hospital administrators, and some regular people like teachers and construction workers. Sorry, politicians sit this one out. Let this committee come up with some ways to tweak, improve, adjust, and tune the health care plan. Find ways to reduce costs. Here are three ways to lower costs: insurance would only cover major “catastrophic” events such as wreck injuries or heart surgery. Lawsuits would go to a special board and have limits on rewards . Let’s stop all of the overtesting, over prescribing, over appointments, and over specializing; a lot of this is done just for money.




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  16. Tillman says:

    @Lynda: Oh come on. Here I was sweating over having to do actual research to back up my point, and you go ahead and ruin all the horrible suspense!




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  17. Andrew E. says:

    @Argon: yours is exactly the point that frustrates me the most about this entire debate. Maybe Obamacare will work, maybe it will be a complete disaster but most likely it will fall somewhere in between. But what alternatives have been proposed by Republicans? Pretty much everybody knows the system needs a major overhaul but only Democrats seem willing to do anything about it.

    This is what guys like Eric Florack never want to address: what are the alternatives? It’s just too easy to throw rotten tomatoes from the cheap seats. Add in the hourly deluge of anti-government an anti-liberal rhetoric from RW media sources and you have what you have: a Republican party that doesn’t know what it wants beyond doing the opposite of what Obama wants.




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  18. JoshB says:

    @Tyrell:

    I don’t think Joe the Plumber should be setting health policy.




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  19. Me Me Me says:

    @Tyrell:

    I feel that one thing that could be done is to appoint a special committee of doctors, nurses, hospital administrators, and some regular people like teachers and construction workers. Sorry, politicians sit this one out. Let this committee come up with some ways to tweak, improve, adjust, and tune the health care plan. F

    Firstly, you think this – you do not feel it.

    Secondly, it is a terrible idea.

    A committee of people who aren’t data wonks are not going to produce a better outcome in an area as complex as this.




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  20. Woody says:

    I do not care for Senator Coburn’s politics nor policies, but he is doing the GOP a service with this public statement at this time.

    Jonathan Bernstein has repeatedly pointed out that the intransigent ultras of the GOP are the ones deserving the least attention, as they will be against any possible deal. Instead, the Republicans to watch are those who will eventually sign on, with or without Democratic votes.

    Sen. Coburn is providing the latter Republicans with cover for their eventual vote. Many Republicans represent districts where a Ted Cruz or a Louie Gohmert would lose to a decent Democratic candidate. These Republican voters understand that a default or a shutdown would be an immense self-inflicted disaster for their party.

    (Yes, I’m aware that the Murdoch Information Loop would blame the Democrats, and the courtier press would perform their usual ‘both sides do it, hyuk’ routine. They are a minority of the citizenry)




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  21. Tyrell says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Don’t forget that there basically was no Republican party in the south from 1860-1970’s . The Democrat Party is still strong on state and local levels.
    We are still mad about that General Sherman coming down here tearing up everything. Wasn’t fair.




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  22. al-Ameda says:

    @Tyrell:

    The Democrat Party is still strong on state and local levels.

    There is no “Democrat Party.”




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  23. An Interested Party says:

    I don’t have to. That day is here. Oh, they say they are Republicans, but they bear no resemblance to any of the Republicans I knew growing up. They are something else. I think the last dying rump of the Confederacy.

    Most definitely THIS…where would the GOP be without the South…




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  24. An Interested Party says:

    We are still mad about that General Sherman coming down here tearing up everything. Wasn’t fair.

    Ha! That’s rather rich…you know what else wasn’t fair–treating human beings as property…




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  25. Kylopod says:

    how much credibilty will the gop have left if they do, particulalrly when such a large plurality of americans want Obamacare snuffed out?

    A majority of Americans want taxes on the rich to go up. A majority of Americans oppose cuts to Social Security and Medicare. A majority of Americans support a path to citizenship, and a majority support same-sex marriage. Heck, a majority support universal health care in some form.

    I think I understand your philosophy now. You oppose anything that a majority of Americans support, but you support stuff that a mere “large plurality” agrees with. You believe in following popular opinion, just not too much popular opinion. A voice of moderation indeed!




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  26. Moosebreath says:

    @Andrew E.:

    “This is what guys like Eric Florack never want to address: what are the alternatives?”

    The problem is that bithead isn’t looking for an alternative to Obamacare — he’s spent his entire life looking for an alternative to the New Deal. The fact that he has not convinced anyone to replace it hasn’t stopped him yet.




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  27. bill says:

    if obamacare is supposed to be so good then why do the unions (private and public sector) want out of it? and delaying it for an extra year is an election ploy- they know it’s a disaster waiting to happen. it will generate more jobs though- as full-timers are let go and replaced with part- timers.




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  28. Jib says:

    @bill: Because it goes after the gold plated health care plans that the unions, mainly public these days, still have. They are a big driver of rising health care cost and Obamacare puts every one on more equal footing but union leaders make a big deal about the plans every time a contract is negotiated.

    The fact is the gold plated plans are a bad deal for every one but management. They inflate costs for all of us and they dont provide the value to the people who get them. They would be better off getting pay raises and stick with standard health care. The managers know this and are more than happy to give health care (and pension) bennies instead of pay raises and the union leaders sell that as victory instead of doing the hard and honest work of getting bigger pay raises.

    As health care stops being a employer provided benefit and becomes a standard benefit for all, union leaders are not going to be able to take the easy way out on improving health care benefits and will have to work harder to justify their pay. And thats a good thing.




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  29. Steve V says:

    And now here’s bill, championing the unions as always.




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  30. Motopilot says:

    @Andrew E.:

    This is what guys like Eric Florack never want to address: what are the alternatives?

    According to the Republicans I have talked to, the preferred alternative is “the free market”. And they say this with a straight face.




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  31. C. Clavin says:

    Meantime Maryland becomes the latest state to announce low rates on their Obamacare exchanges.
    Republicans better hurry up and repeal this monstrosity…while their are still a couple fools who believe the propoganda and ignore the facts.




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  32. fred says:

    Cocur with the Senator. However as a major supporter and voter for Pres Obama I confess that his speeches now sound hollow and redundant on the economy. Where are the actions on getting jobs for us? His speeches do not include such information. I have a suggestion for the White House and Pres Obama. Tell the GOP that he will not sign any bills coming to him for signature unless it contains projections in it for jobs for Americans and the CBO certifies such numbers. That is action all of us can understand and will show “ACTION on the part of the POTUS.




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  33. bill says:

    @Jibthx, it was a rhetorical question!

    @Steve V: : they don’t need my help anymore!

    @C. Clavin: the “rose colored sun glass” approach i see? ny is saying they’ll have lower rates as well…..of course after raising them through the roof and then dropping them a little could be seen as a positive thing…..if you have no memory that is.




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  34. wr says:

    @Lynda: Hey, this is the internet — just because you got a fact wrong is no reason to go and correct yourself!




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  35. wr says:

    @Tyrell: “We are still mad about that General Sherman coming down here tearing up everything. Wasn’t fair. ”

    And yet all those whiny black fellas should just get over slavery, right?




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  36. Eric Florack says:

    @anjin-san: The point you seem to forget is that the rest of the world came to US.. before Obamacare. we have lowered ourselves to the level of care the rest of the world gets




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  37. Eric Florack says:

    @Andrew E.: The alternative?
    what we had… where the rest of the wold came to us, because our healthcare wass second to none.
    what, exactly was wrong with that?




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  38. C. Clavin says:

    @ bill…bless your ill-informed heart…

    “…ny is saying they’ll have lower rates as well…..of course after raising them through the roof and then dropping them a little could be seen as a positive thing…..if you have no memory that is…”

    NY insurance was so high because they did what Republicans propose doing…keep the good stuff…like covering pre-existing conditions…but not provide a way to pay for it.
    I think it was Yeats who said; “…The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity…”
    You might think about that some before you repeat mindless propoganda.




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  39. C. Clavin says:

    Florack…
    US healthcare has worse outcomes for far more money.
    We are in fact second to most of the world.
    If your opinions are based on BS…then your opinion is BS.




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  40. Andre Kenji says:

    @Eric Florack:

    we have lowered ourselves to the level of care the rest of the world gets

    The rest of the world would be lowered to the level of the US if they allowed large portions of their population to live without access to healthcare.




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  41. C. Clavin says:

    Hahaha…
    The US is #2 in the world…in percentage of GDP spent on healthcare. The Marshall Islands is #1.
    The US is #37 in outcomes.
    I guess that’s what Florack means by second to none…we are unrivaled in spending too much money for total crap.
    What’s with Republicans and their myths???




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  42. Lynda says:

    @wr:

    Unfortunately I am a sad parody of that xkcd cartoon – I spend my time on a beautiful Saturday proving the someone being wrong on the internet is me!

    Ah well, it could be worse – I could come out with total bollocks like “our healthcare wass second to none”




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  43. andrew e. says:

    @Eric Florack:

    I have to give you credit- I’ve talked to many who think the system is broken and Obamacare will make it worse but never someone who just thinks we should stick with what we had. It takes a special kind of willful blindness to believe that. But it goes a long way towards explaining why we’re at this point and why Democrats are at least pretending to find solutions while Republicans have their fingers in their ears singing LaLaLa.




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  44. al-Ameda says:

    @Eric Florack:

    @anjin-san: The point you seem to forget is that the rest of the world came to US.. before Obamacare. we have lowered ourselves to the level of care the rest of the world gets

    Hahahaha ….. Hahahaha …..
    We pay nearly 50% more per capita for health care than the next most expensive country, and yet we still end up with 40-50 million uninsured (which, as you apparently don’t know, we pay for through our insurance premium rates), and we have lower health outcomes that do people in most of the other advanced countries in the world.




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  45. labman57 says:

    Desperate times call for desperate measures, and tea party brown-nosers among the House Republicans are becoming increasingly desperate in their efforts to undermine any and all progress in the current Congress.

    Ever since it was signed into law, the Congressional GOP has been determined to make their proclamation that “Obamacare is a failure” become a self-fulfilling prophesy.

    The Republican Party leadership once again stands at a political precipice — this time in the form of an Ahab-esque obsession regarding the ACA, contemplating whether to back away slowly, oblivious of the mindless tea party stampede heading straight toward them that threatened to send the entire party over the cliff.




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  46. edmondo says:
  47. SC_Birdflyte says:

    @Tyrell: Here in South Carolina, where the destruction was ever more complete than in Georgia, this descendant of several Confederate soldiers says, “War is hell or something like that.”




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  48. David in KC says:

    @edmondo: And I wonder how many of those would just rather have single payer? Like/don’t like polls like this are crap because some of the don’t likes want Medicare for all and some want to go back to what we had before. Without that breakout, the numbers are useless.




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  49. Rob in CT says:

    @Andrew E.:

    The GOP pulled their team off the field. It’s the political equivalent of “taking their ball and going home.” Their “repeal and replace” claim is laughable, because they have no replacement.

    As for poll data: it’s been clear for some time that the following things are true:

    1. The folks against the ACA generally are split between those who hate it from the Right and those who hate it from the Left (i.e., they want Single Payer, and consider the ACA are corporatist sellout).

    2. The mandate is unpopular, but the reform doesn’t work w/o it. Polling on just the mandate allows people to pretend they can have their cake and eat it to. So you get majorities. If you phrased the question honestly (a) you can have universal coverage with no pre-existing condition ban, but you have to have the mandate; or b) no mandate, but lots of uninsured and uninsurable people, with the problems that come with that) the result would likely be quite different.

    If the GOP had tackled the problem when they had power, or if they had put up a serious proposal in 2009, things might be different. But here on Earth Prime, things are not different. Things are as they are.




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  50. Rob in CT says:

    The USA spends ~18% of GDP on healthcare, split evenly between private and public expenditure. Our public expenditure alone, roughly 9% of GDP, is ever so slightly less than what other countries spend in total. Except they cover everybody for that amount. They have longer waits for non-emergency situations in exchange. They pay more in taxes, less (or nothing) in premiums and coinsurance. If/when they are polled as to whether they’d keep their system of use something like ours, the results are hilariously lopsided. Against this you get occasional stories about rich people flying here for consierge healthcare. Which is nice for them, but that vast majority of Americans can’t do that.

    Meanwhile, we’ve been spending double (IIRC, the range of other advanced countries is 9.5%-12.5% of GDP, so not quite double) and getting outcomes that are sometimes better, sometimes worse and sometimes not there at all (people who simply do not receive care).

    Given the above, I think it’s terribly sad that Coburn (he of the “I’d love to defend it”) is the voice of so-called sanity in the GOP. But from what I can tell, he is!




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  51. Rob in CT says:

    Defund it, not defend it. LOL. Ya’ll know what I meant.




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  52. andrew e. says:

    @Rob in CT: awesome. thanks for adding facts and figures to my generalities.

    Looks like Florack has taken his ball and gone home too. I have this image of him sitting in a corner, rocking back and forth, whispering “the world came to us… the world came to us…”




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  53. Pharoah Narim says:

    @Al Almeda:

    No need to image. Go see for yourself. Take a drive through South Carolina, Mississippi, or Alabama.




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