Senator Frist: Big Spending Big Government Conservative?

Senator Frist has decided to start up a health policy blog. And right there in the second post written by “Sailor” is this amazing admission that Frist is a big spending/big government conservative.

Since it is an election year, it shouldn’t surprise me that some members argue the medicare part D benefit didn’t go far enough– they have to make a political win for the GOP look like a loss. The part D benefit is a huge expansion of an entitlement program and yet folks still say it doesn’t do enough for seniors.–emphasis added

It seems pretty clear that the Republicans have abandoned any and all pretenses of being the party for smaller more limited government. When Bush or any other Republican talks about people spending their money more wisely than the government he is lying.

UPDATE: Wow, I just read the first post written by “Healthalicious” and the final paragraph got me wondering.

The real problem of course is that it was foolish to tie health care to employment in this country in the first place. And it’s getting to be a sillier and sillier system now that we compete in a global economy with flex time and part time and the vast majority of today’s college graduates highly unlikely to retire in 25 years from IBM with a gold rolex. State laws like the WalMart law in Maryland are vain attempts to legislate looking in the rear view mirror, miring Americans in a past that no longer exists, and perpetuating an outdated, inefficient, and costly health care system which hurts consumers.

I’m wondering if we are seeing the first movement amongst Republicans towards universal, government supplied health care. My guess is yes.

Bill Frist banner on MedicalMatters Blog UPDATE (James Joyner): It should be clear that, although “MedicalMatters.org is a special project of Senator Bill Frist’s leadership committee, VOLPAC” and the Senator’s picture is prominently featured on the site, Frist is not the author of either of these posts. Whether he endorses these posts is unknown [Update: Steve’s update below gives us ample reason to suspect he does, however.] Certainly, I don’t agree with everything written by my co-authors here. Then, I’m not running a political action committee here, either.

A spokesman for VOLPAC has contacted Steve and myself and argues that the post “misrepresents” the blog posts in question:

Sailor was simply making the point that Democrats are doing everything they can to deny the GOP a victory on Medicare Part D…..so they’ve complained about too little choice, too much choice, too difficult a sign up process, etc. And Democrats being Democrats, Sailor is certainly right to say that they will complain that the Medicare prescription drug benefit isn’t big enough — no matter how large of an expansion of Medicare it actually is.

That’s almost certainly true; that’s politics. Still, Steve is right: “Sailor” is trying to appease old folks whining about how little they’re getting from the government–Hey, we’re giving you a damn donut!–without even a mention of the idea that the taxpayers don’t owe anybody any damned pastry to begin with.

[As to] the second selection you quote. If you read the full post, you could tell that Healthalicious is upset at government interference with health care distribution (specifically the state of Maryland’s interference with Walmart’s system)……he certainly does not favor “universal, government supplied health care.” I can’t speak for him, but I suspect that he would be in favor of individual or group purchase of health care through private providers…..rather than as a benefit bound to their employment.

This strikes me as a fair point. “Healthalicious” [Why is a professional PAC site using immature pseudonyms? -ed. Good question.] calls measures like the Maryland law “bad policy” and writes “It is after all primarily liberal Democrats that have tried to build overly generous health care safety nets in the states.”

It’s not clear from the post itself, however, what “Healthalicious” would have us do. If company-funded health care is unworkable owing to expanding costs (and it probably is) then a single payer system is likely the only way to ensure universal coverage. But “Healthalicious” might have an unspoken (in that post, at least) third alternative in mind.

Update (Steve Verdon): Lets be very, very clear on this: Senator Frist supported the massive expansion of Medicare entitlements. This is beyond any and all doubt when we turn to Senator Frist’s comments during the Republican Convention.

Health care is the lifeblood of our future and it touches every life-our grandparents, our parents, our children, you. And when you need it, you want it to be reliable. You want it to be affordable and lifelong. You want it to reflect the dignity and the value of those you love. And you want it to be the best. Let me remind you: in 2000, before someone borrowed his line, George Bush promised that “help is on the way.” Tonight, America can take comfort that help is here. Today, unlike when my dad practiced, the most powerful tools in American medicine are prescription drugs. These medicines help so many get out of bed, pick up their grandchild, walk to the store and find joy in each day. Yet these miracle medicines were denied by Medicare. Well, George Bush has righted that wrong! Thanks to his leadership, over 40 million seniors and individuals with disabilities will soon have access to prescription drugs.–link

And this bit from the GOP website, GOP.com,

As a physician, Sen. Frist is uniquely familiar with the challenges facing the American health care system. Over the years, he has worked with fellow senators to bring about Medicare reforms, and he will continue to work to “strengthen and improve the Medicare program in a way that provides prescription drugs to all seniors.”–GOP.com

As for the post by “Healthalicious” and universal health care I thought I was pretty clear in my writing that it was speculation on my part as to whether or not the Republicans would shift course and jump on the universal health care bandwagon. After all, there is that old saying that the Democrats want to burn down the capitol today while the Republicans want a plan to burn it down over three years. So, I wouldn’t be at all surprised at such a shift in policy.

Update (Steve Verdon): And from VOLPAC’s own site under the section on Senator Frist on the issues,

I will say that I’m delighted with the progress we’ve made with the Medicare prescription drug plan that we passed. As of today, 31 million senior citizens have signed up for the plan.

The average enrollee will save $1,100 a year in this plan that is simple to use and provides enrollees on fixed income greater peace of mind by protecting them from unexpected drug expenses

Bottom line … seniors should have the right to choose the health care plan that suits them best. By strengthening Medicare with this new prescription drug benefit, we’ve enabled millions of seniors to live with dignity, security and independence.

If we take these numbers and do some simple arithmetic we get an increase to Medicare to the tune of $34,100,000,000/year. Now that is just a crude back-of-the-envelope calculation, but it does show that Frist has helped with a very, very large expansion of health care entitlements.

FILED UNDER: Health, US Politics, , , , , , ,
Steve Verdon
About Steve Verdon
Steve has a B.A. in Economics from the University of California, Los Angeles and attended graduate school at The George Washington University, leaving school shortly before staring work on his dissertation when his first child was born. He works in the energy industry and prior to that worked at the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the Division of Price Index and Number Research. He joined the staff at OTB in November 2004.

Comments

  1. austin says:

    just checked out website. those posts aren’t from frist.

  2. DC Loser says:

    Steve – it was inevitable that the GOP would endorse universal health care under pressure from their corporate donors. If this goes the way I said it would, McGehee owes me something.

  3. McGehee says:

    DC, Bill Frist’s blog != the GOP.

  4. DC Loser says:

    McGehee – You’re right, but it sure as hell ain’t the DNC. You just wait 🙂

  5. Steve Verdon says:

    No it isn’t the GOP, but so far we have had a huge expansion in health care entitlements and now this…a conservative blog that makes what looks very much like a move towards universal health care. I think DC Loser is going to be collecting from you in the near future.

  6. DavidV says:

    This is mostly likely wishful thinking, but I think there is a possible alternative explanation for the sentiment expressed by “Healthalicious.”

    The complaint about tying health care to employment is actually similar to one I have heard in conservative/libertarian circles. The Civitas Institute in my home state of NC recently sponsored a conference that included discussion of health care reform, and a speaker from the Heritage Foundation proposed an interesting solution that centered on the divorce of health care from employment status.

    Instead, the speaker suggested a non-governmental insurance entity (similar in concept to the stock exchange) that would pool insurance options, allowing workers to chose from a wide variety of customizable plans based on their individual needs (higher deductible for the young, etc.). These plans would have no connection to employment status, allowing our increasingly mobile workforce to keep their plans, instead of losing them every time they changed jobs.

    The advantages: flexibility and increased choice. The details are quite complicated, and I’m afraid I can’t remember enough to elaborate, but it did seem analogous to the ideas expressed in the somewhat rambling plaint that you linked.

    As a side note, Frist needs to get the heck away from any blog where his name will be connected to dubious-quality writing from someone named �Healthalicious.�

  7. Steve Verdon says:

    David,

    I would like to see that happen and it would be nice if that is what Healthalicious meant…but my feeling is that this is not the case. My guess is that DC Loser is right, that corporate lobbying will get universal health care passed…just more corporate welfare.

  8. James Joyner says:

    Steve: Good update. Frist is not exactly fighting to stem the tide of creeping socialization of health care….

  9. DavidV says:

    Frist has helped with a very, very large expansion of health care entitlements.

    Not arguing with that one. One of the reasons why I would never vote for a President Frist.

  10. austin says:

    President, Republican Senate, Republican House voted for expansion…I guess that means there are lots of people you wouldn’t vote for President David V.

  11. Steve Verdon says:

    President, Republican Senate, Republican House voted for expansionâ?¦I guess that means there are lots of people you wouldnâ??t vote for President David V.

    I don’t know about David, but that is becoming more and more true for me everyday. I’ve joked in the past about getting drunk on my favorite scotch then staggering over to the polls and voting for Lyndon LaRouche…sadly that might actually become a reality.

  12. madmatt says:

    So if it is such a great bill why can’t the us govt buy bulk drugs cheaper? Kia offers buy one get one free CARS and the us govt can’t get bulk discounts on drugs…how is that anything except blatant corporate welfare?

  13. Steve Verdon says:

    Why is corporate welfare any better or worse than welfare for people? After all, people own those corporations, and shockingly many are working people who are hoping to scrap enough savings together to retire someday. Yet, here is madmatt who is taking money out of their wallets and food out of their mouths.