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Friday, August 28, 2009

Kanavas's Revisionist History

by folkbum

Well, it's not just revisionist history; it's also a repeat of a lot of the same lies and scare tactics that we're hearing from the GOP generally, including Wisconsin's Rep. Paul Ryan.

State Sen. Kanavas (R-Brookfield) has a blog, and on that blog he has a post--a post about health care reform efforts past and present. And Kanavas gets almost every detail in his post wrong. He starts this way:
We are all very familiar with the health care debate raging in our nation’s capitol and in town hall meetings across the country. The issue of whether or not the federal government should grab control of our current system and create its own socialized brand of medicine has been making national headlines for months.
If today is not your first day here at my blog, then you already know what's wrong here. There is no effort underway in Washington to "grab control" of the current health care delivery or insurance industry. The ubiquitous HR3200 has no such provisions, nor does anything coming out of the Senate. The White House's principals for reform are nothing like that, either. Current proposals are far from "socialized medicine"; if we rated HR3200 on a scale from 1-10 where 1 is what we have now and 10 is the UK, where they really do have socialized medicine, HR3200 would score a solid 1, still.
But, I wonder how many people remember what happened right here in Wisconsin just two years ago. [. . .] Democrats in the Wisconsin legislature were running around the state holding public hearings touting an Obama-like government-run health care plan. For the most part, no one really knew anything about it. You may vaguely remember they had a plan, but folks are sure to be soft on the details and likely know little of the plan’s potential impact on our economy or the size of state government.
The first sentence of that excerpt from Kanavas contains no factual errors, but the rest is just awful. For one, none of the current proposals for health insurance reform are from President Obama; to suggest that anything is "Obama-like" is kind of weird. (As is calling reform plans written by and introduce in Congress "Obamacare." "Hillarycare" was not a misnomer--her commission wrote the plan sent to Congress--but Obama is the author of nothing.) Further, the plan passed by the state Senate in 2007 was not "government-run health care," as nothing in that plan, called Healthy Wisconsin, was about the state providing the care, running the hospitals and clinics, or employing the doctors and nurses.

Kanavas continues to err when he says that no one knew anything about the plan. Healthy Wisconsin was modeled on something called the Wisconsin Health Plan, which had been circulated for two years prior, scored by the Legislative Fiscal Bureau, and studied by the Lewin Group (not to mention that it was also supported by then-State Rep. Curt Gielow, a Republican). Republicans like Kanavas offered a lot of misinformation about the plan then, certainly, to make it seem more confusing than it was, but it was not an unknown.

Healthy Wisconsin, for those of you who don't remember it, was a plan that took the burden of health insurance out of the hands of employers. It was paid for by a tax on businesses and individuals that was pretty significantly less than the average cost at the time. People would have a variety of plans run by private insurance companies to choose from (paying additional premiums for anything more than the standard plan) and the whole thing was managed by the state. If that sounds familiar to you, you might know this as the way the state currently offers insurance to its own employees. (At the time, I found it deliciously ironic that the same people who complained daily about the Cadillac benefits given to government employees were those most ferociously opposed to a plan that gave everyone access to those same benefits.) This is nothing like what is currently being considered in Congress, despite Kanavas's attempts to claim that it is so.
Their plan would have implemented a tax on Wisconsin business to pay for a government-run health care model. Much like the plan being tossed around in Washington, the Senate Democrats would place your health care decisions in the hands of bureaucrats. Luckily for us, Republicans, who controlled the State Assembly at the time, were able to purge the plan from the budget.
Three more sentences from Kanavas, three more falsehoods. First, a lie of omission: As I noted above, the plan was financed not merely by a tax on business, but also a tax on individuals, and premiums charged to individuals opting in to more expensive plans (plus some significant copays and deductibles). Also omitted is what I noted above--the tax was far lower than the average cost of providing health care was. For most businesses, that would have been a cost savings. In addition, there were likely to be property tax savings, as well, as local governments moved onto the cheaper plan. Second, neither Healthy Wisconsin nor the proposals in Congress puts any decision in the hands of bureaucrats in any government agency; Healthy Wisconsin, like the current state benefits plan, offers employees a range of different plans with different levels of care run through traditional insurance companies, not the state equivalent of a death panel. Third, it was not Assembly Republicans who "purged" Healthy Wisconsin from the budget; Senate Democrats traded it away for Republican support for BadgerCare Plus and other health initiatives.

The rest of Kanavas's post consists of variations on these same things: "socialized health plan," "government-run model," "government should be involved in your health care decisions," "the socialist dream," and so on (plus repeated problems using the possessive apostrophe). He does also include the well-debunked notion that a plan like Healthy Wisconsin would draw freaks and freeloaders here for free health care--Christian Schneider's legacy lives on.

So, large or small, state senator or Congressman, the Wisconsin GOP is perfectly willing, it seems, to shell out the lies, distortions, and scare tactics in the name of stopping health policy reform. It's sad, really, that Wisconsin, as the birthplace of the party of Lincoln, should be home to so many who do such a disservice to the memory of Honest Abe.

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