The Right Prescription

RHINOCare: A U.S. Chamber of Horrors

RINO Republicans are just what the Obamacare doctor ordered.

By 8.6.09

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Members of the U.S. House of Representatives are back home under siege from angry constituents terrified over the House version of ObamaCare. (View the videos here.) Meanwhile, a few Republican Senators remain huddled with Democrats on Capitol Hill trying to construct a legislative Trojan RHINO with ObamaCare hiding inside disguised as a bipartisan compromise. Call it RHINOCare -- Republican Healthcare In Name Only -- and it is nothing but a ploy to deceive people into inviting government-run healthcare into America.

The thought of the federal government taking over healthcare terrifies people. The revelation that the health bill in the U.S. House of Representatives (H.R. 3200) would mandate "end-of-life counseling" every five years for every American age 65 and older has galvanized people's opposition to a federal takeover. Although nothing in the bill explicitly requires medical care to be withheld from sick seniors, it is clear that the system being established is designed to control healthcare costs by closing the valve and pinching the flow and supply of care to seniors -- all under the guise of "cost containment."

The President is proposing a "cut-Medicare-first" strategy of cost control, and people have caught on. On top of that, the provision in the bill for mandatory "life counseling" (read "death and dying counseling") is the final straw that convinces seniors that nationalized healthcare will put them out in the cold and into an early grave. The remark of a senior citizen at a recent Gate City, Virginia town hall meeting perfectly expresses the views of many older people: "The federal government just wants me to feel guilty for going on living."

Democrat Rick Boucher who represents Virginia's ninth congressional district is illustrative of the Democrats representing conservative constituents who are feeling the heat on healthcare. Constituents flooded Boucher's office with calls and letters, and last week he voted against the House health bill when it came to a vote in the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

But that isn't the end of the story. Boucher also provides a case study of how one can expect the political drama on healthcare to play out as the debate heads into this congressional recess and beyond. Democrats like Boucher, who represent conservative districts and are feeling the heat from constituents, are attempting to tiptoe through a political minefield as they try to satisfy the folks back home while they toe the party line in Washington.

The first thing to realize is that House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi has a number of free passes to hand out to Democrats like Boucher. This phenomenon was evident on Cap-and-Trade when she was able to release 42 Democrats to vote against the measure -- it carried the House by a margin of 219 to 212 -- which makes it crystal clear how out of touch Boucher, who did not use his free pass, has become with his district.

The drill works this way. First, the majority leader determines how many of her flock want to vote against the measure. Then she gets about the business of buying and intimidating as many Republican votes as possible (she got eight Republicans on Cap-and-Trade). Finally, when she knows how many yea votes she can rely on, she distributes free passes to as many of her Democrats in a pinch as she can allowing them to vote against the party line and still leave a safe margin of victory.

In the case of healthcare, the game is going to be a little more complicated since it will involve tacit coordination between the House and the Senate and between the Democratic Leadership and critical Senate Republicans -- all designed to give Democrats such as Boucher a safe path around the voters. Again, Congressman Boucher illustrates how it will happen.

Boucher has prepared the ground by drawing a false distinction between a "public option" (i.e., a government insurance plan that would compete against private insurance companies) and so-called "co-op insurance providers," which he will claim are private, not government, providers. (Read his Jesuitical distinction here.) The fact is, co-ops set up a camouflaged, backdoor takeover. Co-ops will be analogous to the other quasi-public companies, so-called "government-sponsored enterprises" (GSEs) such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac -- a new Frannie Med -- where the government-backed, government-subsidized system crowds out the private sector and then eventually goes belly up. Government will then blame the "market" for failing and demand a full public takeover.

This is the kind of political cover Democrats in conservative districts, such as Boucher, require. And here is where the U.S. Senate enters the Hand Jive. With the assistance of a few clueless Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee (Grassley and Snowe) and other squishy Republicans such as Bob Bennett from Utah (see his version of RHINOCare here), Senate Democrats are preparing a bipartisan "compromise" that provides the cover both for renegade Republicans who are desperate to vote "yea" for something and for Democrats like Boucher who find themselves stuck between a rock and a hard place.

According to recent press reports, the gang of six -- three Democrats and the two above Republicans plus Wyoming Republican Mike Enzi -- wants to put lipstick on this pig by replacing a public option with co-ops and substituting a mandate that all individuals purchase healthcare for one that requires all employers to provide healthcare for their workers. They will call it a great victory for "market-based" medicine and private industry; they will get the endorsement of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and AARP; they will promote it as "bipartisan; and they will demagogue anyone who opposes the "bipartisan compromise" as an "extremist disinformationist" who will go onto the White House watch list.

It is all a charade, a masquerade, an exercise in mass deception and demagoguery designed to slip a government takeover of healthcare past a skeptical and distrustful public. All it would take to strip away the fig leaf and expose the "compromise" for the indecency it is would be for the Senate Republicans to blow the whistle. Unfortunately, enough Senate Republicans and business interests appear to be in on the construction of this Trojan RHINO and the RHINOcare it is smuggling into America that it may be difficult to stop. Make no mistake, RHINOCare is just ObamaCare in drag, and it will be a U.S. Chamber of Horrors.

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About the Author
Lawrence A. Hunter is president of the Alliance for Retirement Prosperity.