Lisa Brown’s Clarity v. CMR’s Fuzzy Thinking on Health Care

Dear Group,

On Sunday, September 30, the Spokesman Review ran a Round Table page in the Business Section entitled “Health care in America” presenting McMorris Rodgers’ My Goal is Quality and Affordabilityand Lisa Brown’s We Need Solutions, Not Slogans.”  Each is worth the time to read. (To do so either click on each individually or, if you have access to the online Spokesman, read here with both on the same page as presented in the paper.)

McMorris Rodgers leads off by revving up her base. For them the ACA is “Obamacare,” the Republican word-meister’s way of deprecating the ACA by linking it to a man they’ve been primed to despise. She writes O….care “isn’t working.” No small wonder there. She and her party have fought hammer and tong legislatively, through the courts, and through right wing media to block every essential provision of the Affordable Care Act since its inception in 2009. One of her proudest achievements was the repeal of the individual mandate of the Affordable Care Act (as part of the infamous Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of December 2017), a repeal that assures that health insurance premiums under the ACA will rise. Now she laments that it “…isn’t working?” Mission accomplished.

You broke it, you own it.

She goes on, “Right now we are continuing to see the cost of health care and insurance soar.” That is re-statement of problem. The next paragraph begins with, “…I’ve supported and will continue to advance real solutions.” I’m waiting…waiting…what are these solutions? She moves on to a series of “what I’m for” statements to fill out the paragraph…no solutions there.

So what does McMorris Rodgers propose? Here’s the stripped out list of “solutions” from the rest of her essay:

1) By making Medicare and Medicaid pay a higher percentage of what rural hospitals bill she’ll fix the fiscal crisis in rural health care. Really? Read Mike Bell’s analysis (candidate in State Legislative District 7) and my puzzlement over McMorris Rodgers fuzzy economic thinking.

2) By blaming the “high population of Medicare and Medicaid patients” for whom rural hospitals struggle to provide care. Does she wish to limit reduce their numbers? The problem is not Medicare and Medicaid patients, it is the un-reimbursed cost of caring for patients forced to seek care in rural Emergency Rooms, people priced out medical insurance, a problem you, McMorris Rodgers, have helped make worse.

3) By “…leading in advancing solutions that make health care more affordable and accessible” as co-chair of the Rural Health Coalition. What solutions? That is yet another restatement of the problem, not a solution.

4) By extending the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) [but only after holding the renewal of the program hostage]. CHIP was established in 1993 in a strong bi-partisan effort. There are no Democrats who oppose it. Republicans act as though it were an act of sacrifice on their part to extend  the program. 

5) By supporting residency programs. [That is a nice, rare, bi-partisan effort. It does not address the cost of health care OR health care insurance.]

and, finally, McMorris Rodgers proposes to bring down drug costs By

6) Leading on legislation to bring transparency to Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs). [leaving it to consumers to spend even more time researching the prices of each drug they’re prescribed in a rigged and hopelessly distorted market].

Oh, yes, and in the second to last paragraph McMorris Rodgers is going to foster innovation through the 21st Century Cures Act.  21st Century Cures’ main thrust is to strip away regulations around the testing and approval of drugs and medical devices. These regulations help ensure that drugs and medical devices are safe and effective before they get tested out on us, the “consumers.” She is promoting a Republican effort to make drug companies even more profitable and suggesting that will unleash “innovation.” 

These are NOT solutions. It does not require a Ph.D. in Economics to recognize McMorris Rodgers’ fuzzy thinking. There is nothing in her essay to suggest she even understands health care economics, much less that she can formulate a solution to a problem she has only made worse.

Lisa Brown’s essay is a breath of fresh air. I encourage you to read it. I quote below just three examples her clear thinking:

I will work to lower the cost of prescription drugs – the federal government can and should use its buying power to negotiate lower costs.

We should not seek to lower prices by bringing more insurance companies into the market. Competition among private companies isn’t the answer – companies can change their coverage rules on a whim, resulting in more substandard insurance plans which don’t offer what families need for health care security.

Additionally, I strongly support the principles of universal coverage and recognize there are a few different paths to getting there – something we should do. In fact, we already have costly universal coverage in this country: the emergency room. Hospitals can’t turn away people in need of care, and end up with overwhelming costs. There are more effective ways of treating more people, notably by expanding eligibility for Medicare, which is a universal system.

In November let the voters of eastern Washington reject McMorris Rodgers’ mentally blinkered Republican thinking. Let us elect Lisa Brown, a leader with the mental bandwidth to both understand the problem and offer real solutions. Let each of us go forth, knock on doors, and proclaim the good news to dispirited, disengaged voters! Join in canvassing. 

Keep to the high ground,