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SLOGANS AREN'T SOLUTIONS

Leave it to Bill McCollum to further cheapen a national debate on health care that already has been degraded by simplistic, inaccurate buzzwords. Florida's Republican attorney general Tuesday blasted the idea of a government-run health insurance option and tore a page out of the Washington GOP playbook as he warned of the evils of socialized medicine. If these are the sort of scare tactics McCollum plans to engage in during his run for governor, it's going to be an awfully long campaign with too many slogans and too little serious discussion of the challenges facing this state.

McCollum spent 20 years in Congress, and he should be able to read and process legislation. So why did he distort the bills under consideration? "You're proposing that everyone have a socialized government plan that limits my choice of a patient and doctor, my choice of insurance, and limiting the care you're going to get," McCollum told reporters. Wrong, wrong, wrong and wrong again. These might be the talking points of right-wing radio, but they have been wholly discredited for weeks by reputable sources that have actually analyzed the bills. Florida's attorney general and his party's favorite candidate for governor should have some respect for detail.

McCollum's attempt to score some quick political points amounts to empty calories at a time voters in the nation's fourth-largest state are looking for a serious examination of where he and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink stand on the details of health care reform. The public option is not socialized medicine and would not - under any form on the table - limit one's choice of a doctor or insurance or tighten access to medical care. There are legitimate policy questions to debate - over whom to cover, the costs and who pays - and philosophical differences to consider over the government's role in the market. The attorney general should acknowledge the stakes for Floridians and offer his own plan for covering the uninsured instead of darkly warning about socialized medicine. And while he's at it, he could add some consumer advocates to his health care advisory panel, which is full of doctors and others with a vested interest in maintaining the status quo.

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