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The “Health Care Repeal” Sideshow

As an occupational hazard, I’m on basically every single political list that exists, and judging from their output this week, I’d say the Common Purpose meeting this week was brief and to the point. “Talk about health care repeal… OK, see you later.” And that’s what Democrats have done. They know it’s a sideshow, Republicans know it’s a sideshow. Repeal will pass in the House and end there. But that didn’t stop a day of debate and about a thousand personal appeals from every group with an email list to “Stop Repeal!” Or, more to the point since the groups don’t really want to stop anything, an appeal to “Look over there at the Republicans trying to repeal your health care!” All this was punctuated by a Presidential statement which stood as a basic theme: “So I’m willing and eager to work with both Democrats and Republicans to improve the Affordable Care Act. But we can’t go backward. Americans deserve the freedom and security of knowing that insurance companies can’t deny, cap, or drop their coverage when they need it the most, while taking meaningful steps to curb runaway health care costs.”

I saw none of that famous “civility” in the debate yesterday – Sheila Jackson Lee in particular was blunt and threw the job-killing rhetoric back in the faces of the GOP – but there need not be any rancor, really. This is a symbolic vote, without much consequence, and then it’ll pass. Anyone writing “Day 2 of the Repeal Effort” isn’t being honest, because there really is no repeal effort that will last beyond today. If the attention the Common Purpose groups are paying to health care this week actually gets channeled into forcing funding for the law, where there certainly will be a fight, that would be different. But it seems more for clicks and signups and poll-goosing, more than anything.

The only honest guy in all of this, and it’s incredible to write this, happens to be Bill Frist.

“It is not the bill that [Republicans] would have written,” said the Tennessee Republican. “It is not the bill that I would have drafted. But it is the law of the land and it is the platform, the fundamental platform, upon which all future efforts to make that system better, for that patient, for that family, will be based. And that is a fact. I know the discussion of Washington is repeal and I’m sure we will come back to that discussion…”

“[The bill] has many strong elements,” Frist added later. “And those elements, whatever happens, need to be preserved, need to be cuddled, need to be snuggled, need to be promoted and need to be implemented. But how do you do it? How do you do a lot of what is in this law?”

Now, Frist also said in that same meeting that there isn’t enough money for implementation and “You have no choice but to bring in the private sector, and the private sector knows that it’s time to play,” and he’s really talking about his own family company, Hospital Corporation of America. I guess you could say he’s being honest on that point too, that he wants to be richer. My point is that he’s looking well beyond this nonsensical repeal sideshow which serves no purpose. Everyone else is just playing their assigned role this week.

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The "Health Care Repeal" Sideshow: Rail, Grandstand... Snuggle?

David Dayen

David Dayen