Hatch hammers health reform in weekly GOP address
Washington » Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch continued the Republican assault against health reform Friday when he gave his party's weekly radio and Internet address, a standard counter-punch to President Barack Obama's online outreach.
Hatch hammered on three areas where Republicans believe Obama is soft -- the cost of reform, the role of the government and the concerns of seniors.
"Unfortunately, the path we are taking in Washington right now is to simply spend another trillion dollars of taxpayer money to further expand the role of the federal government," Hatch said in the five-minute address now available online at YouTube.com/gopweeklyaddress.
Democrats say that much of the cost in the existing plans is for a sliding scale of subsidies to make insurance cheaper. The poor wouldn't have to pay anything, while the middle class would get a discount.
Some of the money would also be used to prop up a government-run insurance plan that would compete against private insurers to attract individuals and small businesses. Democrats have said the plan must survive on premiums it collects once it gets going, but it would have a nonprofit model to reduce administrative costs. Obama has said this "public option" will make sure private companies don't keep the prices artificially high.
But Hatch clearly articulated the Republican position in the address that will go out to radio stations on Saturday.
"As the federal government's control of our health care system continues to increase, private coverage will continue to decrease, till we are left with a Washington-run and dictated health care system," he said.
To pay for the lion's share of a $1 trillion pricetag, the Democratic plans rely on the elimination of waste within the health care system or agreed-upon reductions in costs from drug makers and hospitals. But Democrats have yet to settle on how to pay for the remaining $300 billion, floating a number of ideas that include some targeted tax increases on the rich.
Republicans, like Hatch, want a cheaper health care fix that would rely more on incentives for healthy lifestyles and would give states flexibility to create their own reform proposals.
Public opinion polling shows that the president's biggest challenge is selling the plan to seniors who want to make sure reform proposals won't decrease their Medicare coverage.
"So what is the Democratic approach to fix Medicare for our seniors? Hundreds of billions of dollars in cuts which will be used to expand a financially-strapped Medicaid program and create another government-run plan," Hatch said.
In recent town halls, Obama has tried to counter such criticism by saying the reductions in Medicare spending would not impact services for seniors but come from reducing duplicative and unnecessary medical testing and lowering excessive administrative costs.
Hatch also touched on the raucous town hall meetings that have taken place in a number of states saying while he "strongly encourages the use of respectful debate" he was disappointed that some have criticized the heated exchanges as "un-American."
"Our great nation was founded on speaking our minds," he said. "It is essential for all of you to be involved in this issue."
So far, no town hall meetings in Utah have resulted in the same kind of impassioned arguments as they have in some states such as Pennsylvania and Missouri.
Hatch will continue his push against Democratic reform proposals on Sunday during an appearance on the ABC News show "This Week."