The following is an excerpt from an article written for the National Review by Senator Tom Coburn.
Ten Questions Politicians Won’t Answer
Evasive politicians, not concerned citizens, are dividing America over health-care reform .
By Tom Coburn
Individual Americans should view the month of August as their best, and perhaps final, opportunity to alter the health-care bills before Congress reconvenes in September. Citizens should ask hard questions without having their motives questioned. I expect such questions at my town-hall meetings. After all, the greater threat to freedom and liberty is not an informed citizenry but an irresponsible, elitist, and evasive political class that refuses to answer hard questions and make tough choices.
While I have confidence n the American people to come up with their own probing questions, let me suggest a few questions that my own colleagues have been loath to answer:
1. Why do we need to increase spending on health care by at least $1.6 trillion and steal prosperity from our children and grandchildren when we spend nearly twice per person what other industrialized nations spend on health care?
In my view, any bill that increases spending is a failure and not serious reform. The problem is not that we don’t spend enough on health care, but that we don’t allocate resources efficiently and get value for what we pay.
2. What programs will you cut and whose taxes will you raise to pay for health-care reform ?
Any politician — Republican or Democrat — who refuses to answer this question or avoids the topic by deferring to the committees of jurisdiction doesn’t deserve to be in office.
3. What earmarks or pet projects that you have sponsored will you sacrifice to help finance the cost of health-care reform?
It is immoral, in my view, to ask taxpayers to make more sacrifices while politicians practice business-as-usual pork-barrel politics.
4. Will you vote for a public option that requires taxpayer-funded abortion?
The current version of the so-called reform bill requires taxpayer-funded abortion. In the House, this fact prompted 19 pro-life Democrats to send a letter of protest to Speaker Pelosi. In the Senate, an amendment by Barbara Mikulski (D., Md.) that would require taxpayer-funded abortion passed in committee. Sen. Bob Casey (D., Pa.) objected and voted no, saying, “The way it [the Mikulski amendment] is written could be interpreted down the road to include something like abortion.” Are these Democrats also part of the right-wing scare-tactic conspiracy?
5. If the public option is so wonderful, will you lead by example and vote for a plan to enroll you and your family in the public option?
I offered an amendment in committee to force members of Congress to enroll in the public option. Nine out of eleven Democrats on the health committee who back the public option refused. If the politicians creating the public option don’t have confidence in it, neither should the American people.
6. Will you vote for a plan that will allow a board of politicians and bureaucrats to override decisions made by you and your doctor?
Both the Senate and House bills set up a government-run “comparative effectiveness” board that will make final decisions about treatment and care. In committee, I gave senators several opportunities to accept language that would forbid this board from denying care. All of my amendments were rejected, which suggests that the intent is to set up a board that will ration care, as is done in the United Kingdom.
7. If you support a “comparative effectiveness” board, what qualifies you, as a politician, to practice medicine?
Have you delivered health care to a single person, much less entire classes of people you claim to represent, such as the poor, the uninsured, or children?I’m one of two physicians in the Senate, along with John Barrasso of Wyoming. I know for a fact that very few leaders in this debate have any firsthand experience or knowledge of health care, which is disturbing.
8. How will a government-run public option perform better than other failing government programs, such as Medicare, Medicaid, and Indian Health Care?
Forty percent of doctors refuse to accept Medicaid patients because the program is broken. Access to a government program — such as the public option — does not guarantee access to health care.
9. If increasing spending on health care was the solution, why hasn’t it worked yet?
The public-option “reform” is not new at all but an extension of 1960s-era public policies that say a little more government spending and intervention is always the answer.
10. Are you more committed to doing reform right or quickly? Would you consider backing a thoughtful alternative to the public option? If so, which one?
I’ve introduced a bill along with Sen. Richard Burr (R., N.C.) and Reps. Paul Ryan (R., Wisc.) and Devin Nunes (R., Calif.) called the Patient’s Choice Act that guarantees coverage and choice for every American without raising taxes or increasing spending. In fact, our bill will save taxpayers at least $70 billion. Many other members of Congress , both Republicans and Democrats, are working on alternatives that don’t herd the American people into a government-run program.
The choice is not between the public option and nothing. The choice is between the public option and an option that can win the support of the public. The future of health care truly is up to you.
Dr. Tom Coburn (R.) is a United States senator from Oklahoma.