Friday, June 05, 2009

Ghosts of Harry and Louise

The Senate Republican leader is channeling a couple of GOP golden oldies to oppose a public option in the health care reform pending in Congress.

Unlike Harry and Louise in the 1993 TV commercials to torpedo the Clintons' initiative, Mitch McConnell's protagonists are real people--sort of--Bruce Hardy of England and Shona Holmes of Canada, who have been brought out to personify the horrors of "socialized medicine." But their stories have been as edited as a TV commercial to make the point.

Hardy had to pay for a new cancer drug for two months before it was approved. McConnell's take: “The government bureaucrats who run Britain’s health care system denied the treatment, saying the drug was too expensive...that Bruce Hardy’s life wasn’t worth it.”

About Holmes, who paid for her own surgery in the US as she could have in Canada, the GOP leader finds this lesson: "Here’s how Shona described her plight: ‘If I’d relied on my government, I’d be dead,’ Shona’s life was eventually saved because she came to the United States for the care she needed.”

This Harry-and-Louise flummery is part of a last-ditch effort to persuade Americans that the choice of a public plan to, in President Obama's words, "keep the insurance companies honest" is no less than a takeover of the entire industry.

As Paul Krugman notes, there are two lessons in the current debate: "(1) Don't trust the insurance industry. (2) Don't trust the insurance industry...The insurance industry will do everything it can to avoid being held accountable."

Including manufacturing a new generation of Harrys and Louises.

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