Three cheers for former Minnesota U.S. Sen. David Durenberger, who took aim Wednesday at the ill-informed rhetoric painting the Democratic health reform bill as some kind of wild-eyed socialist scheme.
On the eve of President Obama's health care summit, Durenberger told Kaiser Health News that the plan bears a strong resemblance to the reforms pitched by him and other Republicans in 1993. At the time, Durenberger's proposal was the GOP alternative to Clintoncare.
It included a mandate to buy insurance subsidies for the poor and insurance reform to protect those with preexisting conditions -- key elements of the Senate bill that became the foundation for the White House plan released Monday.
Durenberger also reiterated his support for the mandate, lambasted by some Republicans as unconstitutional and intrusive.
His support only deepens my own confusion about why Republicans now oppose the mandate. Big, broad insurance pools spread risk and hold down costs. Mandates also make sure people take responsibility for their health care costs. Some people truly can't afford to pay their premiums, but many -- particularly the young and healthy -- choose to spend their money on things that are fun but less important than health care. When they go to the hospital, costs often get passed along to the hardworking people with insurance.
Asked why the Republican Party embraced his ideas in 1993 but shoots them down now, Durenberger told the national online health news service: "The main thing that's changed is the definition of a Republican."
To read the entire interview go to: tinyurl.com/yks43hc.