Time to rise above petty politics in healthcare


I recognize we don't live in a utopian society. But is it so crazy of me to wish we all could just get along?

Apparently, it is--especially if you're a politician.

I had hoped that with President Obama's re-election all but cementing the health reform law into place that the politicos in Washington, D.C., would finally abandon their one-sided war against the landmark legislation.

And even though the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services won't be warding off any potential repeals of the reform law in the near future, the agency apparently will be facing rigorous oversight from Republican lawmakers as it implements the law.

First up is a House Ways and Means Committee subpoena of HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius for allegedly promoting the legislation improperly. Reps. Dave Camp (R-Mich.) and Charles Boustany (R-La.) want her to explain how HHS is using taxpayer funds to promote the reform law and demanding she turn over documents related to HHS contracts with public relations firms. They claim these contracts misuse taxpayer money.

This subpoena comes after the Republican leaders in October threatened to subpoena HHS three times, claiming the agency is using taxpayer dollars to promote the health reform law in a so-called "big guerilla campaign splash." Quite the attention-getting, dramatic statement.

HHS has, in fact, signed at least two contracts worth more than $20 million--one for $3 million just to market and promote the federal health insurance exchanges--with public relations firms. I'll withhold judgment on the actual value of said PR contracts, and I'm not defending federal officials' decision to promote the law. The issue here is much bigger and wider in scope than a he-said, she-said discussion. 

Actions and over-the-top statements like the ones Republicans have been making are perfect examples of the type of petty partisan fights that should have ended the day after Obama won. It appears Republicans are bitter about the election results and, instead of rising above the fray, have chosen to dig their heels just a little deeper into the mud.

Is this "investigation" (and I use that word somewhat in jest) really worth the time and energy required? It is well known within health policy circles--and elected officials--that the American public is woefully misinformed or uneducated about the reform law. And might I add, the Bush administration also spent millions of taxpayer dollars to promote the Medicare Modernization Act in 2003. Neither of which are anomalies since feds often spend big to promote laws they worked hard to get passed. I may not always agree with the laws or the marketing steps taken, but I understand the logic behind those decisions.

Given the reality of the situation is that health reform is the "law of the land," I hoped Republicans would have finally put their anti-reform stance to rest. Sure, they don't have to like it; they don't even have to support or champion it. But they absolutely must accept the reality and move on. I've been telling insurers to do just that for two years now. I guess politicians need to hear the same message. - Dina (@HealthPayer)