Schwarzenegger Latest in GOP To Back Health Care Reform Efforts

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On Tuesday, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) joined a growing list of Republicans outside of Washington, D.C., who publicly have endorsed President Obama's mission to reform health care this year, Reuters reports (Zengerle, Reuters, 10/6).

According to Politico, Schwarzenegger issued a statement following direct appeals from the Obama administration. In the statement, the governor said, "I appreciate [Obama's] partnership with the states and encourage our colleagues on both sides of the political aisle at the national level to move forward and accomplish" reform efforts "for the American people" (Burns/Smith, Politico, 10/6).

The governor stopped short of endorsing any specific reform bill currently in Congress (Herszenhorn, "Prescriptions," New York Times, 10/6).

Other Republican Support

Others who recently have pledged their support for current overhaul efforts include:

  • New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I);
  • Former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.);
  • Richard Gephardt, a former House Democratic leader (American Health Line, 10/6);
  • Mark McClellan, who oversaw both FDA and CMS under President George W. Bush (Politico, 10/6); and
  • Tommy Thompson, a former Republican presidential candidate, HHS secretary and four-term governor of Wisconsin (American Health Line, 10/6).

Several Republicans who came out in support also expressed concern about parts of reform legislation.

Thompson said that he and Gephardt believe the bill before the Senate Finance Committee would impose too many new taxes and reductions in Medicare spending (Shear/Connolly, Washington Post, 10/7).

White House Comments

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said, "I hope that Republicans in Washington hear the message of Republicans all over the country that it's time to come in off the sidelines and actively get involved in making some serious progress on health care reform this year" (Werner, AP/Sacramento Bee, 10/6).

The Obama administration also expects more former GOP officials to express support for health reform as early as Wednesday.

Snowe, GOP Leadership Comments

According to the Washington Post, the White House campaign is aimed in part at Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), whom Democrats see as perhaps the only possible GOP vote in support of current reform legislation in the Senate Finance Committee.

On Tuesday, Snowe said that she hopes comments from her Republican colleagues nationwide will resonate. She said, "I think it is important to hear all voices in the party," adding, "The more we hear, the more we learn, the better job we can do in the final analysis" (Washington Post, 10/7).

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said, "The influx of headlines breathlessly claiming support for health care reform amongst Republicans is puzzling considering Republicans have been calling for reform for months." He added, "It is the details of the health care reform proposals before Congress that are extremely concerning for Republicans" (Reuters, 10/6).
Steve Gaylord
Rising health care spending is not a uniquely American phenomenon. Other countries spend considerably less than the United States on health care, both as a percentage of GDP and per capita, often because they begin with a lower base of expenditures. Nonetheless, their costs are still rising, leading to budget deficits, tax increases, and/or benefit cuts. Although no country with universal coverage is contemplating abandoning a universal system, the broad and growing trend in countries with national health care systems is to move away from centralized government control and introduce more market-oriented features. Thus, even as Americans debate adopting a government-run system, countries with those systems are debating how to make their systems look more like that of the United States.
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