After Massachusetts decidedly elected Scott Brown, there is a temptation for Republicans to hear the message they want to hear, rather than the message that Bay State voters actually sent. With the confetti having just been swept clean from Brown's victory rally, some - conservatives and Republicans - seem too eager to claim that that election was a repudiation of all the President's ideas. And while this view is held by a minority, this much is clear: entering the 2010 Congressional elections, the GOP may be tempted to simply run in opposition to health reform.
But if Republicans really are positioning themselves to remain the party of no, it's a serious mistake. Let's be clear: health reform is not a manufactured issue, cooked up in hyper-partisan White House by an overly ambitious chief of staff. To state the obvious list of woes: cost continues to spiral up; too many are without insurance; quality is uneven.
And Massachusetts voters elected Brown precisely because he was articulate about the kind of health reform voters wanted. Unlike President Obama, he proved he understood middle-class anger about rising health-insurance premiums, and he took targeted action to fight it.
Brown made his commitment clear in late December when he introduced legislation in the Massachusetts State Senate. Tellingly, his bill was titled “An Act Reducing the Cost of Health Insurance.” The bill is two pages long (including the cover), compared to the Senate ObamaCare's 2,074 pages.
Brown's bill isn't historic, or dramatic or revolutionary. But nobody could argue it wouldn't reduce the price of insurance. Brown targeted regulations, specifically those that require health insurance policies to cover specific services.
These regulations - known as insurance mandates - force patients to pay for Cadillac coverage they don't need. If Boston required that all cars sold in the Commonwealth must have air conditioning and sunroofs, cars would become more expensive; if Boston requires that many health services be covered, it pushes up the price of even basic coverage. Implementing Brown's legislation would cost taxpayers almost nothing, since it assigned an existing bureaucracy the power to roll back costly insurance regulations.