Retail politics' could offer better health plan

By Joseph Jarvis
Salt Lake City Tribune, April 2, 2010

Sen. Bob Bennett commented recently in The New York Times that he was expecting to play "retail politics" from now until the Utah Republican Convention on May 8. Well, Sen. Bennett, I am an uncommitted state delegate and I'm waiting for you and your competitors to sell me on your candidacy.

Since former Gov. Jon Huntsman introduced me to Sen. John McCain, then running for the presidency, as Utah's foremost authority on health system reform (thanks, Jon, flattery is nice, even if cheap), I'm particularly interested in hearing about how Utah's future congressional representatives (I'll include the Republican candidates vying to replace Rep. Jim Matheson) will respond to the passage of Obamacare.

I'm not interested in sound bites. Ideological nonsense from both sides of the political aisle is what made the passage of Obamacare happen. Republicans made virtually no effort to bring substance into the debates about health care reform, so let's not continue pretending that selling health insurance across state lines will fix our health system. Yes, we need malpractice reform. The question is, should Congress be involved? If so, how?

Not so long ago, a number of Democratic members of the U.S. House were running a bill entitled "The States' Right to Innovate in Healthcare Act." I loved that bill. It laid out mechanisms for any state to negotiate its way out of federal rules and regulations en route to formulating its own comprehensive reform of health care delivery and financing. Now that Obamacare is the law of the land, states that can do better need the right more than ever to innovate in health care.

The only trouble with that bill was (and is) that no Republican ever signed on as a sponsor. What I want from congressional candidates is a commitment to spend time and political capital resurrecting that bill with a bipartisan coalition backing it.

Many Democrat members of Congress are just as unhappy with the recently passed health legislation as am I. In expressing their frustration, they have stated their support for empowering states to take on health system reform. To be sure, their support for this concept originates from their desire to see some state pass a form of government-based single-payer health care.

I want Republican candidates for Congress in Utah who will support the bill even if it makes single-payer legislation possible in California (where it passed the state legislature twice already). If the bill empowers California to try a government-sponsored version of single-payer health financing, it will empower Utah to try something else.

I'm also interested in finding Republican congressional candidates in Utah who are true fiscal conservatives when it comes to health care.

The entitlements in health care that are killing the federal budget are not those given to senior citizens on Medicare or poorer members of society on Medicaid, but those granted repeatedly to Big Pharma and the health insurance industry, who sell their products to our government programs at a ridiculous profit.

Why is it that the manufacturers of motorized wheelchairs can advertise on TV that they can automatically qualify any person on Medicare for their product? I want someone in Congress with the backbone to say no to corporate welfare in our health care system.

Any other uncommitted Republican state delegates who want to join me in retail politics can e-mail their questions for candidates to

Joseph Jarvis is a member of the Republican State Central Committee and chairman of legislative District 24. He was twice a Republican nominee for the Legislature. He founded and chairs the Utah Healthcare Initiative, a political issue committee, which exists to bring comprehensive health system reform to Utah by ballot initiative.