The GOP Debates Health Care

The Democratic candidates for president have been all too anxious to debate health care reform so far, but Republicans have generally avoided the issue. Still, last night’s debate in New Hampshire gave us an idea about where at least a few of the candidates stand.

Rudy Giuliani attacked the Democrats for supporting “socialized medicine.” He’s right, and it’s good to hear someone call them out on it, rather than meekly promise that they too support “universal coverage.” More importantly, showed that he actually understands free market health care reform, calling for expansion of Health savings Accounts and replacing the current tax exclusion for employer-provided health care with a standard deduction for health insurance.

Mitt Romney defended his health care plan without actually telling anyone what it is. That’s probably smart because no matter how many times he repeats the words “private insurance” and “personal responsibility,” the plan is still little more than warmed-over HillaryCare.

Duncan Hunter gets points for attacking Mitt Romney’s plan as the “first steps to socialized medicine.” He gets even bigger points for endorsing Rep. Shadegg’s proposal to allow people to purchase health insurance across state lines. In fact, he not only endorsed the proposal he showed he understands it, even pointing out how regulations push up the cost of insurance in states like New Jersey. The public probably had no idea what he was talking about, but all over America, health policy wonks stood and cheered.

Tommy Thompson showed why he’s no Fred. This Thompson wants the government to somehow make us eat better and exercise more. It’s also going to become involved in “managing” chronic illnesses like diabetes. And he jumped on the electronic medical record bandwagon. As I’ve noted before, electronic medical records would undoubtedly be a good thing and would reduce both costs and medical errors. The private sector is already moving rapidly in that direction. But the federal government has not yet figured out how to get the FBI’s computers to talk to each other. What makes anyone think that a single federally-imposed medical IT system will be more efficient?

Perhaps during the coming debates we could take time out from pressing issues like the candidates’ views on evolution to hear a bit more about this.