Media falls into Republican meme on health care

Kate Bolduan, a very respected journalist on CNN, seemed to fall into a Republican trap on how to frame health care policy. She was interviewing Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA) about their new proposed Republican health care plan, one which would send money from Washington to state capitols where legislators and governors could presumably decide what to do with their new resources.

The problem was with the inadvertent way in which Bolduan referenced the plan as she interviewed the two senators.

Her opening query was to Senator Graham. She asked, “Senator Graham, in a nutshell, you’re taking Obamacare money and giving it back to the states.

The linguistic problem is with one word, “back.” How could the federal government give back to the states something that the states never had? The money that the federal government has used to finance the Affordable Care Act have come from a number of sources, but none of them are the 50 states.

Individuals and even corporations have paid a number of taxes and fees to the federal government. But states rely entirely on whatever taxes, fees and subsidies that they receive.

It is true that states have been the recipients of largesse from the federal government. Medicaid is an excellent example of this. But it is difficult to find any case in which empowering the states with money has served the public better than when it is administered by the federal government in Washington, DC. The main reason why states receive federal dollars is because of pressure from “states’ rights” federal legislators (usually from the old Confederacy), who prefer to undermine measures that extend human rights, civil liberties and our social and economic safety nets.

When Senator Cassidy was asked if this plan passed the Jimmy Kimmel test, he said, “Yeah, because you’re giving money back to the states to make sure that those who have needs, are able to have their needs addressed.” Cassidy is trying to legitimize the meme that somehow money in the Affordable Care Act belonged to the states. In fact, it never did and it never should. Sending federal money to the states for health care is a way for Republicans to cut costs by encourage a “race to the bottom” among the states to see who can provide the least amount of care, and probably at an inflated price.

I doubt that Kate Bolduan wanted to take an adversarial position in favor of Republican plans for health care. But by taking one of their political memes and treating it as being neutral, she did just that. Kate deserves a “do-over,” but let’s hope that she can catch herself on this one in the future.