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Republicans for single-payer health care

snowedrugs.JPGRepublicans spent the first day of the Senate's health-care reform debate extolling the virtues of Medicare and swearing to protect it from even the lightest of legislative love taps. Today, however, a bunch of them have taken to the floor to extol Canada's single-payer system, albeit obliquely. David Vitter, impressed by Canada's low drug prices, accidentally made a strong case for single-payer earlier today. And now Olympia Snowe, who opposes a strong public option and Medicare buy-in, is making much the same argument.

It's one thing to be a single-payer supporter, or a single-payer opponent. But I can't figure out being a supporter of free-riding on other countries' single-payer systems, while simultaneously opposing the establishment of any such system in the United States. This stuff might be good and it might be bad, but it's odd to say that it's really good in Canada, and only in Canada, so Americans should head over there to use it.

Photo credit: By Mark Wilson/Getty Images

By Ezra Klein  |  December 9, 2009; 4:08 PM ET
Categories:  Health Reform  
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Comments

Don't know exactly what you are saying Ezra, but....this process of Congressional learning makes sense to me. Everyone has a dynamic, fluid understanding of the world (even those who seem so fixed). Thus, it evolves. I've taken it for granted that each member of Congress will end up with a different point of view than when they started, and that the most honest ones will articulate their evolving thinking along the way.

Posted by: HalHorvath | December 9, 2009 4:16 PM | Report abuse

Keep your government hands off my medicare, you socialist, fascist, Islamic, atheists. Honestly, we have to ride on the backs of Canadians to get reasonably prices drugs often invented and/or made in the US? Talk about not putting America first! Why not just adopt the price controls that Canada has and keep those Pharmacy jobs here at home!

Posted by: srw3 | December 9, 2009 4:30 PM | Report abuse

Doesn't think make some amount of sense? I'd be FAR more likely to support single payer than the terrible bill being considered. With single payer there are good parts and bad parts and overall at least for me the tradeoffs would be worth it. The current bill is going to be a disaster in my opinion.

Posted by: spotatl | December 9, 2009 4:37 PM | Report abuse

"Don't know exactly what you are saying Ezra"

Clearly.

Ezra is saying that Republican Senators Vitter and Snowe oppose government intervention in the US, but support allowing Americans to go to Canada to buy cheap prescription drugs. But the reason that prescription drugs are cheap in Canada is that they have single-payer! So they're acknowledging that single-payer works IN CANADA, and that Americans lucky enough to be close to the border should be allowed to take advantage, but they don't want anything similar here.

Posted by: tomemos | December 9, 2009 4:47 PM | Report abuse

Tomemos, the reason Canadians pay less is price fixing, which can be accomplished without a single payer system. For example, what if Congress passed a law requiring all hospitals to give private insurers the same "discounts" as they give Medicare?
Also, drug companies are willing to accept the fixed price as long as it covers manufacturing costs. If we import Canadian drugs, thereby purchasing fewer in America, maybe the drug companies will demand higher prices in Canada, spreading development costs to these "free riders."

Posted by: Underwriterguy | December 9, 2009 5:51 PM | Report abuse

'maybe the drug companies will demand higher prices in Canada, spreading development costs to these "free riders."'

Maybe the Canadians aren't "free riders;" maybe the Americans are "suckers."

Posted by: pseudonymousinnc | December 9, 2009 6:30 PM | Report abuse

Underwriterguy - "maybe the drug companies will demand higher prices in Canada"

And then Canada will allow generic drugs as in India and the drug companies will make nothing in Canada.

Posted by: lensch | December 9, 2009 6:30 PM | Report abuse

No big mystery to understand here - Diaper Dave and other legislators who oppose U.S. govt. negoitiation of prices but support importation are simply opportunistic horse's asses who understand how to reflect the ignorance of their constituencies. But is there anything that would prevent legislation requiring drug companies to sell their products in highest price they sell it for in any other country? Then we could get the benefits of single payer without the bloodbath that would be required to have our dim-witted, bought and paid for legislators enact a rational policy here.

Posted by: exgovgirl | December 9, 2009 9:01 PM | Report abuse

Ezra,
You've had a bully pulpit of sorts throughout a lot of this debate and I feel that you have tended to leap at as many chances as possible NOT to inform the public about the benefits of Canadian or French (semi-single payer) but instead sound excited about the the largely ineffectual proposals of people like Wyden etc.

As compared, for instance to TR Reid, where has your journalistic focus and integrity been? You've treated single-payer as a known quantity...yet it is really NOT known by most Americans, even some who call themselves liberals. I feel that you have only presented a "shaky" inconsistent picture of what is going on overseas.

Posted by: michaelterra | December 9, 2009 10:17 PM | Report abuse

It's kind of interesting to see this in light of the way the healthcare debate has gone in the UK, where the conservatives have actually embraced some pretty progressive ideas on preventive care and screening solely because they SAVE the system money. I wonder if there will be a similar re-alignment here once more of our health spending is actually on the government's budget?

Posted by: NS12345 | December 10, 2009 12:28 AM | Report abuse

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