Republican Senator: Healthcare sat on a wall, had a great fall

Rachel Stoltzfoos Staff Reporter
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Fixing health care is about as possible as putting Humpty Dumpty together again, according to North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr, who was part of a panel of six Republican’s discussing health care Thursday at the National Press Club.

Burr and Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn have been working on a solution for a year and a half and have not yet found a proper way to put health care back together again. “We get a model that somewhat resembles Humpty Dumpty, but it’s not the Humpty Dumpty we knew, it’s not the Humpty Dumpty we want,” said Burr.

The panelists said Republicans agree solutions should come from a free market and patient-centered approach, and that Obamacare must be fully repealed for that to happen. Tennessee Rep. Phil Roe said he spent hours reading the entire bill and thinking of ways to work with it, which he concluded is impossible. “You cannot fix this law,” said Roe.

Yet he and Georgia Rep. Tom Price insisted the law should be repealed on bipartisan terms. Republicans have somewhat notoriously voted to repeal Obamacare 47 times. But repeal, especially bipartisan repeal, is unlikely anytime soon.

Obama has taken heat for delaying parts of the law. And some democrats have proposed amendments, which would effectively destroy the structure of the system. But these moves are likely an attempt to forestall political consequences, not a sign of interest in full repeal. (RELATED: Democratic frustrations not fully mollified by Obamacare administrative fix)

“We may not be able to [fix] it, if this [system] gets too damaged,” said Sen. Burr. “And I think that’s our biggest concern.”

With that in mind, the ideas discussed at the conference — competition across state lines for insurance companies, patient and doctor control of care, changes to Health Savings Accounts — seem like pipe dreams. At least until the 2014 and 2016 elections.

“Don’t despair,” said Price, perhaps sensing the temptation following the panel’s opening remarks. “Sometimes you can only take small steps.”