After Proclaiming "I Don't Do Policy," Steele Botches Policy In WaPo Op-Ed

August 24, 2009 11:05 am ET — Matt Finkelstein

Steele's misleading column is part of the Republicans' larger effort to terrify seniors into opposing reform.

Last month, RNC Chairman Michael Steele delivered a speech on health care at the National Press Club in Washington, DC.  After repeating talking points provided by Republican strategist Alex Castellanos nearly word-for-word, Steele decided to take a few questions and quickly realized he didn't have much to say.  "I don't do policy," he finally conceded. 

Steele's copycat speech and extemporaneous comments were reported on by numerous outlets, including the Washington Post.  Nonetheless, the Post's editors today decided to give Steele -- who was later unable to identify his own health insurance provider -- a venue to spread falsehoods about health care policy.  A few of the lowlights are below:

Steele: "Second, we need to prohibit government from getting between seniors and their doctors. The government-run health-care experiment that Obama and the Democrats propose will give seniors less power to control their own medical decisions and create government boards that would decide what treatments would or would not be funded. Republicans oppose any new government entity overruling a doctor's decision about how to treat his or her patient." [Washington Post, 8/24/09]

  • "No Description Of Government Force" In Treatment Prescription.  In response to fears that funding for CER allows the government to make decisions for doctors, FactCheck.org reported: "Some take that to mean the government would no longer allow certain treatments that are 'more expensive' to be prescribed. But there's no description of government force here. The sentence says 'by knowing what works best and presenting this information' to patients and physicians, the most effective procedures will be used and those that aren't as effective 'and in some cases, more expensive' won't be. That's a description of a rational, voluntary reaction to be expected from the medical community and the public to scientific knowledge of what works and what doesn't, and at what cost." [FactCheck.org, 2/20/09]
  • Health Insurance Reform "Would Not Require The Government To Decide How Much A Person's Life Is Worth." Regarding claims that health insurance reform would put a price on American lives, PolitiFact.com reported:  "There is no such practice in the comparative effectiveness program, nor is it part of the current health reform proposals pending in Congress. The House and Senate bills under consideration would not require the government to decide how much a person's life is worth." [PolitiFact.com, 8/4/09]

Steele:  "Third, we need to outlaw any effort to ration health care based on age. Obama has promoted a program of 'comparative effectiveness research' that he claims will be used only to study competing medical treatments. But this program could actually lead to government boards rationing treatments based on age." [Washington Post, 8/24/09]

  • CER Supplements Physicians' Knowledge To Ensure The Best Treatment Is Provided To The Patient.  David Dale, MD of the American College of Physicians testified in a House Ways and Means Committee hearing: "The availability of valid, comparative effectiveness data supplemented by the physician's clinical experience and professional knowledge, helps ensure that an effective treatment choice is made-one that meets the unique needs and preferences of the patient." [American College Of Physicians' Statement for the Record, 6/12/07]

"Obama has shown that he is beholden to his party's left-wing ideologues," Steele went on to say. "It's not too late for him to honor his pledges for bipartisan health-care reform." Of course, while the president has insisted on working with right-wing obstructionists, Steele has proven that he is willing to say just about anything in order to defeat reform.

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