|Grassley discussed health care policy with Washington reporters yesterday and went out of his way to blast Attorney General Eric Holder. This week Holder announced a sensible change in the Department of Justice policy on marijuana distributors. From now on DOJ will not prosecute those who are in compliance with state laws permitting medical marijuana. Grassley doesn't like the change:
"This Attorney General is not doing health care reform any good," said Grassley. "The first rule of medicine - 'do no harm' - is being violated by the Attorney General with this decision."
Grassley, the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, said that Holder's announcement is "counterproductive" to US goals on preventive medicine because the farmer-turned-senator sees marijuana as a "gateway" drug which leads to addiction to more potent drugs including methamphetamine.
I'd like to see Grassley explain to a room full of cancer patients why using marijuana under a doctor's advice will lead them to meth addiction.
But more to the point, what does this law enforcement issue have to do with health care reform?
Grassley did make some relevant comments on health care. He said everything except abortion rights was "on the table," including a public insurance option for non-government employees and people who do not already qualify for Medicare or Medicaid. But he has concerns:
Although he said that a public insurance option must be on the table, he also expressed his view that "government is not a fair competitor." Grassley cited a study by the Lewin Group which he said indicates that a government insurance option will lead 118 million Americans to opt out of private insurance. He thinks this will have the effect of shrinking the private insurance market and driving up costs, particularly on small businesses. Advocates of a public insurance option think the public will benefit from the government applying downard pressure on prices.
Count me among the 118 million Americans who would be happy to ditch my private health insurance in favor of a good public option. If the private insurers can't compete by providing good health care coverage at a reasonable cost to the consumer, maybe they should stick to providing other forms of insurance. My family's health insurance premiums are going up 10 percent on April 1, but our coverage isn't going to improve in any way.
Grassley sidestepped a question about whether his concerns about a public insurance option would apply to legislation permitting non-government employees to join the Federal Employees Health Benefit Plan (FEHBP), a government-administered set of private insurance options.
Some progessive leaders with close ties to the White House, like Andy Stern of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), have told ABC News that they think an FEHBP-style plan can become an attractive compromise since it exercises less market power than inviting all Americans to buy into Medicare, the government insurance program that is currently limited to those over 65.
I have to learn more about how that program works before deciding whether I could support that compromise. Right now a strong public insurance option is a deal-breaker for me on health care reform.
I do agree with one thing Grassley told reporters yesterday: if Congress doesn't pass health care this year, it is unlikely to happen during the next four years.
Meanwhile, the Polk County Democrats sent out an invitation today to a reception for Bob Krause of Fairfield, who plans to run against Grassley in 2010. Krause will announce the formation of his Exploratory Committee on Saturday, March 28 at 12:15 p.m. at the Fort Des Moines Historical Museum, 75 East Army Post Road, in Des Moines (lunch by donation).
Krause chairs the Iowa Democratic Veterans' Caucus and represents that caucus on the State Central Committee of the Iowa Democratic Party. He is a 28-year veteran of the U.S. Army Reserves.
Although Grassley currently looks unbeatable with an approval rating of 71 percent overall and 66 percent among Iowa Democrats, I am glad to see Krause stepping up to the plate. No Republican anywhere should be left unchallenged, and Krause can call attention to the very bad Senate votes Grassley has cast and will cast before next year's election.
Share any thoughts about Grassley in this thread.