Mike Stenhouse, the CEO of the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity (the Current’s parent organization), testified in some strong terms against H7819, which would declare a specific structure for the state’s healthcare system and put in place the beginnings of a plan to achieve them:
“This is talk you would expect to hear come out of Communist China, not a legislative body in the United States of America,” said Stenhouse.
I would have gone with the old Soviet Union, because at the heart of the bill is a five-year plan. For readers whose secondary-school education didn’t manage to impress upon them the significance of that construct, this About.com page captures the essence:
In the name of Communism, Stalin seized assets, including farms and factories, and reorganized the economy. However, these efforts often led to less efficient production, ensuring that mass starvation swept the countryside. …
While all of these plans were unmitigated disasters, Stalin’s policy forbidding any negative publicity led the full consequences of these upheavals to remain hidden for decades. To many who were not directly impacted, the Five Year Plans appeared to exemplify Stalin’s proactive leadership.
The “health care authority” imagined in H7819 would be no different. It would work to push all healthcare spending in the state through HealthSource RI for the explicit purpose of giving government a monopolistic controlling hand.
Representative Frank Ferri (D, Warwick), who is the bill’s prime sponsor, waited until four more people had testified and Stenhouse was away from the witness table before responding.
By way of partial transcript:
What this says is, “we should come up with a five-year plan. It’s talking about a plan. A comprehensive plan.” …
So what is wrong with having a plan? It’s not a question. I just wanted to make a statement, because give us something better and work with us instead of coming here and shouting “Communism” and “death camps” or whatever it is they want to shout. Why don’t they say, “Let’s get together, and let’s work together on this.”
One thing that jumps out is Ferri’s cowardice, waiting until Stenhouse wasn’t in a position to respond… while asking rhetorical questions that could have been actual questions if Ferri had posed them at the appropriate time. There’s also a dishonesty underlying his objection. Ferri’s bill doesn’t establish a framework for everybody to get together and come up with ideas. It sets a specific policy toward which the authority is mandated to work, and it’s a dangerous one.