Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla.
President Obama today extended a federal AIDS program that an unlikely pair of Republicans – one blasted for being “anti-gay” and the other chairman of an organization for homosexual conservatives – criticized earlier this month as a foreshadow of the rationing and waiting lists sure to come if the U.S. adopts even more government-run health care programs.
In a ceremony this morning, Obama signed the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Treatment Extension Act, which continues a federal program that provides up to $2.5 billion annually in medication for AIDS patients.
The move was lauded by many homosexual advocates, including Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese, who called the extension a “tremendous step” on behalf of people with HIV and AIDS.
But in a joint opinion piece called “Govt.-Run Health Care Isn’t the Answer,” published in the online version of The Advocate, a leading homosexual magazine, Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., and GOProud’s Christopher R. Barron warned the homosexual community that the Ryan White CARE Act has already demonstrated how government-run health care has introduced rationing and waiting lists and cost the lives of the people under its provisions.
“The federal government will spend $15 billion on AIDS treatment alone this year,” wrote Coburn and Barron, “yet due to the inefficiencies of the public-run program, thousands will not receive appropriate care.”
The Republicans leveled a list of accusations against the government program Obama extended and the recipient of most of its spending, the AIDS Drug Assistance Program, or ADAP. They alleged:
- “In recent years, two patients in West Virginia and five in Kentucky died while awaiting care on waiting lists for the RWCA AIDS Drug Assistance Program.
- “Today there are 247 Americans on waiting lists for lifesaving AIDS drugs in eight states. The number is expected to reach 500 by Christmas.
- “Many other ADAP patients, while receiving care, are being denied the best treatment. Fuzeon, the AIDS drug of last resort that has been successful in treating patients who no longer benefit from other drugs, for example, has been denied to ADAP patients in our nation’s capital.
- “The Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector found that tens of millions of dollars were going unspent at the same time as patients languished on ADAP waiting lists.
- “Millions of dollars have been misspent on beachside junkets by AIDS executives and bureaucrats or lost to fraud and abuse.
- “Investigation by the Government Accountability Office found that the program was overpaying for many of the drugs it provided.”
“These bureaucratic inefficiencies and mismanagement have literally cost lives,” the unlikely Republican pairing summarized. “The attractiveness of a public plan to ensure care for those with no insurance is understandable. But as we have seen with ADAP, a public health program is not a panacea.”
The Republicans’ appeal to the homosexual community – whose activists often take up the cause of advocating assistance for AIDS patients – has been met mostly with fierce criticism, in part because of Coburn’s reputation on homosexual issues.
“Of all the people to write an op-ed for The Advocate, why Tom Coburn?” commented Jason Linkins of the Huffington Post. “Coburn has opposed gay marriage, gay adoption and anonymous HIV testing, and he has called the ‘gay agenda’ the ‘greatest threat to our freedom that we face today.’”
In fact, the Human Rights Campaign, the largest national lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization, as recently as 2006 gave Coburn a zero rating on its scale of homosexual issues pending before the legislature.
Comments on The Advocate’s website turned outright angry:
“I can’t figure out what’s more repulsive, a gay ‘leader’ teaming up with a loud-mouth ignorant bigot like Tom Coburn or the Advocate providing the two of them a platform,” spouted a post from David La Fontaine, reportedly of Philadelphia.
David Hamburger, reportedly of Boston, added, “Why would anyone listen to what a homophobe and gay traitor say about health care and HIV/AIDS? If the Republicans would actually support spending more money on HIV/AIDS and on health care in general, then we wouldn’t have any of this rationing they’re complaining about.”
James Kirchick, a contributing writer to The Advocate, however, praised Barron for teaming with Coburn in making his appeal.
“If there is to be progress in this country on gay rights,” Kirchick wrote in the New Republic, “Republicans, and conservative ones especially, are going to have to be a part of it.”
Coburn and Barron concluded the op-ed by pointing out that RWCA and ADAP aren’t the only government-run health care programs to suffer inefficiency.
“Medicare only recently began offering seniors prescription drug coverage that had long been covered by private plans, and no one would claim that those in Medicaid are receiving the best possible care,” the Republicans wrote. “Indeed, 40 percent of doctors currently refuse to treat Medicaid patients. Medicare teeters on the verge of bankruptcy, Medicaid is bankrupting state budgets and both programs are rife with billions of dollars of waste, fraud and abuse.”
Instead of more government-run health care, the op-ed proposes prohibiting insurance companies from refusing customers with preexisting conditions, allowing all Americans the same choices of health care coverage enjoyed by members of Congress and passing the Patients’ Choice Act.
“We can and should work to make sure that every man, woman and child in this country has access to quality, affordable health care,” they conclude. “We can do it without creating an inefficient and expensive government program, and we can do it in such a way that empowers individuals to take control of their own health care.”