Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper is speed dating Ohio Gov. John Kasich on healthcare reforms, trying to show that a left of center Democrat and a hard-right Republican known for decades worth of political performance schtick can work together on healthcare when there’s little evidence Democrats and Republicans have done much collaboration on it so far.

Kasich loves top billing for a proposal that experts say takes a middle-of-the-road path forward instead of a smarter and far more comprehensive path proposed by Bernie Sanders, the democratic socialist U.S. senator from Vermont who started a small revolution of his own last year before eventually loosing the Democratic Party nomination for president to Hillary Clinton. Sanders’ new bill would make Medicare the law of the land for everyone regardless of age.

In his first run for the presidency last year, Sanders made single payer a central pillar of his campaign. Single-payer health care is the kind of program Kasich has never spoken one good word about even though its the coin of the realm in all other advanced industrialize nations and is gaining momentum within the Democratic Party.

States Experimenting

State flexibility is the central theme behind what Hick and Shtick and a handful of other governors say is needed to stabilize Obamacare insurance exchange markets for the approximately 15 percent of people who don’t get their health coverage through their employer or who are economically strong enough to buy it themselves.

Kasich, completing his second term, wants buyers to have a choice in essential health benefits Obamacare sets as policy standards that includes ten items, one of which is maternity coverage.

“As long as there’s a common-sense interpretation of what comprehensive is, it’s all cool,” Kasich said, according to the Columbus Dispatch. Kasich is advocating for exactly the kind of pick-and-choose ideology that sabotages the Affordable Care Act, letting people pick from a menu of items they may not think they need and therefore don’t want to pay for.

In one breath, Kasich says a young, healthy patient should be allowed to opt for a catastrophic health-care plan and a medical savings account rather than a plan that includes maternity care. It’s basic Kasich to then confound and confuse, as he did by adding that “there has to be some sense of core benefits.” Which is it, governor, some sense of core benefits or no sense of core benefits? Do you want a cafeteria plan or should insurers offer the same menu?

If picking and choosing is what Kasich thinks works best for healthcare, why shouldn’t he also endorse picking and choosing which state or federal taxes to pay? Can tax payers pay for only what they want government to spend their money on or let lawmakers, including governors like Kasich or senators or representatives spend their money on endless and costly wars, tax loopholes and subsidizes that benefit only the wealthiest individuals and corporations or bailing out states like Texas and Florida, whose political leaders dislike government except when natural disasters like Harvey or Irma make their way onshore to devastate all in their path?

Kasich shows he really doesn’t understand insurance markets and why everybody needs to be in the pool, whether it’s the shallow end or deep end.

Outside of Ohio, Hickenlooper gets top billing for the plan that Gov. Steve Bullock of Montana and Kasich helped craft. This helps explain why the Hick and not the schtick was picked to testify about the proposal before a Senate committee Thursday. It’s not news that the ACA subsidizes the high cost of health insurance for those who cannot afford it. It’s also not news that exchange plan customers are required to buy plans that cover a range of “essential services” that included maternity care, hospital coverage, and other health benefits.

Kasich, a hard-core Republican ideologue, notes with some degree of accuracy that “Republicans don’t want to say they will be connected to anything related to Obamacare no matter what it is, and Democrats don’t want to be connected to anything that erodes any part of Obamacare.”

He should know, since he’s bashed the ACA from the beginning, when it was passed in 2010 without one vote from any Republican. Kasich was remarkably quiet when no one in his party voted for a bill that was discussed in committee and accepted many amendments from GOP lawmakers.

Ohio’s governor has found fodder in constantly talking about working together to solve problems, but seems incapable of embracing solutions that include reforms by the likes of Sanders and others that would put his bipartisanship to the real test.

“I want to have a marketplace where people can buy insurance. And if people can’t afford it, let’s give them some money so that they can have it … why do we have to keep putting names on everything?” Kasich asked, never explaining why America’s system based on for-profit insurance company coverage is among the worst in the industrialized world.

As a congressman for 18 years, Kasich voted for Reagan-era budgets that busted deficits even though he wants a balanced budget amendment. He voted for strengthening Social Security in the early 1980s but now wants to means-test it and pull the rug out from many by increasing the age of retirement and reducing benefits for those who manage to live long enough to collect their earned benefits.

After years of kowtowing to the likes of ALEC, the GOP-corporate law writing factory known as the American Legislative Exchange Council, and other right-win economic think tanks on issues of debt and taxes, among other issues, Kasich now says “partisan fighting and pandering to the base is ‘ruining the country.’” He should know best, since he’s done that for most of his political career.

Colorado, California, Minnesota, Washington and Massachusetts and the District of Columbia, which all run their own exchanges, are letting consumers purchasing insurance for themselves this year by giving them extra time to make decisions as a pushback to the Trump Administration’s shortening of the enrollment season by a month from previous years.

Kasich could help by asking that Ohio, which let Washington run its state exchange, join the crowd of states doing the right thing for the right reason. This won’t happen, though, for reasons Kasich is unable to explain with a straight face. The Trump administration’s rule gives people shopping for 2018 coverage on the federal exchange 45 days to sign up, from Nov. 1 through Dec. 15.

It was revealing that both state CEOs, each of whom is term limited, didn’t want to talk about where they differed on health care. Agreeing is good. Solving disagreements that ultimately stymie bipartisanship is another leg of the race they must deal with before any agreement is final, otherwise they risk marching far but never crossing the finish line.

“I don’t like to answer those questions,” Hickenlooper said, making a convoluted if not erroneous reference to why the best rock’n roll bank ever, The Beatles, broke up in the late 1960s. “Why would we talk about that?” Kasich asked, revealing the soft underbelly of his strategy to defend expanding Medicaid while bashing the law that made it possible. “If two sides want to come up with something, there are really no obstacles. Work your way around it. If you have a will, there’s a way.”

Speaking words of wisdom, like Beatles great Paul McCartney says in “Let It Be,” it’s too bad that Kasich doesn’t heed what alternate personality John Kasich says about reaching a solid solution that might mean he gives up some of his most cherished, but wrong, belief systems.

 

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