Orrin Hatch, painfully confused

ORRIN HATCH, PAINFULLY CONFUSED…. It’s frightening to think this guys was involved for months with the center-right negotiations in the Senate Finance Committee.

On ABC’s “This Week” yesterday, Jake Tapper asked Sen. Orrin Hatch (R) of Utah a good question. Noting Sarah Palin’s ridiculous “death panel” rhetoric, and Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s (R-Alaska) repudiation of the rhetoric, Tapper asked, “Senator Hatch, who’s right, Governor Palin or Senator Murkowski?”

Hatch refused to answer the question, and instead launched into a truly absurd diatribe.

“[W]hat I do know is that the Democrats want a government plan, where the government will take over health care…. They want to move, according to the Lewin Group, up to 119 million people into Medicaid. If that happens, it would destroy the — the health insurance programs throughout the country.”

Asked about his own 2003 vote in support of a Medicare reform bill, which required a care management plan for a targeted beneficiary, Hatch again decided to ignore the question and launch into another absurd diatribe.

“[K]eep in mind, the Democrats want to have an IMAC. That’s an Independent Medicare Advisory Council of five people appointed by the president who will determine what kind of health care you’re going to have. And guess who they’re going to have to ration? It’s going to be senior citizens…. That’s what this administration is suggesting. In all honesty, I don’t want a bunch of nameless, faceless bureaucrats setting health care for my — for my aged citizens in Utah.”

Now, Tapper, to his credit, pushed back on both of these points, noting, for example, that Lewin is owned by an insurance company. But let’s flesh this out a little more, because Hatch’s arguments reflect a man who either doesn’t understand the basics of the reform debate or is spectacularly dishonest.

On the first point, Lewin simply didn’t say what Hatch claims. Not even close. As Harold Pollack explained, on the very first page of the Lewin report in question, the authors “clearly indicate that this analysis is based on quite different provisions from what is proposed in the various Senate and House bills.” For that matter, a public plan and Medicaid aren’t the same thing, though Hatch said they are.

On the second point, members of an Independent Medicare Advisory Council (IMAC) will not determine “what kind of health care you’re going to have.” That’s just crazy. The idea is to have a panel of physicians and medical experts who would have some added authority to help control what Medicare pays doctors and hospitals. The panel would ideally help lower costs more effectively than Congress. The idea originally came from conservatives, but has been embraced by the administration as part of a larger effort to save money and take political considerations out of the process.

IMAC wouldn’t feature “a bunch of nameless, faceless bureaucrats” who would be “setting health care.” Members of the council would be appointed by the White House, and confirmed by the Senate. They would be able to make recommendations, which the president could then approve or reject, and which Congress could override.

Hatch, in other words, despite having worked closely on this issue, doesn’t have the foggiest idea what he’s talking about. Either that, or he knows the truth, prefers to lie, and probably shouldn’t be invited onto national television to repeat demonstrably false claims to the public.