Sue Lowden backs down (sort of)

SUE LOWDEN BACKS DOWN (SORT OF)…. Last week, Republican Senate hopeful Sue Lowden described a “bring a chicken to the doctor” health care compensation model. After defending a bizarre and efficient barter-based dynamic, the Nevadan declared, “I’m not backing down from that system.”

Today, the far-right Republican decided to back down from that system. Sort of.

In the face of some humiliating derision, and a day after receiving the Stephen Colbert treatment, Sue Lowden shifted gears, claiming the quote was taken “way out of context.” Her campaign now insists the bartering model was “never a policy proposal.”

In an interview with a local station in Nevada today, Lowden clarified her original comments, claiming she’d been taken out of context. Lowden added she had merely made a “casual statement” designed to describe an ongoing reality, and hadn’t intended to offer a policy prescription. […]

“The truth of the matter is there is bartering going on in this state and in the country,” Lowden said. “It has been going on for years.” She added she had merely made “a casual statement talking about the reality of what’s going on.”

I’m glad Lowden is trying a new tack here — after, you know, tripling down on the argument last week — but there are a few flaws in her walk-back.

First, Lowden got in this mess in large part because she did recommend the bartering model as a policy proposal. In fact, in the incident that started this mess, Lowden was asked how her approach to health care policy would differ from the new national law. She recommended, among other things, that patients “go ahead and barter with your doctor.” Lowden said, at the time, that such an approach “would get prices down in a hurry.” It’s a little late for her spokesperson to argue this was “never a policy proposal,” when it clearly was.

Second, while Lowden can surely find isolated instances of “bartering going on” between medical professionals and patients, that’s not really the point. For the overwhelming majority of Americans who struggle with medical bills, bartering isn’t a realistic option. For families facing tens of thousands of dollars in medical debt, her wistful praise for a time when patients could “bring a chicken to the doctor” sounds genuinely insane.

And third, her remarks weren’t exactly a “casual” reflection on the status quo. Lowden specifically called for “changing the system.” Before defending bartering and talking about how “sympathetic” doctors are, she said, “I’m telling you that this works.”

Lowden is doing the right thing by trying damage-control, but her arguments would be more persuasive if they made more sense.