Sen. Tom Coburn’s plea to gays for help in defeating government-run health insurance is meeting resistance from many in the gay community because of the Oklahoma Republican's track record of opposing gay initiatives.
Coburn criticized the Democrats’ healthcare plan in an op-ed last month in The Advocate.com that also asked gays to back his alternative proposal.
“Right now, there are hundreds of patients with a fatal disease being denied a lifesaving treatment as a result of government-run healthcare rationing,” Coburn said in the article, which he wrote in conjunction with Christopher Barron of GOProud. "This isn’t happening in a third-world country, or Canada, but right here in the United States of America. The disease is HIV/AIDS and the public program is the Ryan White CARE Act.
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"The government will spend $15 billion on AIDS treatment alone this year, yet due to the inefficiencies of the public program, thousands will not receive appropriate care,” they wrote.
It costs $20,000 annually to pay for drugs to keep HIV/AIDS patients alive, and 247 people are on a waiting list to receive the medication in eight states, Coburn and Barron said. That number is expected to increase to 500 by Christmas.
The waiting list has resulted in the deaths of two patients in West Virginia and five in Kentucky, Coburn and Barron wrote. In addition to rationing, they said HIV/AIDS patients enrolled in the program are being denied the best care. Fuzeon, a drug of last resort, has been denied to program participants in Washington, D.C., they said.
The pair blamed bureaucratic inefficiencies for the waiting list and the deaths.
The op-ed concluded by asking the gay community’s help in passing Coburn's Patients Choice Act, which they said would give all Americans the same quality of healthcare as members of Congress, while placing patients in charge of their own healthcare decisions.
The reactions in the gay community to the op-ed have largely fallen along party lines, with the Log Cabin Republicans siding with Coburn and Barron, and the Human Rights Campaign and National Gay and Lesbian Taskforce, which normally side with Democrats, silent.
The gay press, however, has responded by ignoring the substance of Coburn and Barron’s arguments and by attacking the senator personally for his stances on homosexuality.
“The Pelosi healthcare plans are going to make the situation worse for local communities when it comes to funding HIV/AIDS treatment programs,” said Log Cabin Republicans spokesman Charles T. Moran. “The gay and lesbian community should be very worried about Pelosi’s medical takeover plan, strictly because of the way it plans medicine and resources based on what kind of priorities ? whether or not something is curable or incurable or not.
“People living with HIV/AIDS are going to be living with a great deal of problems if the Pelosi healthcare plan does come into effect. . . because they are going to be the first people targeted for a reduction of services.”
Moran took issue with Coburn’s effort to link the inefficiencies found in the administration of the Ryan White CARE Act with potential future problems that could arise from the Democrats’ healthcare plan.
“When we are dealing with programs like these, the fact is you can’t deal in analogies,” he said. “The federal government has a lot of different plans that target specific communities, we’re one of those. . . The Ryan White CARE Act appropriates money to different state and local communities, and it is up to them to implement their own plans that is targeted to the needs of their community.
“You can’t make the connection between" the plans, he said.
The Human Rights Campaign and the National Gay and Lesbian Taskforce did not return numerous phone calls from Newsmax asking for comment.
Killian Milloy, a columnist with EDGE Boston, a local gay newspaper, devoted much of his Oct. 21 column rebutting the Coburn/Barron opinion piece attacking the senator for “the apparent inconsistency between the message’s intended recipients and its bearer” instead of answering the substance of it arguments.
The Milloy column took aim at everything from Coburn’s comment in a Sept. 13, 2004, Salon.com report that the “[gay] agenda is the greatest threat to our freedom we face today” to his reported claim that a school policy of not allowing girls to go to the restroom in groups was “evidence of ‘rampant lesbianism.’”
Similarly, Washington Monthly columnist Steve Benen wrote: “I’m having a hard time getting over the fact that Coburn feels comfortable presenting an argument in The Advocate in the first place. Coburn isn’t just right-wing on social issues; he’s arguably the single most anti-LGBT lawmaker in Congress.
“And now Tom Coburn wants the LGBT community to take his warnings about health care reform seriously, and take his word on what policies will ‘cost lives.’ I don’t understand it, either.”
In the New Republic, columnist Suzy Khimm wrote that Coburn failed to explain how his alternative would make expensive AIDS drugs cheaper and said Coburn’s stance on gay issues makes his pitch to gays “difficult to take seriously.”
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