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WASHINGTON (CAP) - Eager to recapture the edge in its ongoing battle with the administration over health care reform, congressional Republicans have unveiled their own version of the so-called public option that they claim will save money and provide instant relief to millions of uninsured Americans.
"We call it Let Us Help Us, and we think it will revolutionize the way we seek health care in this country," Rep. Billy Long (R-MO), one of the initiative's authors, told reports at a press conference today. "It embraces the essence of the free market system, without the oppressive hand of government regulation. No socialism! And the beauty is: anyone can be a part of it. Anyone can submit an ailment to be bid on."
Let Us Help Us (LUHU) would create a healthcare auction house, where everything from simple dental procedures and mental health counseling to organ transplantation could be submitted and bid on. A person looking to have their gall bladder removed, say, could fill out an online form and have any number of bids to sift through within a matter of minutes.
"It's like eBay for sick folks. This is a real neighbor helping neighbor system we've developed, and it could be a real boon to veterinarians, butchers and other professionals looking to make a few bucks on the side," said Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), another LUHU sponsor.
"People looking to help the sick will be able to search the LUHU site by malady, region, even keyword," noted McCain. "We envision neighbors teaming up with neighbors, my friends, to create co-ops to heal the sick. How much good could a seamstress/wood carver/sausage stuffer co-op achieve? With our system, we'll find out."
Reaction to the Republican public option plan has been mixed, with 23% of those polled suggesting they'd take up arms to see it implemented. A less-vocal majority have expressed some concern over farming their healthcare out to the lowest unskilled bidder.
"I bought a lamp on eBay last year, and that thing sucked," said one woman. "It looked great online, though. Do I really want to trust my hip replacement to a system like that?"
Others see benefits in the open market approach the Republicans have laid out.
"That redhead down the road puts in a call for bids on a boob job, I will hawk my house, no shit," said one concerned citizen who wanted to be know as Big Bob. "Hawk my fucking house."
"I'm hoping they let the illegals in the program. That only seems fair, to let them illegals in," said one man, silently pointing to the rebel flag whipping from a pole in his pickup bed in lieu of a name. "I'd be low bid, man. Ever' time."
The first test for the Republican public option plan will come later this week, when the plan's authors will meet with insurance company CEOs in Hawaii to try and shore up support among Blue Dog and other moderate democrats. With sufficient backing, a final bill to create the Let Us Help Us marketplace could be on the floors of both the House and Senate within a couple months.
- Rich Gray