Here's a fun fact about Republican candidate for Senate in Idaho, Jim Risch. He's either really, really bad at math or a liar.

Jim Risch, Republican: "The focus has been on the 17 percent of the people who do not have insurance. It’s important to note that 83 percent of Americans do have insurance – they’ve either gone and bought it themselves, or they’ve negotiated with their employer for it, or they’ve simply looked for a job where they get health insurance as a benefit." In an interview, Risch insisted that 83 percent of Americans have "private insurance," and the remainder are covered by Medicare, Medicaid or emergency rooms. When a reporter suggested that his figure included those on Medicare and Medicaid, Risch said, "No, you’re wrong. That is private insurance. And that’s surprising, isn’t it?"

I supposed we can't rule out the possibility that he's both really, really bad at math and a liar. Or it could be that 2008 just hasn't caught up with him yet. The reporter working this story actually does the math for him.

However, the U.S. Census reports that just 67.5 percent of Americans were covered by private health insurance in 2007, including the 59.3 percent covered by employer-based insurance. The Census reported that 15.3 percent of Americans – about 45.7 million people – had no health coverage in 2007, which means 84.7 percent had coverage of some type, including Medicare and Medicaid.

Risch said, "The 83 percent have grown up in a free market system that includes free choice by people, and I’m not one that is going to use the excuse that 17 percent are uninsured to throw out the current system for the 83 percent." He added, "I’m not going to go to a single-payer system, period. I am not going to go to a system where the government takes over your health insurance or your health care, I’m not going there. Because I think that people can do better for themselves at almost anything than the federal government can do for them."

Contrast that with Democrat Larry LaRocco, who held a special forum in Boise today with Sen. Ron Wyden, specifically on the subject of the need for health care reform.

Larry LaRocco, Democrat: "I believe that this is the next economic crisis that we’re going to face in our country, because the cost of health care is outstripping inflation. ... So I have a plan and I’ve thought it through, I think it’s a fairly detailed plan, I will fight for it, but I will work with anybody in the Senate, Democrat or Republican, who wants to improve the system and move toward universal health care and build an American-based system that’s affordable in quality. ... The prescriptions for my plan are to eliminate pre-existing conditions ... to have portability of our health care plan so you can take it from job to job, to focus on prevention. ... Also so that you as an individual, if you’re out of work, you can deduct your premiums from your taxes. And it also focuses on medical records, and it focuses in here on the underserved areas of Idaho that need doctors and they need nurses. This is the way that we’re going to tackle this." LaRocco’s detailed plan is posted on his Web site.

Risch has a Web site, surprisingly. Here's his health care plan.

Yeah, it's a little, um, thin. He does, however, talk about the importance of "healthy marriages and strong families in Idaho."

LaRocco recognizes the scope of the problem, and actually brought Sen. Ron Wyden to Boise today for a 90 minute forum with leaders in the state's business and health care communities, along with state and local government representatives. It was one of the most substantive discussions I've seen this election season, and it was proof that while Jim Risch might still be living in the 1970s, the people that have to try to provide health care to Idaho's citizens are dealing with all the ugly realities of 2008, including an awful lot of uninsured people.

There's no question who would serve Idaho better, and who would be a better ally for Barack Obama and a Democratic majority in Congress in trying to achieve significant health care reform. That would be the guy who recognizes not only that we've got a serious problem, but the scope of it.

Update: LaRocco will be appearing on MSNBC in the next half hour, between 11:30 and 12:00 eastern.

On the Web:
LaRocco for Senate

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Fri Oct 31, 2008 at 08:10 AM PDT.

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