In fact, some people wonder whether picking a contentious choice like Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court doesn’t have more to do with distracting Republicans during the summer, when Barack Obama intends to push hard for his overhaul of the nation’s health-care system.  James Pethokoukis thinks that the Right may have given that up already:

Just take a look at the 248-page Patients Choice Act, a comprehensive GOP healthcare reform plan drafted by Senators Tom Coburn and Richard Burr, and Representatives Paul Ryan and Devin Nunes.

A big feature of the plan calls for redirecting the $300 billion-a-year tax exclusion for employer-based health benefits into refundable tax credits to purchase private plans.

Low-income families would be subsidized so they could also buy private health insurance. The theory here is that people act more like cost-conscious consumers when they have to select and purchase their own health insurance rather than pay premiums indirectly through their employers via lower wages.

While the bill doesn’t stand a chance of passage with the Obamacrats in charge, it does reflect a recognition by congressional Republicans that if they are to derail or significantly modify Democratic healthcare efforts, they need a positive and serious policy rejoinder of their own. …

But is the bill really a choice rather than an echo? The indisputable conservative credentials of Coburn, Burr, Ryan and Nunes have not prevented some free marketeers from scowling and some liberal policy wonks from cackling after taking a look at the legislation.

Michael Tanner, a healthcare expert at the libertarian Cato Institute immediately tagged the plan “Obamacare Lite” and claimed it would “increase regulation, mandates and government control over the healthcare system.”

We’ll talk more with James on today’s TEMS episode about the health-care debate.  The Wall Street Journal reports that even if Republicans seem to be edging towards Democrats in Congress, the conservative activists plan to fight hard on this ground:

Conservative groups are stepping up the battle against Democrats’ proposed health-system overhaul with advertising campaigns contending that the changes could result in long waits for surgery and difficulty obtaining prescription drugs.

Americans for Prosperity Foundation, a conservative advocacy organization, on Wednesday plans to launch a $1.7 million television-advertising campaign that negatively likens the U.S. health-care system envisioned by lawmakers to Canada’s publicly administered system.

Another group, Conservatives for Patients’ Rights, which opposes a government-run health system, plans to begin airing 30-minute segments on Sunday featuring unpaid commentary by patients and doctors from Canada and the United Kingdom detailing what they describe as failings in their health-care systems. The U.K. system is run by the government.

The conservative groups’ campaigns seek to liken the Democrats’ proposed system to those in countries where the government has more involvement in the health system. Many experts don’t believe such systems offer worse care than the current U.S. system, which is based largely on private plans and coverage.

APF has a new ad out today, with Canadian brain-tumor survivor Shona Holmes describing how the American health-care system saved her life — after the Canadian system did its best to kill her through delays:

“We certainly need health care reform, but we need reform that will protect the rights of patients, not trample all over them,” said Tim Phillips, president of Americans for Prosperity Foundation. “Instead of pushing policies that will replace private health care with a Washington-run, nationalized health care system, we should promote reforms that will ensure patients have the freedom to make decisions about their doctors and treatments. We need more options, not fewer options, to help everyone struggling with health costs.”

The Shona ad (view here) will be running in eight states (IN, AR, MT, NE, VA, LA, AK, and SD) for one week.  The ad and the grassroots events are all part of the first phase of a multi-million dollar initiative to educate the public about the risks of government-run health care and the prospects for more sensible policies that protects the rights of patients and expands choices of both treatments and doctors. Americans for Prosperity Foundation has spent more than $2 million on the initiative thus far.

The ad and the events also encourage Americans to go to www.PatientsUnitedNow.com to stand with other patients, united to put their voices first in any discussion of health care reform.

We don’t need the kind of reform that puts government more in charge of our health care than it already is, whether those plans come from Republicans or Democrats.  The experience of Medicare and the VA should disabuse anyone that an American single-payer system would work better than the one in Canada or in “England,” as Barack Obama referred to it last March.