The Heritage Foundation has been clear and forthright in denouncing the health care co-op idea floated by liberals in Washington. As we have said on numerous occasions, their proposal is simply a cartel that would stifle competition, not foster it. It is clear to most reasoned observers that liberals plan to use the concept of co-ops as a backdoor for the introduction of government-run health care, which has already been rejected by the American people via the “public option.”

Since we have written extensively on the concept of free market co-ops, there are people across the political spectrum who will selectively quote our research and writings to misrepresent our position. Erik Erickson, unfortunately, does so today, misstating our writings. It’s ironic, because we are on the same side on this issue.

Erickson is right to be wary of liberals trying to hide behind the language of choice and competition to sell their version of co-ops as anything other than government-run health care. We should know, since we have been warning about this hoax since Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kent Conrad first introduced the idea. Erickson’s line that “the co-op proposal right now will not foster competition, it will just insert the government referee into the health insurance business” could have come straight out of our own writing. Indeed, in a post on our blog The Foundry as early as August 6, The Heritage Foundation wrote:

Why is the left fastening to co-ops now? Because their public plan idea—a way for the government to take over health care—has run into a buzz saw of opposition among the American people. Liberals have concluded, it seems, that there’s more than one way to skin a cat. So if the public plan was a Trojan horse for single-payer (which means a complete government takeover of your health care decisions), a co-op (the way liberals mean it) is a Trojan horse for a public plan.

This is as clear as it gets, or so we thought.

Now, should we allow liberals to hijack the word “co-op,” to abuse it and misrepresent it? No, for the same reason that free-market champions rightly take big-government option proponents to task for using capitalist language to promote their hostile take over of America’s private health care system. We simply cannot let liberals copy what Humpty Dumpty said to Alice, “When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.”

Words must have true meaning. So let’s call a “spade” a “spade,” or in this case, a “cartel” a “cartel.” And let’s stop telling each other to “shut up.” It’s unseemly when the President says it, and even more unseemly coming from those on the right. And let’s stop picking fights where there is no quarrel.

What liberals in Congress are trying to do is confuse the American people by usurping a concept that the private sector has used in many states for many decades. The Heritage Foundation is a conservative think tank that prides itself in offering better policy solutions from a free-market perspective. It is our responsibility to assess legislative proposals in Washington, research them and offer our members the best analysis available in America. We will continue to honor this tradition as the health care debate continues this fall. We hope that all interested stakeholders continue coming to us for reasoned, reliable and informative facts surrounding health care in America.