Healthcare

House Republican leaders prepare an official ObamaCare alternative

House Republican leaders prepare an official ObamaCare alternative

The Washington Post heralds the arrival of the new Republican plan for a post ObamaCare-world:

House Republican leaders are adopting an agreed-upon conservative approach to fixing the nation’s health-care system, in part to draw an election-year contrast with President Obama’s Affordable Care Act.

The plan includes an expansion of high-risk insurance pools, promotion of health savings accounts and inducements for small businesses to purchase coverage together.

The tenets of the plan — which could expand to include the ability to buy insurance across state lines, guaranteed renewability of policies and changes to medical-malpractice regulations — are ideas that various conservatives have for a long time backed as part of broader bills.

But this is the first time this year that House leaders will put their full force behind a single set of principles from those bills and present it as their vision. This month, House leaders will begin to share a memo with lawmakers outlining the plan, called “A Stronger Health Care System: The GOP Plan for Freedom, Flexibility, & Peace of Mind,” with suggestions on how Republicans should talk about it to their constituents.

“We’ve got to get to where you can compare the two perspectives, Republican and Democrat,” House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said in an interview. “We’ve got all of these bills out there, so we’re going to take this core of policies and grow from there.”

The key phrase here is “the first time this year.”  Republicans have put forth several other alternatives over the past four years, including a few other working-group products that were meant to be the party’s “official alternative” to ObamaCare.  But the media let Democrats get away with pretending none of these plans existed.  One of President Obama’s most frequently repeated, and categorically false, talking points is that nobody has any alternative suggestions to his disastrous Affordable Care Act.  In the very same Washington Post article that describes the 2014 Republican alternative, Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) is quoted pretending the new plan doesn’t exist.

So Republican leaders are basically surfing on the media tide by treating this as the grand unveiling of a brand-new package, even though most of the (quite excellent) ideas they’re teasing have been part of earlier proposals Democrats were able to wish away into the cornfield.  This might prove to be an effective bit of political and media judo, because 2014 feels like a brand-new shuffle and cut of the electoral cards, and voters will see the official Republican plan as an entirely fresh and new replacement for the widely hated ACA.  (The Post tries to buck up lil’ campers on the Democrat reservation by citing an ostensibly reassuring poll that has “support for the Affordable Care Act ticking up slightly”… to 39 percent, with 57 percent disapproval.)

The new Republican plan will debut amid much buzz about President Obama’s falling approval ratings, public disgust with the endless and nakedly political revisions to the ACA, and the meaning of the special election in Florida’s District 13.  The underdog Republican victory in that race might have persuaded the leadership it’s time to bring out a plan they can run with, in unison, during the midterm elections.  Until now, it has been thought that exposing a GOP alternative to Democrat attacks could be a tactical mistake, giving Dems a chance to change the subject away from the ongoing ObamaCare disaster.  Some conservative strategists evidently still feel that way, but others think it will be difficult to fully capitalize on the public revolt against ObamaCare without a solid alternative on the table.

If the House package draws wide acclaim once its details are unveiled, the next step will be to get Senate Republicans on board.  If the party’s efforts are split between too many conflicting alternatives, their signals will all be lost in media static – they should have learned that by now.  On the other hand, every headline-grabbing ObamaCare horror story gives them another chance to say, “Under our plan, these things won’t happen,” coupled with frequent reminders of all those broken ObamaCare promises and absurdly inaccurate predictions.

Barack Obama is illegally waiving huge chunks of the Affordable Care Act just to keep his party alive during the 2014 election.  That’s a terrific setup for the GOP to come together behind a superior alternative proposal… a law so good the government might actually obey it.

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