A credible alternative to ObamaCare

The most controversial provisions of ObamaCare have yet to take effect, and already the public debate over ObamaCare has grown stale. The Republican attack on ObamaCare has centered on the unconstitutional nature of its federal insurance mandate. Should the U.S. Supreme Court settle the constitutional question this term, it will leave Republicans with only a vague, principled stand against the dangers of socialized medicine.

With annual healthcare costs rapidly outpacing flat wage growth, a philosophical appeal is unlikely to persuade the millions of Americans that are struggling to pay their rising health insurance premiums. Shouldn’t they take a risk and have hope for the change? Americans might not approve of ObamaCare, as Democrats routinely argue, but what’s the alternative?

Sally Pipes, the president and chief executive officer of the Pacific Research Institute, provides an answer. It’s called “The Pipes Plan,” and it will reframe how Americans think about health care during the 2012 election.

A follow-up to her successful 2010 book, “The Truth about ObamaCare,” Pipes offers a fresh and devastating policy critique of President Obama’s health care plan.  “The Pipes Plan: The Top Ten Ways to Dismantle ObamaCare” fills the rhetorical vacuum inevitably created by the Supreme Court’s decision and gives conservatives a credible alternative to ObamaCare.

Conservatives have become obsessed with the constitutional implications of ObamaCare. After all, if Congress has the power to compel Americans to purchase health insurance, there is no limit to congressional authority under the Commerce Clause. Without minimizing the future threat of unfettered congressional power, ObamaCare’s greatest problem is that it leaves Americans in poorer health today.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, as many as 35 million Americans with employer-sponsored insurance could lose their coverage because of the new mandate. Insurance premiums for younger, non-smoking Americans will increase substantially, while ObamaCare’s hidden taxes discourage investment in pharmaceutical drug research and innovations in new health technologies.

Most members of Congress didn’t bother to read the 2,000+ pages of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Pipes has done the hard work for them, even counting the number of times the words “must” and “require” appear in the legislation (811 for require; 580 for must). Expect Republican candidates for House, U.S. Senate and the White House to read Pipes’ succinct analysis and adopt her proposals for market-based health care.

Among Pipes’ alternatives: fewer mandates that drive up the cost of insurance, greater opportunities to shop for insurance across state lines and a combination of high-deductible plans paired with health savings accounts. Pipes also makes a compelling case that Americans must confront the harsh realities of decoupling our health insurance from employment. Under the current system, the true cost of health care is hidden by tax incentives provided to businesses. Workers have an incentive to consume unnecessary fringe benefits, which increases all health care costs.

To achieve the much-needed task of decoupling employment and health care, Pipes suggests expanding the tax savings for health coverage to individuals, and then eliminating the benefit altogether. The proposal is well-founded, but politically implausible. It’s a pipe dream to imagine Congress making such a drastic reform to the tax code. When was the last time, Congress temporarily expanded a benefit as a strategy to end an even larger subsidy?

However, Pipes’ work overall has the power to unite the political spectrum against ObamaCare. Even the Occupy Wall Street movement can find something to hate about ObamaCare. Special interest groups, both big business and big labor, have received special exemptions from ObamaCare’s new federal mandates. Pipes explains, “Officials have granted waivers to nearly 1,800 organizations covering 3.4 million workers, over half of whom are union members.” Small businesses that make up the 99% shouldn’t bother to rush out for their exemption. The Department of Health and Human Services closed the waiver period last June.

In the book’s forward, the distinguished free-market economist Arthur Laffer wrote, “The Pipes Plan sounds the alarm—and provides us with the intellectual firepower to make a difference.” He’s right. In the same way that Thomas Paine’s pamphlet Common Sense influenced colonial opinion of the American Revolution, the Pipes Plan will inform the public debate about ObamaCare.

To read a free chapter from “The Pipes Plan,” click here.