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The GOP still doesn't have a real alternative to ObamaCare
The second half of the party's "repeal and replace" strategy is a little too modest
Rep. Scalise says the GOP's plan is "180 degrees" different from ObamaCare.
Rep. Scalise says the GOP's plan is "180 degrees" different from ObamaCare. (Getty Images/Will McNamee)
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ast week, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney questioned the GOP's plan to defund ObamaCare as Congress hurtles toward yet another showdown over the budget.

"The Republican alternative is repeal and replace — with what?" he asked. "They have no alternative put forward by House Republicans."

On Wednesday, Republicans answered back with the American Health Care Reform Act, a 200-page plan that Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) says is "180 degrees different" from ObamaCare.

Tea Party Republicans have refused to approve any budget deal that includes funding for ObamaCare — a stance that would almost certainly lead to a government shutdown in the House's upcoming budget battle with President Obama and the Democratic-controlled Senate. The House Republican leadership, including House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), reportedly wants to take a more moderate stance, though Boehner has caved in to the Tea Party's demands to hold a vote on a budget that would defund the health care law.

Now Republicans ostensibly have a concrete plan they can rally around. So what's in it? The proposal, endorsed by the Republican Study Committee, includes:

  • The complete repeal of ObamaCare.
  • A tax deduction of $7,500 for individuals and $20,000 for families who purchase approved health insurance plans in their state.
  • Increased maximum allowable contributions to health savings accounts (HSAs).
  • The creation of a 10-year, $25 billion federal fund to help state high-risk pools deal with uninsured patients.
  • The ability for people to purchase health insurance across state lines.

These ideas, notes The Hill's Russell Berman, "represent a collection of proposals that Republican presidents and candidates have repeatedly offered over the years."

Certain popular ObamaCare provisions, like a prohibition on denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions, would be gone under the GOP plan. Instead, Scalise says, the strengthened state pools would let people go out and buy insurance "at market rates."

Health insurance companies would also not be required to cover young adults under their parents' plan up to the age of 26.

While the proposal doesn't come with a cost estimate, House Republicans claim it's a budget-neutral bill that will pay for itself through reform of medical liability laws and "an expected drop in medical prices," reports The Daily Caller.

But it doesn't even come close to insuring all Americans. Greg Sargent at The Washington Post writes that the GOP plan "would improve matters in some limited ways," but ultimately it "just isn’t an alternative to ObamaCare. That is, if by 'alternative,' we mean, 'something that intends to accomplish roughly the same goal as the thing it would replace.'"

The editorial board at Bloomberg View agrees, arguing that Republicans should just openly "oppose the goal of publicly funded universal health care." Instead, the GOP is trying to "fool Americans with semantic games":

Republicans like to talk about the importance of making hard choices. The hardest choice of all may be making their position more explicit: That universal health care is not a worthy goal for government. Today’s proposal shows they have yet to find the courage of their convictions. [Bloomberg]

Keith Wagstaff is a staff writer at TheWeek.com covering politics and current events. He has previously written for such publications as TIME, Details, VICE, and the Village Voice.

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