Obamacare: Does the GOP have a better alternative?

Though the White House botched the rollout of the ACA, Americans have no desire to return to the status quo.

Finally, said Robert Reich in HuffingtonPost.com, the Republican Party has a health-care plan of its own. In a 17-page strategy document obtained last week by The New York Times,House Republican leaders are urging their members to take every opportunity to call Obamacare “a disaster,” and find constituents who’ll tell horror stories of canceled policies and soaring premiums. The goal is to frighten away the uninsured, and then hopefully reap a huge electoral reward in the 2014 midterms. That plan, however, lacks one key component: an actual alternative to the Affordable Care Act. Though the White House botched the rollout of the ACA, Americans have absolutely no desire to return to the current “travesty of a health-care system.” A new report last week from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development paints a bleak picture of that status quo, said Sarah Kliff in WashingtonPost.com. The U.S. currently spends 17.7 percent of its GDP on health care, while no other nation tops 12 percent. Our system spends a fortune on high-tech tests, but little on preventive care. As a result, the U.S. has the largest percentage of citizens who never see a doctor, and now ranks 26th in life expectancy, “right behind Slovenia.”

Actually, there is a Republican alternative to Obamacare, said Yuval Levin and Ramesh Ponnuru in The Wall Street Journal.We need one, so that if Obamacare collapses, whatever comes next isn’t a further lurch toward a socialized, “single payer” system. The broad outline of a conservative plan, moreover, has been kicking around for decades. At its center is a universal tax credit to help every American buy health insurance. The tax credit would be the same amount for the uninsured as for those in employer-provided plans, to force employers to cut back on lavish coverage that drives up health-care costs. It would enable people without coverage to get, without any real cost to them, catastrophic insurance providing coverage for major illnesses or injuries. Such a market-driven system would give every American incentive to buy basic health insurance, “without the coercion of the individual mandate,” and end up covering far more of those currently uninsured than even Obamacare, at much lower cost.

That proposal is a “serious start,” said Andrew Sullivan in Dish.AndrewSullivan.com, but the devil’s in the details. Helping the uninsured buy catastrophic insurance would still leave tens of millions of people paying out of their pockets to see doctors—-meaning that most would still not get preventive care. Yes, people could choose to spend more of their own money for additional coverage or doctor visits. But when money is tight, people don’t make rational choices about, say, spending $200 to get a cancer screening. Health care “is one market where experts really do know better.” That’s why Obamacare mandates certain levels of coverage.

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Here’s another interesting fact about the Republican alternative, said Ezra Klein in WashingtonPost.com.It would be even more disruptive to the status quo than Obamacare. By penalizing employers for offering comprehensive coverage and pushing everyone toward low-cost plans with high deductibles, conservatives would ask most Americans to pay far more for their medical care. The Republican alternative to Obamacare, in other words, is just a different kind of sweeping reform. That makes their campaign to whip up a “political backlash” against any change in current benefits the height of intellectual dishonesty. No wonder most Republicans are sticking with the slogan of “repeal-and-mumblemumble.”

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