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Healthcare: Now What?


It’s been a bad week for Democrats. Republican Scott Brown won the special election for the Senate seat formerly held by Sen. Ted Kennedy, leading to predictions that the House and Senate will not be able to cram through their strictly partisan health care reform bill. To add to the nervousness already felt by the Dems, the Supreme Court struck down components of campaign finance reform that favors incumbents and Democrats specifically.

But the GOP shouldn’t sit back and gloat. There is a unique opportunity to actually work with the Democratic leadership and get some things done that remain popular with the American people. And failure to act on them may expose the GOP to the same anti-incumbent mood that swept them from the majority in 2006. USA Today reports:

A 55% majority of Americans say President Obama and congressional Democrats should suspend work on the health care bill that has been on the verge of passage and consider alternatives that would draw more Republican support, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds.

. . .

An overwhelming 72% of those surveyed Wednesday say Brown’s victory “reflects frustrations shared by many Americans, and the president and members of Congress should pay attention to it.” Just 18% say it “reflects political conditions in Massachusetts and doesn’t have a larger meaning for national politics.”

What kind of reforms should the GOP put forward? There are a number of blocked proposals the Dem leadership should now allow on the floor for debate. From the website:

For more information about some of the other common-sense health care reforms proposed by Republicans, please visit the links below:

The Heritage Foundation, a leading conservative think tank, explains these bills further, and points to several “guiding principles” that Republicans can support in other proposals:

Tax Equity: Today, if an individual purchases health insurance through their employer, they receive unlimited tax breaks on the value of their insurance. But if you purchase your insurance on your own, you receive no such benefit. This is inequitable and regressive. Ideally, Congress could replace the current tax exclusion with a system of universal tax credits. But at the very least, Congress should provide tax relief for those who purchase coverage on their own, and redirect other health care spending to help low-income individuals and families purchase private health insurance coverage.

State-Based Reform: Every state is different when it comes to health care challenges. Some states face high rates of uninsured citizens while others face spiraling costs. Instead of a federal one-size-fits-all approach, Congress should embrace federal-state partnerships that preserve diversity in the states. The states could devise their own way to achieve reform, like a mechanism for portability (i.e. take your insurance from job to job). Individuals should also have the freedom to purchase insurance from any trusted source and not be restricted by where they live (i.e. buying insurance across state lines).

Entitlement Reform: Not only are Medicare and Medicaid increasingly costly, they’re not delivering value to American taxpayers. If health providers could compete directly for the business of seniors and the poor, the cost-curve would truly be bent and private innovation would flourish. Right now, the tsunami of entitlement spending is on an automatic course for disaster, with locked-in spending, and more to come. Long-term costs of entitlement programs must be built into the annual budget process so Congress can no longer ignore the crisis that is continually pushed off on future generations. Americans can no longer blindly pay into an entitlements system that offers little incentives to providers to offer better value to the consumer and the funding taxpayer.

There is a difference between saying “no” to a bad plan, and just saying “no”. The task for the GOP will be to come up with common sense alternatives that people can support.

Cross posted to