Grace-Marie Turner, the president of the Galen Institute, a conservative health-care think tank, says she has been pushing GOP officials to present solutions, but not in a single, comprehensive bill that would quickly create political problems of its own.
“I actually worry conservatives play into hands of liberals if they try to get behind one bill,” she says.
As Turner sees it, a single bill to deal with the many problems of the health-care market would need to be long — reminiscent of Obamacare’s 2,000-plus pages — cumbersome, and a good way to open Republicans to new political attacks.
Instead, she wants the GOP to rebuild trust with the public by selling the principles of conservative reform, which she outlines as choice, security, portability, and accessibility.
Any conservative reform bill, she says, has to recognize that the current health-care marketplace, even before Obamacare, doesn’t resemble the market for a normal consumer good at all, because of overwhelming government regulations and other factors. Another key issue: How to provide security for individuals with preexisting conditions, whom Obamacare now protects — high-risk pools are the traditional GOP solution to the problem.
Legislation to tackle these problems would necessarily force tough choices: One of the biggest distortions conservatives have to remove from the marketplace, experts say, is the tax exemption for employer-provided health insurance, which could make the bill an easy target for the Left.
On its face, the idea that opponents of current law or a proposed bill should have their own solution seems reasonable, but in D.C.’s trench warfare, it’s not unusual for strategic politicians to avoid giving their opponents the avenue for an attack.
At a 2012 event to celebrate her 25th year in Congress, for example, Democratic minority leader Nancy Pelosi explained that the key to defeating conservative proposals to reform Social Security was for Democrats not to embrace their own reform plan (despite the program’s disastrous finances).
Republicans are heading to a closed-door retreat at the end of the month, where Mulvaney hopes the issue will be discussed. But no matter how Obamacare goes, the GOP may not unify on an approach to health care anytime before at least 2017 — the first time they could have a chance to actually implement their ideas.
— Jonathan Strong is a political reporter for National Review Online.