Showdown at Blair House
Republicans should show the president where we should be going and what's wrong with what the White House has proposed.


Now that the White House has put a health-care plan on the table, Barack Obama says he wants the Republicans to do the same in Thursday’s meeting with congressional leaders. Instead, Republicans should show the president where we should be going and what’s wrong with what the White House has proposed.

It is disingenuous for Democrats to claim that they don’t know what’s in the Republican health-reform playbook. House Republicans filed more than 60 health-reform bills last year. Reps. Paul Ryan, Tom Price, and John Boehner filed comprehensive reform bills. A new list of proposals that Republicans support is published nearly every day. On health care, the president’s problem with Republicans is not that Republicans have failed to offer policies. His problem is that he doesn’t like Republicans’ policies.

The president’s proposal and the Democrats’ rhetoric are full of words like “choice” and “competition,” but they really mean command and control. Their approach creates overlapping layers of new laws and regulations intended to anticipate everything that could go wrong and prevent it. Every problem — the uninsured, rising insurance premiums, ineffective and expensive care — is supposedly addressed. Every solution further centralizes power and decision-making in Washington, and none of it comes cheap.

Worse yet, it won’t succeed. The problem for social planners is that Americans do not always embrace their leaders’ vision of social responsibility, particularly when that vision is at odds with their self-interest. Onerous provisions will be ignored, worked around, or even repealed if public opposition is strong enough.

What will work — in fact, what cannot be avoided — is a reform that levels with the American people about what is possible and what is necessary. The hard truth is that there is no magic bullet that will solve every problem once and for all. Health reform is a process, not a single act of Congress. To set that process into motion, we must first give individuals — not government — more control over health-care decisions.

We need better information about prices, insurance plans, and treatment alternatives. And we need to bear in mind that because health decisions are complicated, most people rely on expert agents — their family doctors, or their employers — to do much of the heavy lifting. These agents need better information and stronger incentives to provide options and advice that are truly in the best interest of the consumer.