Republicans still have a long way to go to take control of the Senate, but as the Hill reports (and John Fund notes below), if they achieve their goal, four things will “top their list” of to-do items in the first 100 days: “Authorizing the Keystone XL oil pipeline, approving ‘fast-track’ trade authority, wiping out proposed environmental regulations and repealing the medical device tax.” For those scoring at home, that’s three things that have nothing to do with Obamacare and one that would help improve Obamacare on the margins and therefore make President Obama’s centerpiece legislation just a little bit less likely to be repealed.
No mention is made of the most important thing for a GOP Congress to do — advance a winning alternative to Obamacare. Nor is there any mention of the most important Obamacare vote for Republicans to take as soon as possible — a vote to stop the bailout of insurance companies.
With Democrats firmly committed to a big-government liberalism that consolidates money and power in Washington at the expense of everyday Americans in the tributaries, Republicans can win elections (and not just midterm elections) if they’ll simply make clear that they’re the party of Main Street, U.S.A. But it’s hard to make that case when your agenda suggests you’re still the party of corporate America.
Well-funded corporate lobbyists want Obamacare’s medical device tax to be repealed, while the similarly well-funded insurance lobby doesn’t want Obamacare’s insurer bailout to be stopped. Repealing the medical-device tax, however, doesn’t undermine the structure of Obamacare in any way. Its repeal would simply help more Republicans make peace with the overhaul of American medicine. Stopping the insurer bailout, on the other hand, would not only save taxpayers about $1 billion annually but would put pressure on Obama’s insurance-company allies to price their Obamacare exchange policies honestly, rather than lowballing prices in anticipation of being bailed out by taxpayers. Thus, stopping the bailout would hurt Obamacare’s enrollment and improve the prospects for repeal. As Jim Capretta writes, Obamacare’s insurer bailout “is one of the most important features of the entire law,” and congressional Republicans should make stopping it “among their highest legislative priorities.”
Meanwhile, corporate lobbyists aren’t too interested in having Republicans advance an alternative to Obamacare — and, from the sound of things, Republicans aren’t too interested in that notion either. But not only is it essential that a potential GOP-controlled Congress pass an alternative to Obamacare through the House and do its best to pass it through the Senate; it’s quite possible to advance a conservative alternative that would beat Obamacare in essentially every way.
Scoring released this week by the nonpartisan and politically neutral Center for Health and Economy finds that the 2017 Project’s Alternative to Obamacare would save $1.13 trillion in federal spending from 2014 through 2023, increase the number of people with private health insurance by 6 million, reduce premiums, and increase access to doctors in both the individual and employer-based markets. About the only category in which Obamacare would “beat” the 2017 Project’s Alternative is in the area of dumping more people into Medicaid.
As this nonpartisan scoring suggests, it’s quite possible to beat Obamacare on costs, choice, access, quality, and liberty. Since the American people have opposed Obamacare in all 143 polls listed by RealClearPolitics during Obama’s second term, it seems a sure bet they’d welcome a chance to see an alternative.
The stakes are high over the next few years. In that light, can the Grand Old Party really not think of a better way to spend its first 100 days in office — should it be fortunate enough to be granted more power by the American people — than to advance a list of items that collectively do nothing to move toward repealing and replacing Obamacare?
— Jeffrey H. Anderson is executive director of the 2017 Project, which is working to advance a conservative reform agenda.