The Corner

Politics & Policy

Jindal vs. Walker on Health Care

Changing the way we subsidize health insurance so that almost everyone can get catastrophic insurance is a good idea, and I think it has to be part of any politically viable Obamacare replacement plan. Scott Walker’s new plan draws on many other conservative replacement plans that agree on that point and use a tax credit to achieve it. But agreement among conservatives is not universal. Bobby Jindal believes that it is a surrender to liberalism to seek to replace Obamacare with a plan that attempts to cover roughly as many people. (We’ve debated this question before: see here and here, for example.)

Today Jindal unloaded on Walker’s plan in a press release.

In Governor Walker’s plan, a new entitlement is created for every single American human being from the time they are born right up until they grow old and become eligible for Medicare. It is frankly shocking that a Republican candidate for President would author a cradle to grave plan like this.

Governor Walker has taken the bait laid out for him by the President, and has accepted the notion that we need a new federal government entitlement program, and now he is merely quibbling over the details. So here we are again, not standing on free market principles, but rather, establishing ourselves as “cheaper Democrats.” . . .

Surely we as Republicans have more courage than this.  Surely we can do better than simply producing our own versions of Obamacare lite. . . .

When did conservatism die?  When did we accept the idea of dependence on government?  Governor Walker is confused here.

Jindal also hit Walker’s plan during a campaign stop, and challenged him to a health-care debate. What Jindal hasn’t mentioned in any of these criticisms is that for several years he was himself an advocate of tax credits, the policy he now characterizes as an “entitlement,” Obamacare lite, and so on.

In 2008, Jindal lauded Republican presidential nominee John McCain’s health-care plan on Meet the Press: “He’s proposed refundable tax credits so American families can afford their own health care without having a bureaucrat tell them how they should get health care.” In March 2009, he told Fox News, “We believe in refundable tax credits, health care savings accounts, electronic portable health care records, group purchasing pools, reforms of the system so we can afford private coverage, not a one-size-fits-all government-run system.”

In October 2009—well into the debate over Obamacare–he wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post touting, among other things, “refundable tax credits.” In November 2010, months after Obamacare passed, he was quoted commending the idea: “Jindal said he’s in favor of repealing the law and replacing it with better legislation. ‘Nobody was happy with the way health care was before,’ he said. ‘We need refundable tax credits to help people, so they’re not faced with either government-run Medicaid or emergency rooms or being uninsured.’” He was still promoting refundable tax credits in June 2013, according to a story in the Advocate, a Louisiana newspaper.

Jindal is certainly within his rights to have changed his mind, and to criticize Walker for supporting something he used to support. Given his history, though, he might want to knock off the rhetoric about how “frankly shocking” and conservatism-killing it is for a Republican to propose this idea.

(disclosure)

Update: Jindal press secretary Shannon Dirmann emails: “There are many instances when a narrow tax credit could make sense — but Governor Walker’s plan is not that. This is a new entitlement program for every American, and the plan doesn’t state how much it costs or how he will pay for it. That’s the Washington way. The Governor is happy to have this discussion in person with Governor Walker. He would debate him on health care any time.”

The McCain tax credits Jindal praised would have covered far more people than the ones in Walker’s plan, which are limited to people who do not have employer coverage.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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