The Corner

A Mistaken Recrimination

Reihan Salam writes, “Had congressional Republicans taken pragmatic steps on health reform between 1994 and 2008, PPACA wouldn’t have happened. President Bush’s reform of the tax exclusion for employer-provided health insurance alone would have made a significant difference, as would his plan for giving the states greater control over Medicaid. If you believe that the 111th Congress made many bad calls, Republicans in previous years deserve much of the blame.”

I don’t agree. I wrote on the subject (sub. req’d.) right after PPACA–the Democrats’ health-care law–was enacted.

[T]he actual Republican record on health care belies the do-nothing label. A Republican Congress passed a health-insurance-portability law in 1996 and created the children’s-health-insurance entitlement in 1997. In 2003, a Republican Congress and a Republican president created tax-sheltered Health Savings Accounts, a prescription-drug benefit for senior citizens, and a market-friendly component of Medicare.

Not all of these policies were wise, so Klein’s criticism has more force: “While they were in power, Republicans squandered an opportunity to push free market health-care solutions.” But how much opportunity was there, really? Republicans were unable to overcome Democratic filibusters of their proposals to reform medical-malpractice laws and to allow small businesses to band together across state lines to buy insurance. There is no reason to think that bold, free-market reform would have fared better. Republicans should still have tried. It might have helped educate the public about the issue and thus prepared the ground for the Obamacare debate. But Republicans never had enough senators to reform health insurance.

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.

Most Popular

Elections

The Democrats Made Two Joe Biden Miscalculations

I think it's safe to say that there are many, many progressive Democrats who are more than a little surprised -- and a lot chagrined -- at Joe Biden's polling dominance. Look at FiveThirtyEight's polling roundup. Aside from a few high and low outliers, he leads the race by a solid 20 points (at least). Even ... Read More
National Security & Defense

The Warmonger Canard

Whatever the opposite of a rush to war is — a crawl to peace, maybe — America is in the middle of one. Since May 5, when John Bolton announced the accelerated deployment of the Abraham Lincoln carrier group to the Persian Gulf in response to intelligence of a possible Iranian attack, the press has been aflame ... Read More