President Obama hopes that the upcoming health-care summit will resuscitate his proposed health-care legislation, which was read its last rites on January 19 in Massachusetts and has now been declared brain-dead by Americans from coast to coast. The event has a make-it-up-as-you-go quality (I know! — we could hold a “health summit”!). Nevertheless, this is not the time for Republicans to be overconfident. Rather, it’s a great opportunity for them to help crystallize what Americans so dislike about the Democrats’ attempted overhaul, while simultaneously offering ideas for real reform.
Of late, Democrats have been asserting that many Republican ideas are contained in their (Senate) bill. If they make this claim at the summit, GOP members could reply that, at 2,700 pages, it’s clear that a lot of things are contained in the bill. But they could follow this up by noting that, even at that colossal length, the bill somehow couldn’t find space to stop runaway malpractice lawsuits, to allow Americans to shop for insurance across state lines, to remove federal regulations that handcuff private companies from offering lower premiums for healthier lifestyles, or to end the unfair tax on the uninsured — giving them a tax-break similar to that which is already available to those with employer-based insurance.
The one-page small-bill proposal includes all four of these sensible reforms. Matthew Continetti has argued that the GOP should designate a point-man for the summit debate, such as Rep. Paul Ryan (if Obama doesn’t consider him to be too much of a rival to invite him), and should show Obama the small bill. Ryan could hand the one-pager to Obama while also offering to detail his more comprehensive proposal, which is very similar in spirit but more ambitious in scope. As Continetti writes, “Television audiences would see Paul Ryan touting a one-page approach to market-based health care, while Obama defends a thousand-plus-page monstrosity the public disapproves of.”
The New York Times’s Ross Douthat has also written favorably about the prospect of the GOP presenting the small bill at the summit.
While the Democratic bill wouldn’t bring about the reforms in the small bill, there is plenty that it would bring about. It would require Americans to buy health insurers’ product under penalty of law, while funneling massive sums of money from American taxpayers, through the federal government, to private insurers ($1.0 trillion in the bill’s real first dozen years — 2014 to 2025 — according to Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projections). In its real first decade (2014 to 2023), it would launch $2.5 trillion in new federal spending, cut Medicare Advantage benefits by an average of $21,000 per enrollee (but not in South Florida), and (unless doctors’ payments under Medicare were to be cut by 21 percent and never raised back up) it would increase deficit-spending by more than $200 billion — even under the CBO’s rosy projections.
And what would Americans get for all of this? Even higher health costs.
When the federal government isn’t preventing them from doing so, the American people know how to shop for value, which is why they aren’t buying Obamacare. This is a great opportunity for the GOP to remind Americans of how sensible that decision is — while also proposing targeted, understandable reforms that would lower costs, increase competition and choice, and make our health-care system significantly better, not profoundly worse.