The GOP healthcare ‘alternative’


We know President Obama’s approach to fixing the dysfunctional American health care system: it’s called the Affordable Care Act, and until Republicans stop trying to kill it, the reform package is the law of the land. We also know that GOP officials at every level at least pretend to hate “Obamacare” with every fiber of their being.

But what’s the Republican health care plan? They say they don’t like the status quo, and they don’t like the Democratic policy, so where’s their alternative? I’d missed this on Friday, but reader B.A. flagged an interesting comment House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) made on msnbc the day after the Supreme Court ruling.

For those who can’t watch clips online, here’s the exchange between Cantor and NBC News’ Tom Brokaw.

BROKAW: It seems to me the Republican Party has to have some kind of a framework of an alternative to what they’re talking about because, whatever else we think about health care, everybody knows that financially, the system is broken. You can still get cured here in ways that you can’t in other places and get treatment, but the cost system is a kind of a ponzi scheme. So my question again to you, congressman, is when will we see a Republican plan that would replace more meritoriously the Obamacare plan that you’re so unhappy with?

CANTOR: Tom, you knew back in 2009 when the Obamacare bill was being considered on the House floor, we put forward our alternative. So to sit here and say we don’t have a replacement is not correct. What we have now, though, is the challenge of repealing this law.

Notice that Cantor used present tense – House Republican put forward an alternative, so to “say we don’t have a replacement is not correct.”

In other words, if we want to know what House Republican policymakers, including the Majority Leader, would do with health care policy in the United States, we need only to review their own 2009 plan, which Cantor still seems to support, at least as of a few days ago.

And what was in the 2009 GOP plan? I’m glad you asked.

After missing a series of self-imposed deadlines, Republican leaders slapped together a half-hearted joke – the GOP “policy” largely ignored the uninsured, did nothing for those with pre-existing conditions, and offered nothing for those worried about losing coverage when it’s needed most.

We learned shortly after the Republican plan was defeated that the proposal included provisions that “mirror the suggestions put forth by the lobbying entity of the private insurance industry way back in December 2008.” Imagine that.

As Matt Yglesias noted at the time, the Republican approach to reform sought to create a system that “works better for people who don’t need health care services, and much worse for people who actually are sick or who become sick in the future. It’s basically a health un-insurance policy.” And as ThinkProgress noted in 2009, the CBO crunched the numbers and found that the Republican alternative would leave “about 52 million” Americans without access to basic medical care.

And three years later, Eric Cantor still supports and touts this policy as the Republican health care plan.

Eric Cantor

The GOP healthcare 'alternative'