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Four years later, the rest of 'repeal and replace'

A common refrain among congressional Democrats is that Republicans have taken up repealing the Affordable Care Act as an odd hobby, but the GOP won't go to the
Republican Study Committee Chairman Steve Scalise (R-La.)
Republican Study Committee Chairman Steve Scalise (R-La.)

A common refrain among congressional Democrats is that Republicans have taken up repealing the Affordable Care Act as an odd hobby, but the GOP won't go to the trouble of presenting a credible alternative. The whole "repeal and replace" line was a scam.

Au contraire, Republicans would respond if they didn't dislike the French. It took several years, but the GOP does have a health care policy of its own.

Conservatives representing nearly three-quarters of the House Republican conference unveiled their proposed replacement for President Obama's healthcare law Wednesday, delivering on a long-delayed GOP promise.The bill from the Republican Study Committee would fully repeal the 2010 law and replace it with an expansion of health savings accounts, medical liability reform and the elimination of restrictions on purchasing insurance across state lines.

"I think we've done a very effective job at pointing out all the things that are wrong with the president's healthcare law, but people want to know what we stand for," Rep. Steve Scalise (La.), the chairman of the Republican Study Committee, said yesterday.


There's hardly any point in getting too annoyed with this shell of a health care proposal -- it's more pathetic than infuriating. Indeed, Republicans invested years in crafting a plan that just slaps together the same bad ideas the GOP has been pushing all along.

Before Scalise even unveiled the policy, Ed Kilgore predicted that the Republican Study Committee's "alternative to Obamacare" would feature high-risk pools, interstate sales, tax credits, tort reform, and entitlement reform. A couple of hours later, the RSC unveiled its proposal and it was ... exactly what Kilgore predicted it would be.

In other words, post-policy Republicans aren't even trying anymore. The RSC plan isn't a plan at all; it's a sad joke.

Indeed, whether the Republican Study Committee intended to or not, these GOP lawmakers have invited a challenge they're wholly unprepared to meet.

For about four years, we've had a chance to scrutinize the Democrats' approach to health care policy -- it's called the Affordable Care Act, or "Obamacare." It extends coverage to millions; it brings new security to those who already have insurance; it lowers the deficit; and brings popular consumer protections. What it's lacked is a rival.

Here's the pitch to the Republican Study Committee: care to do a head-to-head comparison between this new plan and the Affordable Care Act? Which one covers more people? Which one lowers costs and reduces the national debt? Which one makes insurance more affordable for the middle class?

Spoiler alert: Obamacare will win on every count. It's not perfect, and it needs plenty of tweaks, but any objective, independent comparison between these two would make the Republican plan look ridiculous.

And why is that? Because GOP policymakers have run into an ideological choke point. The U.S. health care system, before the reform law was approved, cost too much and covered too few. It's why Americans have demanded reforms for so many decades.

To actually address the problem in any kind of constructive way, the government is going to have to use some regulations and spend some money. There's just no way around that. But since the right opposes both regulations and public investments, Republicans struggle mightily to come up with a serious approach that would make a real difference.

What we're left with is the nonsense that the Republican Study Committee rolled out yesterday -- a policy so weak that even GOP lawmakers were in no rush to embrace.