Congressional Republicans have been working on an alternative to the Affordable Care Act for about five years, and to date, they haven't come up with anything. Assorted members claim to have proposals of their own, but they're generally pretty ridiculous, and not one has been endorsed by the GOP leadership in either chamber.
There's a perfectly good explanation for this: a Republican solution that the right would find ideologically satisfying would be awful for consumers. Americans think they hate "Obamacare," but there's ample evidence they love the law's provisions; in a far-right alternative, Americans would hate the actual policy.
As we've discussed
before, Republicans could work on a more credible policy, but it would require some regulations and public investments, which necessarily means the party's base would find it abhorrent. As a Republican Hill staffer told
Sahil Kapur a while back, every attempt to come up with a serious health care proposal leads to a plan that "looks a hell of a lot like the Affordable Care Act."
That's quite a dilemma: the GOP is stuck between a system Americans would hate and a law Republicans pretend to hate. Philip Klein reports
in his new book that Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) wants his party to embrace the former over the latter without apology (via Greg Sargent
"I don't think conservative health care reform is about, we're going to compete with [the left] in terms of how many people we see have an [insurance] care," he said. "That not the ultimate goal." He later elaborated, "If we start with the premise that we've gotta give every single person a card, and that's the only way we can be successful, we're done. We've adopted their metric of success...if the metric of success is gonna be which plan can say 'we've given people more cards,' they always win. Because they will always spend more, they will always disrupt more."... He also put it this way: "I do think it's a mistake if we argue we can't take back what Obama has already given."
In case there's any ambiguity here, the Republican governor -- and likely presidential candidate -- is using "card" as a euphemism for "health care insurance that allows an American consumer access to basic medical care." In other words, Jindal is of the opinion that Republicans not only should stop trying to come up with ideas on how to bring coverage to American families, the party should also reject the goal itself as unworthy of their efforts.
Every major economic power on the planet extends access to health care to its citizens. Bobby Jindal believes the United States shouldn't even try. The endpoint itself is too liberal. After a century of presidents talking about this, President Obama actually created a framework to bring care to millions of American families and the governor of Louisiana believes Republicans should be ready to effectively tell those families, "We want to take away what the president has given you."
Greg Sargent, who transcribed the above book excerpt, had a strong take
on this earlier:
Points for candor are due. As this blog tediously documented, Republicans have long played a very clever game on the Affordable Care Act. They have regularly claimed that of course they are for repealing that hated thing they call "Obamacare." But the same time, they've carefully left the impression that even if Republicans get their way, people will somehow be able to keep components of it they like, such as the coverage guarantee — an impression they've created by openly supporting the law's key goals or dangling the possibility of some phantom GOP alternative that would do the same thing. Jindal, refreshingly, suggests Republicans should be willing to admit they support "taking back what Obama has already given."
As for why any American would possibly consider voting for a platform that could deliberately punish their own family, more on that point tomorrow.