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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Bring On the GOP Health Policies!

I’m with Steve Benen on this one: after listening to Republicans say all weekend that the president needs to surrender on health care reform and start embracing their policy ideas, maybe it’s time to draw a lot more public attention to all that fine GOP thinking on the subject.
So where to begin? I guess that would be with the “plan” that drew 176 Republicans votes in the House in a test vote in November of last year, the so-called “Boehner plan.” Dissed by an official Congressional Budget Office analysis that suggested it would cover almost none of the uninsured, while controlling costs far less effectively than the House Democratic proposal, this plan followed the usual conservative template of focusing on tort “reform,” “interstate markets” for private heath insurance (e.g., elimination of state regulations), elimination of the entire employer-based system, and a two-pronged strategy of subsidizing high-deductible individual health plans for healthy people, and state-run risk pools for sick people. It was, as Matt Yglesias put it, an “un-insurance” plan that would take health policy, in some respects, back to the 1950s.
Another example of Republican “thinking” on health care policy is the idea of “voucherizing” Medicare, which was the central health policy element of the official House GOP “alternative budget” offered last April by Rep. Paul Ryan of WI. While “Medicare voucher” proposals vary, they all at the very least aim at transforming Medicare into a system of federal subsidies for purchasing private health insurance, while capping expenditures regardless of the impact on benefits. To put it simply, seniors would march through the streets with torches to protest any such plan if it were taken seriously.
And then there’s the most fully developed Republican health care plan, the one developed and implemented by the front-runner for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination, and recently promoted by the party’s maximum “new star”: the Massachusetts health reform plan. How about allowing a vote on that in Congress? Oh, yeah, sorry, that’s pretty much the plan already passed by the U.S. Senate without a single Republican vote! It’s socialist!
Suffice it to say that while Democrats have been materially hurt by endless scrutiny and confusion about the substance of their ideas on health care, Republicans have massively benefitted from a total lack of accountability for their own ideas. Best I can tell, Republicans would probably be politically destroyed if people truly paid attention to GOP health proposals. So Democrats should find ways to help their GOP colleagues publicize their ideas.

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