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Hullabaloo


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

 
House conservatives STILL can't figure out what their healthcare "alternative" is

by David Atkins

This story, perhaps more than any about Wall Street, foreign policy or national security, shows just how far to the right both parties have gone:

Top House conservatives are pressuring Republican leaders to bring an ObamaCare replacement bill to a vote by the August recess.

Conservatives cheered when Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) pledged a vote during the House GOP’s annual retreat in January, viewing the commitment as a central element of the party’s vow to be “the alternative party” and not merely stand in opposition to President Obama.

Yet 10 weeks later, party leaders have given no indication when they might present a plan or what form it will take.

Conservatives like Rep. Steve Scalise (La.), chairman of the Republican Study Committee (RSC), are pushing for a vote by the time lawmakers leave town for five weeks at the end of July.
“At the end of the day, we feel it’s really important to bring a bill to the floor that is a true replacement to the president’s healthcare law,” Scalise said in a phone interview Tuesday. “Look, leadership’s come a long way in the last six months on that, and we’re continuing to talk to them to try to get to a point where we actually have a vote on the House floor by the August recess.”

Scalise wants the party to adopt a single, comprehensive replacement for ObamaCare, but party leaders have not signed off on that approach. In recent weeks, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has suggested the House might vote instead on a series of healthcare bills.

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has shied away from making any commitment at all, appearing to downplay the importance of holding a floor vote within a specific timeframe.

At a press conference last week, Boehner said Cantor and other top Republicans are “trying to build a consensus over what an alternative would look like.”
Of course they can't figure out what a conservative alternative would look like. Beyond going back to the old system of basically letting people with pre-existing conditions get sicker and die, there's isn't a more conservative alternative than the ACA. The ACA was the conservative alternative. It was the Heritage Foundation's idea. It was the idea implemented by Mitt Romney in Massachusetts. It's essentially a hefty government subsidy to health insurance companies to give them millions of new customers who previously couldn't afford coverage.

That doesn't make it bad per se, and it's certainly better than what we had before. But of all the possible forward-looking solutions to the healthcare crisis in this country, the ACA was the most conservative option possible. It's most progressive aspect is the Medicaid expansion--which Republican governors are blocking out of pure spite.

Democrats adopted that conservative approach partly to keep the medical and pharmaceutical industries happy, partly because many Americans currently covered by their employers would stupidly but understandably want to stick with the devil they know instead of take a chance on a "Euro-Socialist" approach, and partly because they were hoping for a few Republican votes to make it "bipartisan."

Republicans should have been thrilled with the result. Instead, they acted like the ACA was a nefarious Communist plot, and used atrocious lies about the bill to win big in 2010. That victory in turn helped them cement what will likely be over a decade in control of the House.

But it also means there's almost nowhere left for Republicans to go on healthcare. They can't really advocate for going back to the old system. And they certainly can't come up with a solution for those with pre-existing conditions and those priced out of healthcare entirely without a solution that looks very much like the ACA. They're all the way out on the right edge of the cliff, backed against the precipice by the right-leaning ACA. To go any farther right would mean jumping off the ledge.


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