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Opinion

December 17, 2013

GOP rank-and-file quietly builds Obamacare alternative

CHICKASHA —

"The only alternative that Obamacare's critics have is, well, 'let's just go back to the status quo,'" said President Obama recently, "because they sure haven't presented an alternative."

It's an argument Democrats make all the time -- often, these days, to divert attention from the ongoing problems of their troubled national health care scheme. But still, why haven't Republicans presented an alternative to Obamacare?

GOP leaders would protest immediately: They have come up with dozens of health care bills, only to see them rejected by Democrats. But the fact is, Republicans have not united behind a single health care proposal, even as millions of Americans would like to see what they've got. Why?

For one thing, they don't believe in the Obamacare approach. At the time of the Affordable Care Act's debate and passage, about 85 percent of Americans had health coverage. Given that, conservatives simply would not create a sprawling, comprehensive, intrusive, bureaucratic, loaded-with-unintended-consequences plan to achieve an (incomplete) semblance of universal coverage.

So they won't ever have their own version of Obamacare. Rather, they favor targeted attempts to solve specific problems. Like fixing the tax inequities between people who receive coverage through their jobs and those who buy it on the individual market. Setting up mechanisms through which people with pre-existing conditions can purchase coverage. Allowing the purchase of insurance across state lines. Doing something about outsized medical malpractice awards.

Mention those proposals to Democrats, and they'll scoff. They're the same-old, same-old GOP hobbyhorses that will leave millions of Americans without health insurance.

But the fact is, the health care debate has changed. It has been changed by the millions who have had their health coverage canceled and who face higher premiums, higher deductibles, narrower doctor networks, diminished choices of prescription drugs and other burdens. The situation is so serious that Obamacare might actually create more uninsured by January 2014.

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