2014 Will Be a Pivotal Year for Republican Health Care Policy

By Klein, Philip | Examiner (Washington, D.C.), The, December 26, 2013 | Go to article overview

2014 Will Be a Pivotal Year for Republican Health Care Policy


Klein, Philip, Examiner (Washington, D.C.), The


Early troubles facing the rollout of President Obama's health care law have renewed the debate among Republicans over what type of policy alternatives to offer.

Republicans agree with the basic idea of reforming the system to give Americans more control over their health care dollars, thus driving down costs, increasing access and improving quality as markets react to consumer choices. And several GOP lawmakers have offered their own proposals to move in that direction, which tend to involve ending the bias in the tax code in favor of employer-based insurance and replacing it with tax credits or deductions to individuals.

But no alternative plan to replace Obamacare has passed the House of Representatives since Republicans took over the chamber in January 2011.

To be sure, a lot of this has to do with GOP's long-standing aversion to health care policy. During the period after the failure of President Clinton's health care push in 1994 and before Obamacare passed in 2010, Republicans did very little to put a conservative stamp on health care policy, besides injecting a few market reforms into an otherwise massive expansion of government in the form of the Medicare prescription drug program.

But between 2010 through the end of 2012, as long as repealing Obamacare or overturning it in the courts remained a possibility, Republicans didn't see much of a reason to introduce major health care legislation.

In 2013, much of the news was dominated by the Republican effort to defund Obamacare as well as the botched implementation of the program.

The difficulty for Republicans seeking to craft a health care policy at the moment is that it's very difficult to predict what the health care landscape will look like a few months from now, let alone several years from now when a potential Republican president would have a chance to make changes.

Without knowing how much of Obamacare could be in play, it's hard to settle on a policy. On the one hand, basing policy on the assumption that Obamacare can be entirely repealed is likely unrealistic, while on the other hand, treating Obamacare as mostly untouchable could cause Republicans to preemptively concede too much policy ground. …

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