Still waiting for that GOP alternative

STILL WAITING FOR THAT GOP ALTERNATIVE…. Democratic health care reform proposals have become a little controversial, but if we put the politics aside for a moment, we see that the majority party has — for good or ill — grabbed a bull by the horns. The country has been waiting for policymakers to step up on health care for the better part of a century, and Democrats have put together a credible, affordable proposal(s) that expands coverage, offers consumer protections, tackles rising costs, and strengthens Medicare. It’s a serious plan that makes hard choices. It’s the kind of thing grown-up policymakers do.

I thought about this after seeing Jonathan Cohn’s item today on the latest stupidity from the RNC on Medicare.

For all of the Republican talk about helping seniors, they have almost nothing in their policy arsenal that would actually, you know, help seniors. They’re not, for example, proposing to fill in the donut hole — the gap in Medicare prescription drug coverage that means high out-of-pocket costs for seniors with multiple conditions. Nor do they have any ideas for how to improve the program’s financial footing — except, of course, to cut it. Democrats are trying to do both, though you’d never know it from the way the health reform debate is unfolding.

It got me thinking. Cohn’s right, the Republicans’ policy on Medicare falls somewhere between incoherent and imaginary. But let’s go one step further: weren’t Republicans actually supposed to come up with a health care plan of their own, rather than just taking pathetic shots at the proposal on the table?

The last time I checked, Rep. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), chairman of the House GOP Health Care Solutions Group, said House Republicans would not release a health care reform alternative. Republican lawmakers had promised — publicly and repeatedly — that they would not only come up with a reform plan, but that their plan would be vastly superior to the Democratic approach. Blunt was walking those assurances back.

A day later, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) said GOP officials are “continuing to put the final touches on our bill.” He added, “[W]e hope to see it soon.”

Come to think of it, we’d all like to see it soon. Boehner’s comments on this came 35 days ago. The “final touches” seem to be taking longer than expected.

So, where is it? Presumably, Republicans came up with a Health Care Solutions Group because it has some “solutions” in mind.

It’s easy to take dishonest shots at the credible bill on the table, but to be taken seriously, Republicans — who would like to be in the majority in 2011 — should tell the country how they’d improve the failing system.

Talk is cheap. GOP leaders have said they have a plan, will present a plan, and can prove that their plan is the better way to go. I’m sure Americans would benefit from the opportunity to evaluate two competing approaches to the same crisis, seeing which plan is stronger.

Put-up-or-shut-up time.