The latter half of ‘repeal and replace’

THE LATTER HALF OF ‘REPEAL AND REPLACE’…. Health care policy has consistently been tricky for congressional Republicans. Last year, they said they agreed with more than 80% of the Affordable Care Act plan, only to later conclude that it was the worst piece of legislation in American history, and they would fight until the end of time to repeal it.

Immediately after taking back the House majority, GOP officials voted to eliminate the entirety of the reform law, as part of their vaunted “repeal and replace” strategy. As Republicans argued at the time, they’d scrap the ACA, and replace it with a superior policy that Americans would just love.

So, where is this long-awaited Republican health care plan? It’s good to see Jonathan Bernstein is staying on top of this.

Exactly three months ago today, House Republicans promised that they would follow up on their vow to repeal the Affordable Care Act by offering their own solutions to replace it. In a USA Today Op ed on January 20th, they promised to hold hearings, draft legislation, and promote specific remedies to the health care problems they agreed need to be addressed.

We’re still waiting.

The January Op ed came right after the House vote to repeal Obama’s health reform law, and in it, Republicans pledged that repeal was only the opening move in a repeal-and-replace agenda: “Repeal is the first, not the last step. Compassionate, innovative and job-creating health care reform is what’s next.”

Well, a compassionate, innovative and job-creating health care reform plan sounds pretty great. I don’t imagine Republicans would vow to produce such a proposal, and then fail to follow through, would they?

Let’s also not forget that this isn’t the first time. In the summer of 2009, GOP leaders said they could come up with a health care plan that was much better than the Democratic proposal, and “guaranteed” one would be forthcoming. Republicans proceeded to work behind closed doors for five months on a policy that was nothing short of laughable — it largely ignored the uninsured, did nothing for those with pre-existing conditions, and offered nothing for those worried about losing coverage when it’s needed most. It didn’t even focus on fiscal issues, reducing the deficit far less than the Democratic plan.

The Republican approach to reform sought to create a system that “works better for people who don’t need health care services, and much worse for people who actually are sick or who become sick in the future. It’s basically a health un-insurance policy.”

After five months of delays, Republicans unveiled the plan quietly, and then quickly forgot about it.

The truth, though the GOP would be loath to admit it, is two-fold. First, these guys just don’t have the policy chops to craft a credible health care plan. Hell, they don’t have the chops to even speak intelligently and honestly about why they don’t like the other side’s health care plan, so the idea of them writing their own alternative is rather silly.

Second, if Republicans did try to come up with a compelling policy, they’d quickly realize meaningful reform would include federal regulations and public spending. Since ideology trumps pragmatism on the right, they’d end up finding their own plan philosophically objectionable.

In the meantime, though, there’s no harm in keeping the pressure on. The GOP promised a health care policy. Where is it?