Democrats have called a halt to health-care reform, mainly out of concern for their own electoral health. The big question will be whether Republicans take advantage of the opening. While the public is entirely disgusted with this attempt at health-care reform, Democrats have been right to point out that people want some reforms of the system, and usually rank it rather high on their list of priorities. When the GOP held the power in Washington, they mostly ignored it and left the field to Democrats, who shaped it as a populist issue against the big, bad, “villainous” insurers, as Pelosi put it last year. Republicans have an opportunity to make the free-market case of dismantling barriers to interstate competition, reducing the role of third-payers in the system, and creating real pricing pressures that drive drown actual costs rather than reimbursements.
With the Medicare entitlement disaster looming, Republicans can’t afford to ignore the opportunity again. Rep. Paul Ryan apparently agrees. He will reintroduce the GOP version of health-care reform ignored by Democrats last year in favor of their stampede towards government control:
Rep. Paul Ryan is re-introducing legislation in Congress today — amid criticism that his is ‘a party of no’ — to offer Republican alternatives to health care and spending the same day President Barack Obama will deliver his State of the Union address to Congress.
Ryan, the House Budget Committee Ranking Republican and chief sponsor of the bill, said the legislation will “restore our long-held legacy of leaving the next generation of Americans better off.”
The legislation, “A Roadmap for America’s Future,” was initially introduced in 2008, yet the version introduced today “will reflect the dramatic decline in our nation’s economic and fiscal condition” since then, according to a release from Ryan’s office.
“Simply saying ‘no’ to the further government expansions – simply maintaining today’s ‘status quo’ – is no longer an option: our health care sector must be reformed; our economy needs sustained job creation and real growth; and we must tackle the greatest threat to our economic and fiscal future – the crushing debt burden driven by the unsustainable growth in entitlement spending,” Ryan said in a statement.
The bill has its own website, and it should, because it rolls up several GOP initiatives into a massive omnibus reform. It attempts to delink employment and health insurance with a refundable tax credit that allows people to purchase their own plans, which makes a lot of sense, although it doesn’t address whether employer-based plans will get taxed as income. It also eliminates the barriers to interstate competition for health insurance, which will increase competition and lower costs.
But Ryan goes from there to Social Security reform through privatization, a plan that ran aground in 2005 when the stock market was seemingly healthy, income-tax reform using an optional simplification process, while only mildly addressing Medicare through medical savings accounts for low-income recipients. That’s three major reform projects in one bill, and Democrats ran aground on just two over the last seven months with a supermajority in the Senate. It’s ambitious as a policy statement for the GOP rolling into the midterm elections, but practically speaking, this bill won’t move with all of these components in it, not with Democrats in charge of Congress and Obama in the White House.
It’s a good start, though, and as Ryan says, the American people need to understand that there are alternatives to government control:
In tonight’s State of the Union address, President Obama will declare a new found commitment to “fiscal responsibility” to cover the huge spending and debt he and congressional Democrats have run up in his first year in office. But next Monday, when he submits his actual budget, I fear it will rely on gimmickry, commissions, luke-warm spending “freezes,” and paper-tiger controls to create the illusion of budget discipline. Meanwhile, he and the Democratic congressional leadership will continue pursuing a relentless expansion of government and a new culture of dependency.
America needs an alternative. For that reason, I have reintroduced my plan to tackle our nation’s most pressing domestic challenges—updated to reflect the dramatic decline in our economic and fiscal condition. The plan, called A Road Map for America’s Future and first introduced in 2008, is a comprehensive proposal to ensure health and retirement security for all Americans, to lift the debt burdens that are mounting every day because of Washington’s reckless spending, and to promote jobs and competitiveness in the 21st century global economy.
The difference between the Road Map and the Democrats’ approach could not be more clear. From the enactment of a $1 trillion “stimulus” last February to the current pass-at-all costs government takeover of health care, the Democratic leadership has followed a “progressive” strategy that will take us closer to a tipping point past which most Americans receive more in government benefits than they pay in taxes—a European-style welfare state where double-digit unemployment becomes a way of life.
Republicans cannot afford to cede this ground to Democrats again, now or in the future. By ignoring it for so long, they almost allowed a Trojan horse for a single-payer system to succeed. Political parties have to offer real solutions in order to remain relevant, a lesson Ryan has learned — and hopefully can teach the rest of the GOP.