Republican wiz-kid and possible future presidential contender Bobby Jindal is right that health-care shouldn't be an exclusively Democratic issue. And in this morning's Washington Post, he makes the case that Republicans should stand for more than opposition to the Democratic agenda and lays out 10 policy ideas to suggest a path forward.
But after a decade plus of ceding the popular health-care debate to Democrats, it feels a little desperate, like the insistence of a single member of the Online Role-Playing and Computerized Chess Players Club (meets every Thursday after school in the Linux lab!)—maybe the one who does a little running on the weekends —that, yes, they can too play football. It's certainly true that there are plenty of alternatives to Obama-style reforms. But by and large, they've come from libertarians, economists, and business thinkers. Aside from a few minor attempts to fiddle with the way the tax code treats benefits, Republicans have basically stayed out of the health-care game.
There are a few good ideas in his list of ten ways to improve health-care—increasing portability, price posting— but, like Ramesh Ponnuru, I'm not thrilled with all of his proposals. Forcing insurance companies to sell policies to people regardless of pre-existing conditions may be politically popular, but experiments with such policies have produced disastrous results at the state level. Meanwhile, it's not clear that medical malpractice is really responsible for all that much of the recent increase in health-care costs—and the cost increases it has caused may have been outweighed by patient outcomes.
Still, the health-care policy debate has been monopolized by liberals for too long, and I'm happy to see any advances toward a more competitive idea market. And mixed bag that Jindal's solution set may be, it's definitely a step up for GOP health-care op-eds in the Post, the last two of which were Bob Dole's lame call for more mindless Beltway blathering bipartisanship and Michael Steele's pandering, pathetic defense of Medicare. That a piece like Jindal's is worthy of any notice at all should tell you something about the balance of the debate between the two parties: You know the bar is set pretty low when one side has to be congratulated just for having a couple of ideas.
Update: Phil Klein has more on the underlying incoherence of Jindal's proposals.