Republicans Declare Opposition to a Government Takeover of Health Care


The GOP is against a government takeover of health-care. Officially!

House Republicans have released a draft of a leadership-approved alternative health-care reform proposal. And on the very first page, they indulge in a bit of legislative self-actualization by explaining the "purpose" of the bill in the form of a list of all the things it avoids, including "instituting a government takeover of health care."

Well, that's a relief.

So what's in the bill? According to Politico, House Minority Leader John Boehner explained that it would focus less on providing universal insurance and more on driving down costs as a way to expand access.

Boehner said that the 230-page proposal, which blends elements from a number of existing bills, would accomplish this by "letting families buy health insurance across state lines, allowing small businesses to pool together and offer health insurance to their employees at much lower costs, just like big businesses and unions can today, giving states the tools to create innovative reforms that lower costs and ending junk lawsuits that contribute to high health care costs."

Naturally, liberals have been dismissive, portraying it as a handout to insurers that's based on old ideas long proven ineffective.

Given the marginal impact a proposal such as this is likely to make, I suspect most liberal critics are just using this as an easy opportunity to bash the GOP. A bill like this is largely an opposition formality, designed to get a little bit of attention and stake out a swath of alternative-policy territory. I don't care for all of it—the bill's position on Medicare cuts, in particular, shows how dangerous Michael Steele's pandering defense of the program was. But think it's good to see Republicans taking a little more interest in being proactive on health-care policy, and I genuinely hope this is a sign that, in the future, it's not an issue they'll ignore, which is essentially what happened when the party was in power (the 2007 effort to get rid of the employer tax exclusion was probably their best effort, and it was half-hearted).

Yet even now, judging by the purpose statement, the party is defining its bill largely by what it doesn't allow—tax hikes, cuts to Medicare benefits, higher deficits, government takeovers, etc—and focusing less on what it actually does. On health-care, the Republican party is clearly against a lot of things, but it's had a tough time figuring out what it's really for.