Over at The Washington Examiner, Philip Klein has a smart column urging Republicans to focus their energy on constructive health policy solutions rather than simply fighting to repeal ObamaCare. One of the points he makes is that opposition alone leads to greater government involvement in the health care sector:
Conservatives' neglect of health care policy virtually ensures future increases in government control.
Even before Obamacare passed, the United States did not have anything close to a free market for health care. The repeal of Obamacare will not create a system in which individuals have more choice over how to spend their health care dollars. Rather, this will require proactive steps to unravel the layers of government policies that distort the market and drive up costs.
One of the most effective arguments Democrats had during the health care debate was that Republicans didn't address the issue when they had full control of the government. And if Republicans fail to offer a compelling alternative during the 2012 campaign, Obama will argue that we cannot go back to the pre-Obamacare status quo.
Even if Republicans win this current battle and repeal the law, we'll still be left with a mess of a health care system. If Republicans don't fill the vacuum with solutions of their own, liberals will return with a vengeance to impose their own ideas, as soon as they return to power. By that time, the crisis will be so severe that the measures they'll take would likely be even more drastic than Obamacare.
It's the same problem that persistently plagues entitlement reform. Why is it so hard to reform Medicare? In part because expensive entitlements are inevitably popular and therefore politically resistant to change. But in part because Republicans haven't made a strong, concerted case for changing it. They've waffled, avoided talking about it, and generally tried to change the subject whenever possible. Indeed, members of the GOP spent much of the ObamaCare debate criticizing Democrats for making big cuts to Medicare. And this year, the conservative wing of the party put forth a supposedly-radical plan to require a balanced federal budget—and exempted the single-payer-for-seniors program from its spending caps.
When it comes to health care, Republicans are clear enough about what they're against. But most don't seem to know what they're for. So when the public eventually demands action, or when the political moment arrives to make big changes, they're outflanked by Democrats with plans in hand. Opposition alone offers an easy-enough path to short-term victory. But it doesn't offer much opportunity for long-term progress.