The Republican Comeback on Healthcare

They say that good things come in threes, and that’s true for the GOP and for healthcare. Together, three recent news items give Republicans all the ammunition they need to make a major counter-offensive against President Obama and the Democratic Party.  

First, late last month, the GOP produced a plausible alternative to Obamacare. Second, Obamacare continues to look worse and worse. Third, Republicans are starting to gather around a new vision of healthcare, focusing not just on insurance, but on health itself.

Let’s look at each in turn.  

First, on January 27, Republican Senators Richard Burr of North Carolina, Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, and Orrin Hatch of Utah unveiled a plausible market-oriented alternative to Obamacare, the Patient CARE Act. As Burr explained: 

The Patient CARE proposal repeals Obamacare and focuses on targeted reforms that will lower costs and expand access to quality care. We can lower costs and expand access to quality coverage and care by empowering individuals and their families to make their own health care decisions, rather than empowering the government to make those decisions for them.

This legislation isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, of course, as the Democrats have the majority in the Senate--and they aren’t interested in any Republican alternative to Obamacare. Still, with an eye to the 2014 midterms, Burr and his colleagues did a smart thing: They put a credible health insurance plan on the table.  Now every Republican can say, “We aren’t the party of ‘no.’  We put forth a positive alternative to Obamacare--and in fact, our idea is much better!” 

Second, on February 4 came a bombshell economic study from the Congressional Budget Office: Obamacare will cost two million jobs across the economy. The CBO, of course, is not exactly the Cato Institute or the Heritage Foundation; so if even the DC bureaucrats are turning on Obamacare, that’s bad news for all who voted for it and who must now defend it before the voters.  

Of course, on behalf of the Obamacrats, the MSM did their best to spin the story out of existence. For example, Politico produced this cipher of a headline, surely aimed more to confuse than to clarify: “Obamacare and jobs: CBO adds fuel to fire.”

Yet even Politico, reliable MSM tool that it is, could not fully sit on the explosive story; after all, it had to quote Obama officials as they engaged in the pushback, including this inadvertent gem of a quote from Jason Furman, the chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers:

And, Furman noted, the availability of affordable health insurance may mean that a worker can cut back by a few hours each week and still be able to afford the same quality of life. “This is not businesses cutting back on jobs. This is people having new choices.” 

In other words, the bad news is good news.  Ah yes, “people having new choices”--on how to spend their leisure time.  You see, it’s not unemployment, it’s just more freedom to do what you wish.  Or, as the clerk in the classic Monty Python sketch would put it, “The parrot’s not dead… it’s pining for the fjords.” 

Third, also on February 4, House Energy & Commerce Committee chairman Fred Upton (R-MI), hailed a new collaboration between 10 big pharmaceutical companies and the National Institutes of Health, aimed at achieving breakthrough cures for dreaded diseases, including Alzheimer’s, diabetes, lupus, and arthritis. Upton, who has been a major behind-the-scenes mover in these pro-cure efforts, declared

The search for cures must be an all-hands-on-deck effort. This landmark effort exemplifies the very best of a public-private collaboration, and we in Congress also want to do what we can in the name of breakthrough research.

Yes, “breakthrough research” leading to cures. A cure, making the illness go away, is infinitely superior to mere care. It’s our duty to care, but it’s our opportunity to cure, because healthy people can then go back to their happy and productive lives.   

Yet strangely, the cure idea has fallen out of public discussion in recent years; the battle, instead, has been over health insurance. Health insurance is important, but it’s not as important as health itself.  

Yet now, along comes Upton to reorient the debate in a better direction. If we could bend the curve of healthcare outcomes--that is, see people living better and longer--we’d have great gains for humanity.  Moreover, we’d have greater economic output from healthy people, and we’d also have a new cure-manufacturing industry or two.  

So yes, it’s been a good stretch for the GOP on the healthcare front: Republicans have a solid Obamacare alternative, even as Obamacare itself crumbles. And perhaps best of all, they have a new vision: a vision of cures and hope.


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