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Ending Republican Blunders over Obamacare -- by Peter J. Thomas and Mike Korbey

The Las Vegas Sun recently reported that U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said on a local TV program that Obamacare could lead to a single-payer national health insurance program.

This is not surprising, for Mr. Reid only stated what has long been the holy grail of liberal Democrats: socialized medicine. But for now, Obamacare is their foot in the door.

What is troubling, though, is the refusal of most Republicans to come up with an alternative plan to fix the very serious problems in our health care system. On this score, they’ve been AWOL.

Because Republicans failed to act when they controlled Washington, we now have government-controlled health care. With a dysfunctional system getting worse and worse over the decades, time was on the liberals’ side. They waited, and when they had total control, they pounced. Score this as big blunder No. 1 for the GOP.

Congressional Republicans have voted 40 times to repeal all or part of President Obama’s biggest legislative achievement, but it isn’t enough. Though there are House and Senate Republicans who want systemic reform, the GOP is far from united on what a reform plan should include.

The American people may be terribly unhappy with Obamacare and want it repealed. That’s not to say they’re happy with the status quo. Far from it.

Liberals may want everyone covered, but most conservatives have never supported the concept of government-mandated universal health care, believing the purchase of health insurance is an individual responsibility. Also, they saw it as a sure path to complete government control of medicine.

But that was viewing the path to more widespread coverage through liberals’ eyes. Score this as big blunder No. 2 for the GOP.

In this day and age, when the cost of one hospital stay can bankrupt all but the very wealthy, what conservative does not want his fellow citizens to have sound insurance? Are Republicans ready to bite this bullet, or are they content with a system whereby if you can’t afford insurance, you’re basically on your own?

Fortunately, leading scholars on the right, such as John Goodman of the National Center for Policy Analysis, Peter Ferrara of the Heartland Institute and Merrill Mathews of the Institute for Policy Innovation, have been working for years to try to get the Republicans thinking and acting correctly about health care reform.

In fact, Mr. Goodman and Mr. Ferrara’s publication, “Health Care for All without the Affordable Care Act,” introduced in October, is an excellent road map for comprehensive reform.

Excluding such public programs as Medicare, the Veterans Administration and the military’s Tricare, the keystone around which everyone gets covered is a universal refundable tax credit sufficient for Americans to buy either a standard health insurance plan or a high-deductible plan, with money left over to generously fund a health savings account.

With such a credit, Americans would have the means to purchase health insurance. This would include the poor, who would also have the resources to buy a plan that would provide far better benefits and access to doctors and other health care practitioners than Medicaid.

Besides the tax credit, the next vital component of a patient-centered reform plan is the creation of a national market in which individuals could buy an insurance plan from any company in any state.

A national market would provide consumers the benefits of real competition — lower prices, innovative insurance plans and better service.

The universal refundable tax credit and a highly competitive national marketplace are the keys to success for any patient-centered reform plan, but several additional reforms are needed.

With common-sense tort reform, allowing companies or associations of any size to pool their employees to get lower premiums, price transparency, and higher limits on health savings accounts, we would then have a plan that ensures the greatness of our system while curing its ills.

As Obamacare unravels before our eyes, the Republicans will eventually get one more — and perhaps one last — chance to fix our health care system.

Done correctly, conservatives won’t ever have to worry again about something as dangerous as Obamacare or single payer becoming law.

Republicans better get their act together soon. The time is getting late, and liberals — ever resilient — lie in wait for their next opportunity to strike. Just ask Harry Reid.

Peter J. Thomas is chairman of the Conservative Caucus Inc., and Mike Korbey is the group’s director of legislative affairs.

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