By KARL ROVE
It's extremely unlikely that Republicans will be able to pass their own health-care plan in this Congress. But in politics you can't beat something with nothing, so it is critical that the GOP offers an alternative to President Barack Obama's government-run monstrosity.
Americans will listen more closely to Republicans if they make empirical and specific arguments against Mr. Obama's attempted government takeover of the nation's health system. But they must also offer proposals that families, small-businesspeople and health-care providers will applaud.
President Barack Obama before delivering remarks on health care reform at the annual meeting of the American Medical Association on Monday in Chicago.
Fortunately, Sens. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and Richard Burr of North Carolina, and Reps. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin and Devin Nunes of California have devised a plan that will likely appeal to anyone interested in making health insurance more affordable and portable.
Their proposal -- called the Patients' Choice Act -- is to leave in place the tax deduction companies receive for providing employees with health insurance and to create a "Medi-Choice" tax rebate that will give individuals $2,200 and families $5,700 to spend on health insurance.
The rebate will make health insurance more affordable, especially for young people. It also will make health insurance portable, which will free people from being locked into jobs they hate because they are afraid of losing their health insurance.
The Coburn-Ryan plan also helps the hard-to-insure and chronically ill because it shares their risk across all insurance companies, providing lower premiums than they might find now. It would help those in Medicaid because they receive private insurance rather than being forced into a one-size-fits-all government program in which doctors are increasingly refusing to participate.
About Karl Rove
Karl Rove served as Senior Advisor to President George W. Bush from 2000–2007 and Deputy Chief of Staff from 2004–2007. At the White House he oversaw the Offices of Strategic Initiatives, Political Affairs, Public Liaison, and Intergovernmental Affairs and was Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy, coordinating the White House policy making process.
Before Karl became known as "The Architect" of President Bush's 2000 and 2004 campaigns, he was president of Karl Rove + Company, an Austin-based public affairs firm that worked for Republican candidates, nonpartisan causes, and nonprofit groups. His clients included over 75 Republican U.S. Senate, Congressional and gubernatorial candidates in 24 states, as well as the Moderate Party of Sweden.
Karl writes a weekly op-ed for The Wall Street Journal, is a Newsweek columnist and is now writing a book to be published by Simon & Schuster. Email the author at Karl@Rove.com or visit him on the web at Rove.com.
Or, you can send him a Tweet @karlrove.
The House GOP also formed a Health Care Solutions Group that unveiled proposals yesterday. The group wanted to make health care more affordable, expand availability, and promote healthier life choices. It did this by proposing two-dozen ways to improve existing law to make it easier and more cost-effective to buy health insurance.
One proposal is to give families who purchase their own insurance a tax benefit similar to the one companies get for providing health benefits. Another proposal is to pass medical liability reforms that will reduce costly junk lawsuits. Still another would allow small businesses to team up to buy insurance at a group discount. The group also wants to allow families to save money tax-free for a wide range of health expenses and permit children to stay on their parents' policies until age 25.
Under the group's proposals, Medicaid beneficiaries would get the flexibility to choose private coverage, rather than being locked into a government-run program. The group is also calling for stepping up efforts to detect and punish Medicare and Medicaid fraud, which costs an estimated $60 billion a year.
Individual Republicans are also stepping forward with health-reform ideas, such as creating a national health-insurance market that would allow Americans to buy insurance across state lines. Sens. Jon Kyl (R., Ariz.) and Lamar Alexander (R., Tenn.) have offered other ideas, including expanding community health centers.
This is the first time congressional Republicans as a group have been comfortable talking about health care. It may be the product of necessity, but it is also necessary to get a robust debate on health-care reform.
Republican efforts will be helped by a recent Congressional Budget Office report that found that Sen. Ted Kennedy's health-care reform would cost at least $1 trillion over the next 10 years and still leave 36 million Americans uninsured (it may be slightly more once all the details are released). Estimates for the health-care bill that the Senate Finance Committee is drafting with help from the White House are coming in around $1.6 trillion over 10 years.
As the debate now shifts from broad generalities to the specifics of how health-care reform would work and how the government will pay for it, the GOP has an opportunity to stop the nationalization of the health-care industry. The more scrutiny it gets, the less appealing Obama-Care will become. And the more Democrats have to talk about creating a new value-added tax or junk food taxes to pay for it, the more Americans will recoil.
Republican credibility on health care depends on whether the party offers positive alternatives that build on the strengths of American medicine. As long as the choice was between reform and the status quo, the public was likely to go with the reformers. But if the debate is whether to go with costly, unnecessary reforms or with common-sense changes, then Republicans have a chance to appeal to fiscally conservative independents and Democrats and win this one. It is still possible to stop ObamaCare in its tracks. If Republicans can do that, they will win public confidence on an issue that will dominate politics for decades.
Mr. Rove is the former senior adviser and deputy chief of staff to President George W. Bush.