If Republicans want to win the war over the future of the nation’s health care system, they need to do more than simply call for the repeal of Obamacare. Even if the law were repealed or struck down by the Supreme Court, the United States wouldn’t be out of the woods.
Health care costs still would eat up roughly one in every five dollars generated by the economy within a decade. And health care inflation would continue to fuel skyrocketing spending on Medicare and Medicaid, which are the main contributors to our debt burden at both the state and federal levels.
In their 2010 “Pledge to America,” Republicans vowed to “repeal and replace” the national health care law. While the GOP-controlled House voted for “repeal” shortly after taking over this January, they have yet to unveil a formal plan to “replace” the law.
The lack of emphasis on free-market health care reform ideas in Congress — and up until this point, in the GOP presidential race — cannot be fully blamed on politicians, who can only be expected to play to their audiences. Activists have not been very vocal in calling for alternatives.
Historically, the right has become passionate about health care policy only when it comes to fighting liberal attempts to expand the role of government (as during the Clinton and Obama presidencies). This attitude is a mistake, because conservatives’ neglect of health care policy virtually ensures future increases in government control.
Even before Obamacare passed, the U.S. did not have anything close to a free market for health care. The repeal of Obamacare would not create a system in which individuals have more choice over how to spend their health care dollars. That will require unraveling 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, President Barack Obama will argue that we cannot go back to the previous status quo.
If Republicans don’t fill the vacuum with solutions of their own, liberals will come back fighting to impose their own ideas as soon as they return to power. That’s why Republican politicians can’t afford to wait to get serious about health care.
Philip Klein is a senior editorial writer for The Washington Examiner.