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Lewis Morris / Nov. 30, 2016

Finally, a Real Opportunity to Repeal ObamaCare

Trump's pick of Tom Price to head HHS is a good sign.

The GOP has promised (and tried) for years to scrap the disastrous and utterly unaffordable “Affordable” Care Act. That promise may finally come to fruition now that Donald Trump has picked House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price of Georgia to be Health and Human Services Secretary.

Price, who spent 20 years as an orthopedic surgeon before going into Georgia politics, is perhaps the most qualified person in government to take on the beast that is ObamaCare. He has been a staunch opponent of the law since it was being debated in 2009, but Price stood out because he had a viable and reasonable alternative to the top-down federal behemoth that became ObamaCare.

Republicans have always been against the ACA, but it was never enough to simply repeal ObamaCare without having something with which to replace it. Now that the law is entering its sixth year, it is unfortunately dug so deep into the nation’s health care system, ripping it out now without putting something in its place would create even more chaos.

Price knew this back in 2009, and he has been fine-tuning a suitable replacement since. His plan, “Empowering Patients First,” seeks to continue offering broad coverage, but without the invasive, and ultimately unworkable, federal involvement that is the hallmark of ObamaCare. Price’s plan offers tax credits based on age to people in need of securing insurance. It also takes into account House Speaker Paul Ryan’s suggestion of offering federally subsidized high-risk pools for each state so that people with pre-existing conditions would not be frozen out of the market. Insurers would also be able to sell policies across state lines so as to increase competition.

Ramesh Ponnuru points out that despite the attractive aspects of Price’s plan and the resounding animosity toward ObamaCare, replacing the law is not a foregone conclusion. Sure, all Republicans can get behind repealing ObamaCare, and through some well-placed executive orders and various defunding tactics, they will be able to undo a lot of the law. But it will be much harder to come by a consensus on what the replacement law looks like.

The tax subsidy may be the biggest issue of contention. It would be more expensive to provide tax credits than offering a straight-up tax cut, but tax cuts would not have any impact on low income families that already pay no taxes. And these are the people that are in the greatest need of decent insurance coverage and protections that offer coverage in the case of pre-existing conditions.

There is also the Democrat response to contend with. Though Republicans have a Senate majority and the option of using reconciliation to pass some changes with a simple majority vote, they will need a filibuster-proof majority sooner or later to wipe the slate clean of ObamaCare and put in place meaningful, lasting changes to the health care system. That being the case, Republicans are going to have to play ball, and there will need to be some compromises that some factions may not be willing to make.

Trump, Price, Ryan and the rest of the GOP will be doing the country a favor by repealing and replacing ObamaCare with a system that puts choice back in the hands of patients and their doctors, and makes insurance accessible and affordable to all Americans. The vast majority of the public will be behind them so long as they can produce results, and live up to two promises that Barack Obama never intended to keep: You can keep your doctor, and your insurance premiums won’t rise.

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