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Getting the Health Care Debate We Deserve

Earlier this week, two leading conservative scholars may have come up with the first serious Republican health care proposal we’ve seen in years. Writing on the Reuters  “Great Debate” blog, Douglas Holtz-Eakin and Avik Roy argue that conservatives should welcome the opportunity Obamacare presents to construct a truly market-based health care system:

The great irony of Obama’s triumph, however, is that it can pave the way for Republicans to adopt a comprehensive, market-oriented healthcare agenda.  The market-oriented prescription drug program in Medicare has controlled the growth of government health spending. Similarly, conservatives can use Obamacare’s important concession to the private sector—its establishment of subsidized insurance marketplaces—as a vehicle for broader entitlement reforms.

Holtz-Eakin and Roy reference Switzerland’s market-based health care system, suggesting that Republicans could approximate that country’s structure in the U.S. by reforming the health-insurance exchanges Obamacare set up. Read the whole thing to get a sense of their overall plan.

We don’t endorse Holtz-Eakin and Roy’s proposal, but we do think their piece is an encouraging sign that Republicans are finally coming up with productive plans. As the authors themselves note, Obamacare passed in part because Republicans failed to suggest any serious alternatives. For years the right has neglected health care policy, effectively ceding the field to the left.

The results have been disastrous. Getting health care policy right is arguably the most pressing challenge American faces today. If we solve the health care problem, many of the other challenges we face will become much easier to address; if not, everything will become much worse. We need an informed and vigorous debate about serious alternatives, and we haven’t been getting it.

The reality is that Obamacare is a non-answer to a question that hasn’t gone away. If Republicans can breathe new life into the debate over the right answer, there might just be hope for us yet.

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