The GOP Doesn’t Care About Health Care

A searing indictment of the party of Lincoln

By Rob Schwarzwalder Published on April 3, 2019

Recently, President Trump said he wanted the GOP to be the “party of healthcare.” Predictably, he got a lot of pushback — from Republicans.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he looks “forward to seeing what the President is proposing and what he can work out with speaker” Nancy Pelosi. You can see his smirk in his words. House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy spoke with the President and “told Trump over the phone that the decision made no sense.” 

So, let’s get this straight. Dozens of votes were taken in the House to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act while Obama was president. More times that we can count, GOP lawmakers promised they would create something better than Obama’s plan.

And now, Republicans have … given up trying to modernize and improve the health care system.

Where’s the Republican Plan?

The political dynamics in the House have changed. But does that mean Republicans are unable to still make an argument? Propose a solid alternative? Take the lead on something critical to the American people?

Republicans have been unable to come together on a common plan to replace Obamacare. This is a searing indictment of the Party of Lincoln. For years, the GOP promised something better and then could not come together on a plan.

Now, the President has issued a challenge to his party to get their health care priorities in order and develop a plan to replace Obamacare. He asks them to do what they’ve promised to do for years. Instead of supporting him, they oppose him.

The GOP Used to be the Party of Ideas

When I began working for then-Senator Dan Coats in 1991, the Republican party had lots of great ideas about how to streamline the healthcare bureaucracy. Improve access to medical insurance. Bring down costs. Give patients more say in the kind of coverage they received.

As just one example, Coats put forward a 50-page, policy-rich plan. Was it comprehensive? Maybe not, but it was a serious effort to show that the GOP meant business about reforming — of improving — our healthcare system along the lines of market-based competition and consumer choice. It would have been a far better plan than the Obamacare the nation eventually got.

What’s happened in the last nearly three decades? A lot of squabbling inside the party and no consensus. Republicans, before Trump, never passed a healthcare reform bill in both Houses.

Finally, in 2017, the House did manage to pass, barely, a plan called the American Health Care Act. But then the Senate could not agree on its own version of the bill, and it died of neglect and uninterest. Thanks, in large part, to “moderate” (read: liberal) Republicans like Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski.

Political Malpractice

This is political malpractice. It’s fine and good to attack Obamacare. It should be attacked. It’s an assault on the free market and amounts to big government coercion. But are Republicans so petty and so peevish they can’t sit down, reach accord on the issues where they disagree, and get something done?

It’s been said you never win an argument you don’t make. Is the GOP so lacking in confidence about its own ideas that it doesn’t even want to try persuading people that they’re good ones?

A handful of Republicans like big government too much to support market-based reforms. But how about courting Democrats like Joe Manchin of West Virginia or Doug Jones of Alabama? At least trying?

Taking Up the Challenge

When in 1962 John F. Kennedy said, “We choose to go to the moon in this decade,” it seemed impossible. The “space race” with the Soviet Union was at its peak. There was no guarantee America would win it. They were putting much of their energy into getting into space first. Not just for the prestige but for the power it would give them.

Kennedy decided we would contest Russia’s bid to lead in space. He saw the need and challenged America to meet it. Our country put our resources to work to win the race. And, with the genius, courage, and dedication typical of a country that attempts great things, we did. We beat the Soviets.We showed the world that America was where the future lay.

The congressional leaders of the Republican party need to take up the president’s challenge in the same way the nation took up President Kennedy’s challenge. The need is as great as it was then. This is a test of their leadership — and their right to claim the continued allegiance of conservatives.

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