Three leading members of the House's Republican Study Committee have asked President Obama for an opportunity to discuss GOP alternatives to Obamacare. Stung by repeated Democratic accusations that they have no plan to replace the troubled national health care scheme, Reps. Steve Scalise, of Louisiana, and Phil Roe and Marsha Blackburn, of Tennessee, want to discuss H.R. 3121, the American Health Care Reform Act, a GOP-sponsored bill they call a "pragmatic, practical and portable free-market alternative to the current health care system."
"We were disappointed to hear in your December 3, 2013 speech you believe 'the only alternative that Obamacare's critics have is, well, let's just go back to the status quo — because they sure haven't presented an alternative,' " the lawmakers wrote in their letter to the president. "On the contrary, earlier this year the Republican Study Committee introduced H.R. 3121, The American Health Care Reform Act, which acknowledges the flaws that existed in our health care system before the passage of the Affordable Care Act, and lays out patient-centered reforms to lower costs and increase access to health care through increased competition and transparency without the unworkable mandates in the current law."
The Republican plan combines a number of discrete GOP proposals offered during the Obamacare debate. It would give all Americans — not just those who receive insurance through their employer — a tax deduction for the purchase of coverage. It would allow people to purchase insurance across state lines. It would set up high-risk pools for those with pre-existing conditions, and also place limits on medical malpractice lawsuits.
Democrats dismissed the plan as old news that wouldn't address the entirety of the health care system's problems. And indeed, it is not as far-reaching as Obamacare. But it also avoids some of the dislocation, chaos and expense that Obamacare is causing across the country. Some conservative observers, although noting that there are problems with the GOP proposal, have concluded, "Even with these flaws ... the Republican plan is superior to Obamacare."
Now the plan's GOP authors would like to discuss it with Obama. "Our legislation is anything but the status quo," they told the president. They are no doubt serious about their ideas. But they shouldn't hold their breath waiting for that meeting at the White House.