It would be a major understatement to say that Obamacare has had a bad spring. Around the time of Lincoln’s birthday, registered voters told Fox News that, by a margin of 6 percentage points (48 to 42 percent), it would “be better to go back to the health care system that was in place in 2009” than it would be “to leave the new health care law in place.” Three months later, as we head into Memorial Day, nostalgia for the good ol’ days of 2009 now beats Obamacare by a whopping 22 points (56 to 34 percent).

That’s saying something, because, back in 2009 — largely as a result of Republicans’ refusal to do much of anything on health care in the nearly decade-and-a-half between their defeat of Hillarycare and their defeat at the hands of Obama — Americans clearly weren’t very happy with the health-care status quo. Every one of the half-dozen polls published by RealClearPolitics in the first half of 2009 — before Obamacare clearly took shape — showed Americans favoring efforts to reform our health-care system. Now, Obamacare is even more unpopular than the unpopular pre-Obamacare status quo — and that has been true for nearly four years.

None of this, however, should lull Republicans into thinking there’s no need for them to advance conservative, limited-government reforms in lieu of Obamacare’s liberal, big-government model of centralized control over American medicine. For at least two main reasons, it’s crucial that the GOP push not only for the full repeal of Obamacare, but also for real reform.

First, despite the Fox News polling, it’s very hard to beat something with nothing. If Republicans refuse to advance a proposal for real reform, the almost certain result will be that voters will eventually seek the middle ground between Obamacare and the GOP’s nonexistent alternative — and that middle ground won’t be pretty. Almost surely, it will mean keeping most of Obamacare, or at least most of its statist architecture — a result that should be unacceptable to liberty-loving Americans.

Second, although it was light years better than the nightmare of Obamacare, the health care system of 2009 was already broken — as the federal government (with the help of state governments) had already broken it. Rather than being content to go back to that, the GOP needs to make the government fix what it broke. This will principally require fixing the unfairness and the senselessness in the tax code, which has incentivized the purchase of pre-paid health care in lieu of actual insurance, has sapped the strength of the individual health care market (where one must buy insurance without the tax break enjoyed by those who get insurance through their employer), and has left us with a only a pale imitation of a genuine health-care market. Even now, a few months before Obamacare and its system of coercion really kicks in, we have a market in which people generally don’t control their own health-care dollars, can’t see prices, and don’t have the opportunity or incentive to shop for value.

The easiest way to fix the unfairness in the tax code — and thereby pave the road to Obamacare’s complete and utter repeal — is to simply provide tax credits to the uninsured and the self-insured. The easiest way for Republicans to let Democrats keep most of their willful overhaul of American medicine — which cost them the House in 2010 and likely would have cost them the presidency in 2012 if Mitt Romney had run an anti-Obamacare campaign — is to continue to pretend that real reform isn’t important.

Full repeal and real reform go hand-in-glove.

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