Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal released a health care proposal Wednesday aiming to repeal and replace Obamacare with a conservative alternative.
"President Obama has to stop saying there isn't an alternative," said Jindal, the two-term Republican, on a conference call with bloggers Wednesday afternoon. Jindal's plan, developed within his America Next organization, is a 22-page proposal that seeks to be the "replace part of repeal and replace," as he explains.
Jindal outlines the "problem" of America's health care system and then expounds on three "principles" around which a conservative health care reform agenda should be based: lowering health care costs, protecting the most vulnerable, and portability and choice. On the big points of health-care reform, Jindal's proposal mostly tracks with other conservative alternatives to Obamacare. It offers a way to guarantee health insurance access to Americans with pre-existing conditions, argues for allowing the selling of insurance plans across state lines, and pushes for medical malpractice lawsuit reform.
Ramesh Ponnuru notes two aspects of the Jindal plan, one that heartens him, the other that he finds discourging. Jindal proposes to reform medical licensing throughout the states as a way to level the barriers to entry for smaller "minute clinics" and the like. Ponnuru praises the idea, saying he hasn't seen any other conservative politicians embrace it. But here's a caveat from Ponnuru:
Second, Jindal resurrects President Bush’s proposal for a standard deduction to create a level playing field between employer-provided and individually-purchased insurance. I think there are two problems with this approach. It is too disruptive to existing employer-provided insurance, and it does not help enough people get coverage. Replacing Obamacare with this plan would probably result in millions of people losing their coverage, and I think that would doom it. It would be better to go with a tax credit, not a deduction, and make it available on the individual market only when people have no access to employer coverage.
Ponnuru notes that the Jindal plan contains a subsidy for those making up to 150 percent above the poverty line, which could "mitigate" but not completely solve the problem of helping people afford coverage. When asked by THE WEEKLY STANDARD about why the plan creates a standard deduction instead of offering a refundable tax credit, Jindal said he does not want to "raise taxes" on others in order to pay for those credits. He also said he fears creating new credits could open the floodgates for waste and fraud.
"Do we really want the IRS running up another government program?" he asked rhetorically.
Jindal conceded that other conservatives who have suggested tax credits are advocating "a different way to reach the same goal."