Slowly but surely, the anti-repeal wing of the Republican party is starting to reassert itself. The latest effort comes from Lanhee Chen, who was the top policy advisor on the Mitt Romney campaign. As readers will likely recall, that campaign refused to advance an alternative to Obamacare, failed to emphasize the horror that is Obamacare, and went 0-9 in the nine most important swing states. Hot off of that success, Chen now has some advice for the rest of us.
Writing at Bloomberg View, Chen favorably discusses Avik Roy’s newly released proposal, which would jettison the repeal effort and work instead to refine and enlarge Obamacare. Roy has written a lot of great stuff during the Obamacare debate, but his no-repeal message certainly isn’t offering conservatives the way forward from here. Chen is nominally for repeal, but only after we first work to “reform” Obamacare and “improve” it. He apparently thinks that, the better we can make Obamacare, the more determined the American people will be to get rid of it.
Chen doesn’t much mind the existence of Obamacare’s government-run exchanges, nor of the massive taxpayer-funded subsidies that flow through those exchanges to President Obama’s insurance-company allies. Nor does he express any concern over the fact that those subsidies almost solely benefit the near-poor and near-elderly (and the insurance companies), at great expense to the middle class and the young. He simply thinks that these government-run exchanges are overregulated (shockingly), and he wants the states to have more control over them. He writes, “I don’t believe that health-insurance exchanges are anathema to free-market thinking in and of themselves.” What we need, he says, are “state-based [exchanges] that return regulation to state authorities and are more responsive to the needs of their citizens.” In other words, he pretty much wants Romneycare.
Thankfully, the American citizenry doesn’t want Obamacare or its Bay State inspiration. The citizenry never wanted Obamacare and may like it even less now than when it was being debated — as all 156 polls taken during Obama’s second term have found Obamacare to be unpopular. The citizenry wants real reform, and — notwithstanding Chen’s and Roy’s assertions to the contrary — that isn’t possible within a framework of 2,700 pages of unprecedented federal largess.
Americans are eager to repeal Obamacare and replace it with something far better. They’re just waiting for Republicans to champion a conservative alternative that would lower health costs, secure liberty, and make sure that any American who wants to buy health insurance would be able to do so.
Once such an alternative is widely advanced, repeal will become a reality. But the Republican party won’t advance such an alternative if its anti-repeal wing starts to get the ear of its establishment members — and if those members think that rank-and-file GOP voters will tolerate their going soft on the defining issue of our day.