“The Republicans are finally going to end the free ride they've had on opposing Obamacare to offer an alternative,” said David Kendall, a senior fellow for health and fiscal policy at Third Way, a think tank that pursues centrist policies. Kendall added that he's not sure if that's because Republicans did not like being mocked in the president's State of the Union speech, or because they believe they now have an opportunity to seize the upper hand because of the law's botched rollout. “Regardless of the reason,” he said, “it will be nice to have a side-by-side comparison of Obamacare and a Republican plan.”
In his first State of the Union address since his healthcare law's coverage provisions kicked in, Obama spent little time on healthcare—but enough to chastise Republicans for trying to overturn the ACA and to challenge them, again, to produce something better if they can.
“So again, if you have specific plans to cut costs, cover more people and increase choice—tell America what you'd do differently,” he continued. “Let's see if the numbers add up. But let's not have another 40-something votes to repeal a law that's already helping millions of Americans.”
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) recently said that healthcare reform would be a topic of interest at the House GOP retreat, which began on Maryland's Eastern Shore a day after the president's State of the Union address. The party made good on that promise. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said during the three-day meeting that the House GOP would support an Affordable Care Act alternative and pass that legislation on the House floor this year, according to a House GOP leadership aide.
So far, the GOP healthcare plan is thin on details. A one-page fact sheet outlining the standards for replacing the ACA includes a mission statement and fewer than 10 “guiding principles,” such as “give healthcare security and peace of mind to all Americans,” “incentivize doctors to practice more medicine,” and “find new cures and better treatments through innovation.”
Third Way's Kendall said he expects the GOP alternative to include provisions such as block grants for Medicaid and multi-state purchasing of healthcare insurance (so a person in New York can purchase a health plan regulated in Texas, for instance).
“The only way it can resonate is if they offer a way to fix the healthcare system and Obamacare,” Kendall said. “If they continue to play to their base and repeal Obamacare and not do anything, that gets them elected in their primary elections in their district, but it doesn't win them a general election.”