The Treatment

Does The Gop Really Have An Alternative Plan In The Works?


Having just dropped out of the
bipartisan talks on health care, Orrin Hatch now says that he is working on a
reform bill of his own. On his Twitter feed this afternoon, Hatch declared that he
was "In Washington today working on my health care reform proposal--an
alternative to the costly, government-centric plans being foisted on us."

Even before officially announcing
that he was dropping out of the Senate Finance Committee's talks, Hatch was
making allusions to an alternative that he would propose. On Sunday's "Face the
Nation," Hatch said:

I'm going to file a bill in the
near future that basically would be modeled after the CHIP bill, the child
health insurance bill that was a Hatch-Kennedy bill. And that bill would
emphasize and allows the states with all of their different demographics -- each
state is different, Utah is
notMassachusetts, Massachusetts is not Utah.
We would give them the money but let them design their own plan, and do it
under certain very good economic circumstances.

His comments don't say much, but
they seem to evoke one idea that one policy adviser told me that Hatch was
interested in exploring, at least back in February: state insurance exchanges,
as opposed to the national insurance exchange that Obama and the Congressional
Democrats support. Unfortunately, it's impossible to imagine that a series of state exchanges--only funded
under "very good economic circumstances," for that matter--would do much to
drive down costs and significantly improve coverage nationwide, i.e. actually
deliver meaningful comprehensive reform.

Still, putting an alternative down on paper could prove to be a more
politically effective way to challenge the
Democratic-led reform effort, as an alternative to the ham-fisted, blatantly partisan
 that have been the
Republican Party's modus operandi so far. As we head into the August recess, it
will be interesting to observe whether Hatch and his fellow Republicans will, in fact, propose
any concrete alternatives
to the Democratic plan-or whether they'll continue to insist that Americans
think the status quo is good enough.

--Suzy Khimm

Suzy Khimm is a senior editor at The New Republic.

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