GOP can’t figure out what a conservative Obamacare alternative would even look like

Republicans are flailing as they try (still) to come up with a conservative alternative to Obamacare

Published April 8, 2014 8:10PM (EDT)

Paul Ryan                       (Jeffrey Malet,
Paul Ryan (Jeffrey Malet,

For nearly as long as there's been even the idea of Obamacare, there's been the idea of a soon-to-come Official Republican Alternative to Obamacare. For those who haven't been keeping track, that means Republicans have been talking about their Obamacare replacement for nearly five years.

But now it's 2014, Obamacare is law, the exchanges are running, Paul Krugman is declaring victory and this time is different. This time, Republicans are really going to show everyone what a right-wing universal healthcare plan that doesn't massively disrupt the market and doesn't return to the old status quo looks like. Really! No jokes! Pinky swear!

In related news, Sahil Kapur of Talking Points Memo reports on Tuesday that House Republicans and their staffers are having an enormously difficult time designing an alternative to Obamacare that fulfills all of their criteria without becoming, well, Obamacare-lite.

"As far as repeal and replace goes, the problem with replace is that if you really want people to have these new benefits, it looks a hell of a lot like the Affordable Care Act," one GOP health aide told Kapur. "To make something like that work, you have to move in the direction of the ACA. You have to have a participating mechanism, you have to have a mechanism to fund it, you have to have a mechanism to fix parts of the market."

And in other related news, Bloomberg reports that House Republicans are planning to delay their long-promised unveiling of a conservative Obamacare alternative for at least one month. House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy assures Bloomberg, however, that the problem isn't about the GOP's conflicting values — against universal healthcare but for obscuring the fact that they're against universal healthcare — but is rather an issue of “policy" and the hard work of "trying to get it all together."

So there you have it, the Republican Obamacare alternative. As New York magazine's Jonathan Chait once put it, "Republican health-care proposals reside in a state of quasi-existence, and any attempt to summon them into political reality will cause them to disappear."

By Elias Isquith

Elias Isquith is a former Salon staff writer.

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