GOP first must tell Americans what will replace Obamacare

Sometimes Republicans can be so stupid, you wonder if they'll ever win another election.

The plan by some conservative stalwarts in the party to force the defunding of Obamacare by threatening a government shutdown is more than stupid: It surely will fail and it probably will cost the GOP in the 2014 elections, possibly including control of the House.

obamacareThe fact of the matter is that Republicans won't be able to repeal, block, jam up, obstruct or impede Obamacare or any part of it until they first turn the spotlight on what they'd replace it with.

Republicans need to repeat after me: We've got a better way to take care of Americans' health needs. Say it again. Say it before and after every meal, upon getting up in the morning or retiring at night.

Mean it. Do it.

It would be hard to find someone who is more opposed to Obamacare than I. It is too complicated, too expensive and too intrusive to work. Americans don't like it, they have a hard time understanding it and when it starts to screw up their lives on a personal level, they'll despise it.

But Americans know full well that the health care "system" — if one can really call it that — doesn't serve them well enough. We've been all over it before: Many people can't afford medical insurance and many others don't qualify because of prior medical conditions. And so forth.

Republicans, some blinded by their hatred of Obamacare and their conservative ideology, fail to understand that the repeal of Obamacare won't happen until their plan appears so appealing to the American public that they'll forget all about the promised, but never delivered, benefits of Obamacare.

Republicans, as a political party, are not even close.

Sure, some Republicans have put forth a variety of plans, mostly as individual or small group ideas. For example, Rep. Paul Broun, a physician and a Georgia Republican, recently unveiled his third iteration of his reform legislation that includes allowing individuals and businesses to create their own insurance associations to reduce costs, permitting people to buy insurance across state lines, creating high-risk pools to cover pre-existing conditions and making health care expenses 100 percent tax-deductible. Broun calls it a patient-centered system, as opposed to the government-centered, orders-barked-from-the-top-down Obamacare. Bless him for that.

Other GOP ideas are floating around out there, but nothing of significance has passed the House and certainly nothing that's so appealing that it will capture the public's enthusiasm and overshadow Obamacare.

Why not? Because the leadership and tea party strategy appears to be: We need to abolish Obamacare before we can push through Congress an attractive, clearly workable and easily understood substitute.

This is exactly backward. It reveals a mindset untuned to public sentiment. It shows that some Republicans can't chew gum and walk at the same time. Until Republicans simultaneously light up the sky with their consensus-based replacement, no repeal, in whole or in part, will pass the Democrat-controlled Senate and force President Barack Obama to accept it.

Some Republicans would pat themselves on their backs for their clever strategy: Maybe we won't get a repeal through Congress and past the president this year, they apparently believe, but it will give us a campaign issue for 2014 and 2016. They must think a strategy that paints Obama and the Democrats as uncompromising on Obamacare will make the voting public turn to the Republicans in disgust.

It won't happen. Americans want realistic reform of the health care system, and they won't get it with just the repeal of Obamacare. Americans will blame Republicans for any government shutdown (or threat thereof) that is designed to force the defunding of Obamacare. Republicans will be blamed for their pigheadedness and blind ideology. And so they should.

Time's running out, Republicans. You're heading for disaster unless you start right now — whether in committee or in caucus — to craft creative and workable reform. You need, in short, a better idea. A more competitive idea. Competition: Isn't that what you stand for?

This column also appeared in the Chicago Tribune.

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