The Republican Health Care Plan Is Obamacare

by Bob Schwartz

National Health System for America - Heritage Foundation (1989)

Say something once, why say it again?
Talking Heads, Psycho Killer

Sometimes making a point means repeating yourself and not saying you’re sorry.

The current situation is that Newt Gingrich yesterday criticized attempts by some Republicans to repeal the Affordable Care Act, saying that the party had to offer alternative plans and unfortunately had not one idea.

He is of course wrong. As pointed out in an earlier post Heritagecare, the Republicans at one time did have a big idea about health care reform. It was developed at the conservative Heritage Foundation in 1989, as a market-based alternative to any sort of single-payer national health plan. The centerpiece of this reform was a national mandate requiring everybody to have insurance. With some refinement, this Heritage plan is at the heart of the Affordable Care Act. Obamacare is a version of Heritagecare.

Following the development of the Heritage plan, this is what happened.

Bill Clinton was elected President. First Lady Hillary Clinton promoted the adoption of national single-payer universal health care. This proved to be a political disaster and embarrassment. Health care was taken off the table for years.

Mitt Romney was elected Governor of Massachusetts. He used the Heritage plan—a Republican idea— as the basis for a state health care program. By all accounts, it was a success.

Barack Obama was elected President. He made health care reform a priority, but with single-payer dead in the water—maybe forever—he promoted a program based on the Heritage plan. As proof of concept for the Affordable Care Act, he could point to Massachusetts, where such an idea had worked.

Republicans intent on eviscerating Obama and his presidency used what they called “Obamacare” as a prime example of totalitarian socialism in action. They ignored the conservative origins of the plan. These Republicans were aghast when the Supreme Court narrowly allowed the plan to proceed as constitutional, but continue to do whatever they can to thwart it, including the dozens of attempts to repeal it—the same useless attempts that Gingrich criticized.

Mitt Romney ran for President. He could no longer embrace Heritagecare/Romneycare/Obamacare. He explained that while the plan might be good for Massachusetts, it is no good for America. He was never directly confronted with a version of the question: Are you serious?

Newt Gingrich is a very complicated man and politician, but he should be given his due. He is joining a chorus of mostly old-school Republicans trying to tell the Young Turks to get real. In this case, getting real could actually work to the Republican advantage, though they seem to be too ideology-blinded (and Obama-hate blinded) to see it.

People really do have some serious and legitimate qualms about the Affordable Care Act, and its implementation is bound to be a rocky road. If the Republicans looked back to their own Heritage plan, and if they took seriously the lip service of “compassionate conservatism”, they might actually be able to offer some constructive, earnest and enlightened adjustments—all for the sake of the general welfare of the country. As it is, that won’t be happening now or anytime soon.