GOP Obamacare Fix: Real Change or Just Tweaks?
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The Fiscal Times
March 17, 2014

With the midterm elections looming, Republicans are preparing to unveil their Obamacare alternative in order to appeal to voters who may be unhappy with the president’s health care law. Keeping what works and reforming what the GOP believes doesn't work is tricky and could face an uphill battle.

First, since a new poll shows that the majority of Americans are satisfied with the way the current health care system is working, any tinkering with benefits or age requirements could set off a firestorm of protests. Second, if Republicans try to satisfy  everyone, costs are likely to skyrocket, equalling or exceeding the dramatic year over year increases in premiums that have made health care a burden for business and consumers alike. 

One thing Republicans are unlikely to do is risk big, controversial fixes that could jeopardize the 2014 midterm elections.

The Gallup poll released Monday shows that two thirds of Americans say they are satisfied with the health care system—the majority of whom have insurance, while a third are uninsured. Gallup also found that young people and elderly people were the most satisfied with the current healthcare system. Some 73 percent of people ages 18-30 said they were content with the system. And 80 percent of people over 65—who are eligible for Medicare—said they were also satisfied.

Related: GOP Obamacare Strategy Fixed After Florida?

The new survey comes on the heels of a separate CNN-ORC International poll released last week revealing that support for the president’s health care law is rising slightly, with 39 percent of Americans now saying they support the law, compared to 35 percent in December. The poll found that 57 percent still oppose the law, down from 62 percent at the end of last year.

Both survey results are good news for the Obama administration, as more and more provisions in the new health care reform law take effect.

Meanwhile, the surveys could throw a wrench in the GOP’s campaign strategy to continue attacking Obamacare, while offering their own alternatives.

House Speaker John Boehner and other House leaders are cobbling together a bill to serve as an alternative to the law that shifts more power away from the federal government onto the states, with an emphasis on moving more people to private plans.

Related: GOP on Obamacare: Repeal or Replace?

The proposal includes a handful of previously offered GOP ideas—including expanding the high risk insurance pools, promoting health savings accounts, inducements for small businesses to purchase coverage together, The Washington Post reporters.

This is the first time Republicans in the House will offer a real comprehensive Obamacare alternative, instead of symbolically voting to repeal major provisions of the law or get rid of it entirely, as they have done more than 50 times. 

The Post reports that House leaders plan to share a memo with other GOP lawmakers later this month outlining the proposal which is called “A Stronger Health Care System: The GOP Plan for Freedom, Flexibility, & Peace of Mind.” The memo will also include talking points for the GOP lawmakers to explain it to voters.

Related: Obamacare May Be Failing the Uninsured

“We’ve got to get to where you can compare the two perspectives, Republican and Democrat,” House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA said in a statement.

However, some Democrats are skeptical about the proposal and believe the GOP’s proposal is only political and won’t actually fix the healthcare law.

“If they had fixes, I’d certainly consider it,” Sen. Timothy M. Kaine (D-Va.) told the Post. “But if they are trying to scrap it all, going back to the bad old days, it’s not going to go anywhere.”

Meanwhile, Republicans in the Senate have unveiled an Obamacare alternative of their own and are watching the House closely to see how the new proposal will fare.

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Washington Correspondent Brianna Ehley, based in D.C., covers Congress, government agencies and spending issues, health care, and tax and economic policy for The Fiscal Times.