As Paul Ryan and House Republicans struggle to find a new way forward on healthcare, they should consider taking a cue from Henry David Thoreau: "simplify, simplify, simplify."
Rather than making another convoluted attempt to reorganize Obamacare, the GOP needs to get back to basics. They can start by doing what they've already done numerous times – vote for a full repeal of the Affordable Care Act.
Last month, in an attempt to cut Obamacare's deadweight while salvaging its more alluring trappings, the GOP wandered into an unnecessary miasma – CBO reports, cost estimates, coverage levels, and on and on.
This was never the right debate. Don't get me wrong; it's not that policy analysis doesn't matter. In fact, it's my stock and trade. But good policy doesn't emanate from clean numbers alone.
As political philosopher and Harvard Professor Michael Sandel has noted, policymaking begins with a simple question: "What's the right thing to do?"
Wittingly or not, Donald Trump addressed this question in his February 28th speech before Congress. In one of his more lucid adherences to conservative orthodoxy, Trump argued that "Mandating every American to buy government-approved health insurance was never the right solution for America."
That's the real issue. It's not primarily that the ACA is clunky, overpriced, or inefficacious, though it is all of those things.
It's not even that the ACA tried to extend healthcare coverage to all Americans. That's a noble goal and one we should pursue.
The problem is that the ACA pursued these goals through inherently un-American policy levers, like it's myriad of government mandates and restricted choices.
Simply put, the ACA is bad public policy because it was never the right thing to do.
Somewhere along the way, the GOP lost sight of Ronald Reagan's wisdom: "There are no easy answers, but there are simple answers."
Republicans don't need to rush a complicated bill through Congress, and they don't need to tinker around the edges of the Affordable Care Act, hoping that they won't offend too many people.
The right thing to do is simple: just repeal Obamacare.
From there, lawmakers can start over – designing a healthcare system that's right for America; one rooted in the principles of self-government and voluntary exchange that have undergirded American policymaking for the past two centuries.
Last month, President Trump issued Republican lawmakers an ill-conceived ultimatum – "take it or leave it." The House Freedom Caucus called his bluff, and the ultimatum failed. Now it's time to lay down a new challenge.
The GOP should force vulnerable Democrats facing reelection to vote on a repeal.
If they fall short, then at least they will have washed their hands of the ACA and placed Obamacare, with its varied and numerous failings, back where it belongs – with the lawmakers who created it.
Yes, Democrats in the Senate will do everything in their power to block a repeal, but in order to do so they'll have to double down on their ownership of the ACA.
The GOP should make them, and then trust the American people to give them the Congressional majority they'll need in 2018 to fix American healthcare once and for all.
It's simply the right thing to do.
Stephen Neely is an Assistant Professor of Public Administration at the University of South Florida. He teaches and conducts research on U.S. Public Policy.
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