The Republican Dilemma on Health Care
Michael Gerson's column today is supposed to offer a shot of optimism to Republicans gloomy about their chances in the health-care debate. That certainly wasn't my takeaway, however.
In the first few paragraphs, Gerson ably sketches the Achilles heel of health care: paying for it. Probably through some policy that taxes employer-provided health benefits. "Obamacare should be regarded as inevitable only when someone, anyone, knows how it will be paid for," he writes. Fair point.
But then he goes on to buck up sagging Republican spirits. "Fortunately for Republicans," he enthuses, "health care is an issue on which conservative policy wonks have been creatively at work for a decade. Most Republican reforms involve shifting away from employer-based health insurance -- replacing the massive tax breaks for companies with subsidies to individuals and families to purchase coverage on their own."
In other words, Republican plans have not only the same vulnerability as Democratic plans, but twice as much of it. Democratic plans are likely to tax some employer-provided health benefits. Republican plans are likely to tax all employer-health benefits. Indeed, Gerson recognizes the problem, and says that Republican fortunes are improved because Max Baucus is "a supporter of partially funding health reform by limiting the tax breaks for employer-based coverage." But he's got that backward. Max Baucus's fortunes are improved because Republicans will find it difficult to attack him for embracing their primary policy idea.
June 5, 2009; 10:04 AM ET
Categories: Health Reform
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