The U.S. House of Representatives voted today to repeal the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare), which was upheld as constitutional by the Supreme Court last month. It was the 33rd time Republicans acted to "defund, dismantle or repeal" the law, according to ABC News. The vote was 244-185.
The public doesn't need another symbolic display of Republican animus for President Barack Obama's signature legislative achievement. We got the message, at least by the 18th vote. Beyond that, it looks silly, especially since the Senate doesn't plan to take up the measure.
The official GOP mantra on health care is "repeal and replace," but we have yet to hear much about the "replace" part. It wasn't until I read David Brooks's July 2 column in the New York Times that I learned there even was an alternative plan to provide access to health care to all Americans. It must be the best-kept secret in town.
Brooks refers to an essay in National Affairs by James C. Capretta and Robert E. Moffit. The authors claim that repeal isn't enough. Republicans might not have taken the initiative to fix health care without the motivation of Obamacare, but now the onus is on them to come up with an alternative. All the talk about restraining government spending is meaningless without addressing escalating health-care costs.
Leaving the penalty-or-tax question aside, the main flaw with the ACA, as Brooks notes, is that it does nothing to realign incentives. Reimbursing providers on a fee-for-service basis encourages unnecessary tests and procedures. And the tax exemption for employer-provided benefits camouflages the true cost.
Most Americans are interested in viable solutions to the nation's health-care issues. Unless the GOP wants to resurrect the "party of no" moniker, it should make sure this nonsense stops at 33.
(Caroline Baum is a Bloomberg View columnist. Follow her on Twitter.)
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