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April 02, 2014 1:48 PM Jindal’s Generic Obamacare Alternative

By Ed Kilgore

If congressional Republicans need a fresh excuse to delay settling on an Obamacare “replacement” plan, Bobby Jindal’s given them one by throwing another plan into the mix. But on further examination, the Genius’ proposal is sort of the ultimate Generic Conservative Plan, complete with a Generic Conservative label, the Freedom and Empowerment Plan. It was released by Jindal’s pocket “think tank,” America Next.

Is there any hoary conservative health policy pet rock this plan omits? I don’t see any on a quick examination. You got your interstate insurance sales. You got “tort reform.” You got new incentives for setting up Health Savings Accounts. You got state-run high-risk pools for those with pre-existing conditions. You got a shift in the tax code from deductions for employer-sponsored health insurance to individually purchased health insurance. There’s a Medicaid block grant, and for extra measure, borrowed from the Ryan Budget, there’s Medicare converted to a premium support system for private insurance instead of single-payer government-supplied insurance.

There are a couple of wrinkles that stand out. Unlike, say, John McCain’s 2008 health care proposal, which BobbyCare resembles, Jindal would deploy not tax credits for insurance purposes but a new standard deduction. Wouldn’t that be regressive in its impact? No problem, says Jindal: po’ folks with little use for a tax deduction could share the state-run high-risk pools designed for those with preexisting conditions. providing an appropriately fenced-off health insurance ghetto for the poor and the sick (I’m sure that would fare really well in the federal and state appropriations processes).

Jindal’s plan is also a little vague about the transition to voucherized Medicare, though he suggests traditional Medicare should include a cap on “catastrophic” health expenses, presumably to reduce reliance on Medigap policies.

One provision isn’t vague at all:

[R]epeal of Obamacare will remove the law’s anti-conscience mandates, and the funding of plans that cover abortions. But true health reform should go further, instituting conscience protections for businesses and medical providers, as well as a permanent ban on federal funding of abortions, consistent with the Hyde Amendment protections passed by Congress every year since 1976.

BobbyCare is the work of a genius only if hunting and collecting past proposals is a brilliant endeavor (indeed, he seems concerned to take credit for Medicare as Premium Support away from Ryan by noting the 1999 commission he chaired proposed something similar). It will probably undercut support for more novel and politically feasible Republican proposals like the Coburn-Burr-Hatch plan. But no matter: the Legend of Bobby Jindal, Boy Genius, will get another layer of thin varnish.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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