John A. Tures: Time for a new game plan

August 16, 2013 

There's this team that won a ton of games in 2010, and fans had a lot of expectations for this team to do well. But after failing in the playoffs in 2012, this team has gone 0-40. Either it will need a change in its lineup, or at least a different strategy.

That team is the House Republicans. Earlier this month, they took their 40th vote to repeal Obamacare. It passed, of course, because Republicans control the House of Representatives. But it won't pass the Senate, or get to the president's desk. One wonders why the attempt was taken. If a player grounds out 40 straight times, a coach might suggest a change in swing, or approach.

Republicans have claimed they received some bipartisan support. They did get some … four Democrats, from districts as red as west Georgia.

President Barack Obama did announce the implementation of the Affordable Care Act would be delayed, but it is unlikely that repeal vote No. 40 had anything to with it, any more than repeal vote Nos. 10, 20 or 30. It sounds as though they would need the delay if the GOP never took a repeal vote.

House Republicans claim that the public is against Obamacare. They do have a point, sort of. The latest Rasmussen Reports poll showed 42 percent in favor of it, with 52 percent opposing it (not much different from when it passed). But a more in-depth poll by the National Journal finds the public is more wary of repealing Obamacare than it is of the law itself. Only 36 percent of Americans favored repealing Obamacare outright.

And for all of those repeal votes before the last election, a million more votes were cast for House Democrats in 2012. Gerrymandering seems to have saved House Republicans in that election.

That National Journal survey did provide a clue for what Republicans can do. Most have made repealing Obamacare more about the president than about health care. Most Americans don't want Obamacare to fail for the sake of embarrassing President Obama. They want some method of dealing with the spiraling costs of health care.

I emailed the staffs of two House Republicans, Lynn Westmoreland of Georgia and Tom Petri of Wisconsin, for some input on the GOP plan. Both cited enhancing Health Savings Accounts, something I've supported for a long time. HSAs are great, but have one big catch: they expire. It's not really much of a savings plan if it ends after a year.

Savings are meant to be a long-term process, and something that you make a habit of doing, like kids saving a quarter a week for a really cool toy (mine when I was growing up was the Star Wars "Landspeeder."). Tax-free savings for big-ticket health costs would reduce some of the burdens consumers face. Let those HSAs roll over from year to year.

So here's my suggestion to others in the House GOP: Don't wait. Pass something you are in favor of, rather than voting against something without having a law in place. More Americans might be supportive of those repeal efforts if there's a plan waiting. And better HSAs on the books could be helpful even if Obamacare is never repealed.

John A. Tures, associate professor of political science at LaGrange College; jtures@lagrange.edu.

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