What’s Driving the GOP Health Plan

This was published as a Wall Street Journal Think Tank column on May 30, 2014.

Conservative House Republicans are pushing for a vote on a GOP health-care plan, presumably to appeal to their base, to give GOP candidates health reform ideas to talk about on the campaign trail and to show that they have a policy position beyond repealing the Affordable Care Act.

Polling shows they have a ways to go.

The Kaiser Family Foundation’s May tracking poll found that just 13% of the public thinks that Republicans have an alternative to the health-care law, the same share as in March 2011. Sixty-one percent said that Republicans did not have an alternative health-reform plan. And, only 20% of Republicans say that the GOP has an alternative plan, with 53% saying they do not.

Many voters want to move on from the health-care debate. In the May survey, 51% of registered voters said they are tired of hearing candidates talk about health care and want to hear them talk about other issues, such as jobs. But not Republicans, who still care about the health law: 60% of Republicans in the Kaiser poll want the debate about the law to continue. Similarly, 65% of Republicans still want the law repealed and replaced, while only 34% of the public overall does and 59% want it improved instead.

The effort by conservative Republicans to focus attention on an alternative to the Affordable Care Act is best understood as a straightforward appeal to their base in an election year.

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