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Conservatives Promote Health Care Reform Substitute

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Rep. Paul Broun is reintroducing as an alternative to the health care law a sweeping, market-based repeal-and-replace bill that he first proposed in the 111th Congress.

Amid ongoing legal and political challenges to President Barack Obama’s health care reform law, a well-funded new conservative group has set out to draft and promote an alternative, market-based system to replace it.

“The demand for an alternative is increasing,” said James Wootton, chairman of the Partnership for America, which describes itself as a grass-roots organization focused ontod “common-sense, market-based” solutions to the nation’s problems. Wootton is a former partner at Mayer Brown who previously led the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for Legal Reform.

The group has a budget of about $3 million, Wootton said, though he declined to identify its funding source. The group’s starting point is its campaign to, as organizers put it, “freeze, investigate and replace” the health care law known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

A House GOP vote to repeal that law earlier this year was largely symbolic, given inevitable Senate and White House opposition. But now that the sour economy has boosted the GOP’s chances of winning back the Senate and possibly the White House, some argue that Republicans might actually be able to overturn the law and that they had better have alternatives ready.

“You have a lot of people saying, ‘Wow, we might really be in charge,’” one health care lobbyist said. “What would we try to leave standing, and what would we try to fully repeal?”

It’s a tough question for Republicans, given that any health care plan that appeals to moderates could trigger a conservative backlash. And the more time and money that states invest in implementing the Affordable Care Act and the more patient benefits that kick in, the harder the law becomes to dismantle.

“As each new concrete benefit comes in, it makes it harder for [opponents] to try to repeal the law,” said Eddie Vale, communications director of Protect Your Care, one of two allied nonprofits working with the administration to promote the health care law. “And it makes the lack of any plan to replace it even more glaring.”

At the same time, several factors have thrown health care reform advocates on the defensive in recent months. The Affordable Care Act is turning out to be costly and challenging to implement, and voters remain skeptical. Though some polls suggest public appetite for a full repeal is shrinking, others show voters remain sharply divided and confused about the new health care regime.

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