Theres no question that Republican criticism has helped undermine support for President Barack Obamas health plan. But it hasnt done much to help Republicans.
Thats because while Republicans actually do have alternative ideas on health care reform, they have spent most of their time accentuating Obamas negatives.
In fact, the negative so dominates GOP statements that an ordinary citizen could well believe that Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) represented the whole party when he said, If were able to stop Obama on this, it will be his Waterloo. It will break him.
And disruption by right-wing hooligans of town-hall meetings held by Democratic Members of Congress only adds to the impression that the GOP is merely working to defeat Obama.
In the CBS-New York Times polls in late July, 80 percent of respondents said the U.S. health care system needs major reform. Almost half said it needs fundamental changes.
Some Republicans in Congress have come up with reform plans, even fundamental changes.
But hardly anyone knows about them partly, no doubt, because the media have ignored them. But its also because Republicans hardly ever mention them.
Moreover, in Congressional committee voting so far, while Republicans have offered amendments to Democratic proposals that indicate GOP thinking, theyve not offered fully developed substitute plans that have been scored by the Congressional Budget Office.
Two interesting GOP proposals, so far not adopted by party leaders, have been offered from opposite ends of the Republican ideological spectrum conservative and moderate.
They differ in one major way. Conservatives would end employer-based health care, while moderates would keep it.
But both are aimed, as youd expect from the GOP, at using free-market competition to lower costs and making private insurance more affordable to businesses and individuals.
If and when the GOP decides to go positive on health care, it ought to make the case for the success of competition the way a Democrat, former Clinton Commerce Department official Paul A. London, did in a recent Web article, Lower Healthcare Costs: Learning From History.
London wrote that Obama could cut costs by doing what Presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter did in the 1970s by removing price controls and otherwise deregulating such industries as air travel, trucking, telecommunications, energy, manufacturing, finance and retail.
London advocates, on the Web site theglobalist.com, opening current government health care monopolies Medicare, Medicaid, the system and the Veterans Affairs Department to competition among doctors, hospitals and insurance companies.
Republicans should be loudly advocating the same idea for national health care reform and citing successful models like Switzerlands system and Americas own Medicare Part D, the prescription drug program.
The conservative health care proposal has been offered in the House by Rep. Paul Ryan (Wis.) and in the Senate by Richard Burr (N.C.) and Tom Coburn (Okla.).