Obamacare remains unworkable, unaffordable, and unpopular. Its ailments continue to mount: failing state exchanges, collapsing co-ops, higher premiums, higher deductibles, narrow networks, and fewer choices. It should be no surprise that the latest Real Clear Politics average poll shows 50.2 percent of Americans oppose the law, while only 42.5 percent support it.
Those who support the law are in triage mode. Last month the Urban Institute hosted an event discussing the next steps to strengthen and improve the law. Not surprisingly, their solutions were simply more of the same: more government spending, more government intervention, and more government control. Liberal prescriptions for keeping Obamacare afloat would ultimately result in a health care system where providers and patients are beholden to government regulators.
The alternative is patient-centered, market-based reform. A variety of plans have proposed Obamacare alternatives. These plans share a commitment to core conservative principles:
Recent reports indicate House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) anticipates advancing an alternative to Obamacare in 2016. The budget process offers a natural platform for outlining a replacement. From there, the committee work needed to fill in details will be critical. Before Congress embarks on these next steps, it should set some basic policy parameters for any replacement to Obamacare.
The Senate’s recent efforts to maximize the reconciliation process to repeal major elements of Obamacare should encourage reformers. Of course, more can be done to expand its reach, but the initiative provided an important test run -- and down payment on lawmakers’ commitment to voters -- to repeal the law.
Reconciliation shows repeal is possible. Now is the time to show that replacing Obamacare is possible too. To do that, Congress should spend the next year building a framework for a patient-centered, market-based alternative that empowers individuals to control the dollars and decisions regarding their health care.
Owcharenko is The Heritage Foundation’s Preston A. Wells, Jr., fellow and director of the think tank’s Center for Health Policy Studies.
This piece originally appeared in The Hill's "Congress Blog."