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Health Care Repeal Not Going Well

Last week, a National Review editorial flayed Republicans for their insufficient devotion to the cause of repealing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The Republicans' problem, NR argued, was that their bill includes Republicans proposals, not just straight repeal:

The most important step Republicans could take to promote repeal would be to launch a campaign to pressure House Democrats who voted against Obamacare to co-sponsor legislation to repeal it. On this crucial issue, though, House Republicans have whiffed. Some Republican congressmen are worried about being seen as having no health-care solutions of their own, and so the leadership has gotten behind a bill that both repeals Obamacare and replaces it with various conservative reforms.

We would, of course, be delighted to see such a bill enacted. But the principal effect of including conservative alternatives will be to make it easier for Democrats not to sign on to the bill. It thus sets back the biggest conservative health-care reform of all: the repeal of Obamacare.

NR is correct that it's very hard for Republicans to cobble together a majority to support repealing PPACA and to endorse a specific set of alternative proposals. The more you add into your bill, the more people you lose. On the other hand, a straight repeal bill with some vague future promise of doing something about health care down the road won't cut it, either. During the health care debate, Republicans insisted they didn't just want to defeat health care reform. They wanted to "start over" and pass a fantasy alternative with all the popular elements of reform and none of the unpopular elements. That line doesn't work if you're trying to pass a bill that says repeal PPACA, full stop. And indeed, as AEI's Karyn Bowman notes, "Most polls show that most Americans don’t want to repeal the legislation, preferring instead to 'reform' it or give it 'a chance to work.'” All this is a way of saying that the task of throwing thirty million Americans off health insurance is going to be difficult.

Meanwhile, former Bush administration adviser Yuval Levin gloats that Democrats are working to build public support for the PPACA, which shows that they have lost the debate:

The massive and expensive operation is another indication of the Democrats’ view that their problem in the health-care debate has been a matter of communication. Unfortunately for them, the real problem is and always has been the actual legislation and its consequences. The facts are not with them. People understand that an enormous new entitlement program, together with mountains of taxes, mandates, and regulations, do not offer a solution to the problem of health-care costs, which is the source of all our other health-care problems.... The reason for the massive PR campaign is to hide or overwhelm the torrent of bad news that has followed the enactment of Obamacare.

Meanwhile, Levin says, conservatives have their own health care PR operation:

Those who want to see the law repealed to make room for an effective and meaningful health-care reform therefore need only to keep track of the facts and make them known to voters. And as of today, they’ve got a great new tool in that effort. My Ethics and Public Policy Center colleague Jim Capretta, together with the excellent new economic research institute e21, has launched a new website called The site will keep track of news about the law’s implementation from around the country and offer a clearinghouse for facts, stats, and analysis. It will be an absolutely essential resource in the continuing health-care debate.

Did you follow that? First he says that the Democrats' creation of a health care PR campaign proves they have no facts on their side and the people are against them. Then he announces the creation of a Republican health care PR campaign, which "need only to "keep track of the facts and make them known to voters." But I thought the voters already knew the facts!