More Republicans for Obamacare

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Okay, maybe it’s not enough to call a groundswell. But after former Majority Leader Bill Frist told me last Friday that he would end up voting for the bill were he still in Congress (with some caveats about the shortcomings of the legislative language as it now stands), we’ve heard from some other GOP voices in support of the basic contours of Barack Obama’s health care reform effort: Bush Administration HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (who ran as a Republican, but who is now an independent)* and Mark McClellan, who ran both the Food and Drug Administration and the Medicare and Medicaid programs under George W. Bush.

But what was more striking, in its own way, was this op-ed yesterday by Louisana Governor Bobby Jindal, making what the headline described as a “conservative case” for health reform. Why? Because much of what Jindal calls for is in the legislation, as Washington and Lee University Law Professor Timothy Stoltzfus Jost notes here.

And in the San Francisco Chronicle, Carolyn Lochhead points out that Jindal’s deeper critique is with his own party:

Today Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal stepped up his calls for Republicans to join the health care debate. Does anyone notice this this is an admission that his party has been AWOL? Jindal says there’s no way the Democratic bill can pass, but after Democrats give up on their “grand experiment,” he says, “Republicans have to join the battle of ideas.”

This is not the first conservative criticism that Republicans have lost their intellectual moorings. Jindal offers several ideas tracking these suggestions from Joseph Antos at the American Enterprise Institute: promote better competition among insurers and providers; promote informed consumer choice and accountability; cap the tax exclusion; replace Medicare administered pricing with competitive bidding, and cap malpractice awards.

Consensus is forming around two ideas: Democrats are not doing enough to lower costs (a little-noticed Goldman Sachs research paper said what other experts have been warning: rising health care costs will outstrip the tax revenues Democrats are counting on to pay for expanding care unless actual delivery reforms are enacted too); and the status quo is unsustainable.

Sounds like grounds for compromise.

Not likely. After all, these Republicans who are speaking out all have one thing in common: None of them actually has a vote in either house of Congress.

*My gratitude to commenter Destor23 for that correction.