As Christie Watch noted last month, as unlikely as it might seem, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal is hoping to take advantage of Chris Christie’s troubles to emerge as a leading candidate for the GOP nomination. He’s speaking wherever he can, including in New Hampshire, and he’s putting together a group of political operatives for his pre-presidential political setup called America Next, which includes a veteran of Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign and a consulting and a media expert from the Bush-Cheney campaign.
Jindal, a wonk with long experience in healthcare policy, wants to be known as the Republican Party’s idea man—after all, he once complained that the GOP was becoming “the stupid party.” To that end, he hopes, he and his political operation have just issued a blueprint on healthcare, which he’s offering to the Republican party as “open-source code” for their its leading candidates and members of Congress to put forward as part of their own anti–Affordable Care Act health plans.
If they do, it will result in what programmers call an “epic fail,” and it can only help Democrats in both 2014 and 2016.
You can read Jindal’s entire plan, The Freedom and Empowerment Plan, but here’s the gist. It would eliminate Obamacare, replacing it with a series of proposals that rehash much of what Republicans have been advocating for two decades. These include privatizing Medicare, eliminating employer-sponsored health coverage, collapsing Medicaid and shifting much more of healthcare costs onto consumers. Even National Review criticized one of the report’s proposals, a standard tax deduction for individuals buying health insurance equal to what employers currently receive. According to the magazine, the plan is “too disruptive to existing employer-provided insurance, and it does not help enough people get coverage. Replacing Obamacare with this plan would probably result in millions of people losing their coverage, and I think that would doom it.”
That’s the conservative critique of Jindal’s plan. The liberal critique is much sharper. The Louisiana governor promotes getting rid of Medicare as it currently exists, forcing seniors to buy insurance from private carriers as they did before 1965. His report notes, without irony, that this is the answer to Medicare’s financial problems. It is in fact the privatization of Medicare. But to disguise it, Republicans call it “premium support,” since some seniors would be given a subsidy, at least initially, to help them buy the private insurance. This is old hat for Jindal, who helped develop this idea when he headed the congressionally established Medicare Commission back in the late 1990s.