Jindal: GOP needs 'Obamacare' alternative

WASHINGTON -  Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, a potential 2016 presidential candidate, on Wednesday offered a Republican alternative to President Barack Obama's health care overhaul, saying states should play a greater role in containing health care costs while giving consumers more flexibility in choosing insurance plans.

Jindal said Obama's health care law should be "repealed in its entirety" but said Republicans need to offer a better way to reform the health care system, wading into one of the most contentious policy issues in the upcoming midterm elections.

Jindal, a former congressman and Bush administration health care adviser, has sought to establish himself as an outside-the-Beltway policy leader in the early jockeying for the next presidential campaign. His plan aims to separate himself from congressional Republicans who have repeatedly sought to repeal the law but struggled to find consensus on a viable replacement.

"Repealing all of Obamacare is a good and necessary step - but not one sufficient by itself to achieve the real health reform America needs," Jindal said in the plan released by America Next, a nonprofit he formed to promote conservative policy ideas.

Jindal's proposal aims to contain rising health care costs instead of focusing on universal coverage, something he called "the liberal shibboleth." It would not force consumers to buy insurance plans but would instead turn to the states to find ways to control premiums and medical costs.

The proposal includes a $100 billion grant program that states could access if they come up with insurance reforms to curb costs. To be part of the plan, states would need to guarantee access to people with pre-existing conditions, a key part of Obama's health care law.

The plan arrives as Obama has trumpeted more than 7 million people who have signed up for his health care law despite a troubled rollout. Obama said Tuesday the debate over repealing the law "is over" and Democrats have said it will be difficult for Republicans to create a plan that lowers costs and provides coverage of those with pre-existing conditions unless it includes the mandate to purchase insurance.

Jindal's approach incorporates a number of alternatives that have been promoted by Republicans in the past, including expanding incentives for health savings accounts, allowing consumers to buy insurance across state lines and pushing a crackdown on frivolous lawsuits. It would also allow businesses and medical providers to use religious objections to overcome a requirement in the health care law to cover birth control for employees.

Mike Czin, a spokesman for the Democratic National Committee, called the plan a "rehash of failed Republican ideas," noting that more than 1 in 5 people in Louisiana lack health insurance. He predicted the Jindal plan could lead to "millions of Americans being kicked off their current health care plans" while bringing back "the worst parts of the old, failed health care system."

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