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Sorry, Bobby Jindal Is Still Wrong

Ramesh Ponnuru is a Bloomberg View columnist. He is a senior editor of National Review and the author of “The Party of Death: The Democrats, the Media, the Courts, and the Disregard for Human Life.”
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Conservatives continue to debate how (or whether) to replace the Affordable Care Act. Some of us argue that a replacement should be competitive with Obamacare on coverage: that it should enable roughly the same number of people to buy coverage while increasing competition, cutting taxes, protecting individual choice and reducing government involvement in health care. 

And so we favor eliminating Obamacare, capping the tax break for employer-provided coverage, and providing everyone who doesn't have such coverage with a tax credit that could be used to buy insurance that (at least) covers catastrophic health expenses.

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal disagrees, favoring an alternative that would result in millions of people losing their coverage and deriding the higher-coverage proposals of other conservatives as "Obamacare Lite."

In response to my criticism of his idea, Jindal argues that his plan would have the advantage of lowering insurance premiums, and that the disadvantage I mention -- it would result in millions of people losing their health insurance -- is a "feature" rather than a "bug."

The governor stacks the deck in comparing alternatives. The tax-credit option would also put downward pressure on premiums, and doesn't involve "trying to mandate coverage through new regulations, taxes and Washington diktats," as he puts it.

On coverage numbers, Jindal has talked himself into a perverse position. It would be, he says, a capitulation to the left for conservatives to back policies that would make it easier for millions of people to buy health insurance. But it's Jindal who agrees with the left that the U.S. has to choose between conservatism and affordable coverage for all. He's the one who thinks that if a plan results in such coverage, it is by definition not conservative

That's the real capitulation, and it's one conservatives shouldn't make.​

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg View's editorial board or Bloomberg LP, its owners and investors.

To contact the author on this story:
Ramesh Ponnuru at rponnuru@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor on this story:
Timothy Lavin at tlavin1@bloomberg.net