He has a point.

Photographer: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Bobby Jindal: Ponnuru Is 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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In my column earlier this week, I criticized Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal's proposal to replace the Affordable Care Act. Jindal took issue with the column and wrote in to Bloomberg View in response. In the interest of fair debate, I've posted his rejoinder below in full.

By Bobby Jindal

My op-ed this week regarding the need for conservative alternatives to Obamacare has prompted numerous responses, including one on these pages. I'm happy to continue this debate by explaining my plan further, and outlining why I believe it's the preferable choice for conservatives to embrace.

In his column analyzing my plan, Ramesh Ponnuru criticized it on several counts. He says its "great flaw" is that it might cause disruption in replacing Obamacare. But while some may view that as a bug, others might view it as a feature.

For instance, the millions of individuals who received cancellation notices due to Obamacare might like the opportunity to purchase more affordable coverage without facing the Obamacare mandates that have jacked up their premiums. Likewise the six million Americans about to face the Obamacare mandate tax for the first time come April 15 -- or the millions more who will face additional red tape when they have to apply to Washington for a mandate exemption.

Two other numbers bear particular emphasis. Last spring, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that delaying the individual mandate until 2019 would raise the number of uninsured Americans by 13 million. In other words, under Obamacare, 13 million Americans will receive health coverage because the federal government is forcing them to buy it under penalty of taxation. Raising taxes and increasing government spending and borrowing to ensure none of those individuals -- many of whom may never have wanted to buy insurance in the first place -- have their coverage disrupted makes little sense, especially given the size of our debt.

The second number is $2,500 -- that's the reduction in premiums President Barack Obama promised from his health plan during the 2008 campaign. But according to an analysis by America Next, a nonprofit research group I founded, the president's failure to deliver on that promise has cost the American people more than $1.2 trillion in higher premiums just from 2009 through 2013.

In critiquing my proposal, Ponnuru falls into the typical trap of the left -- to evaluate a health plan primarily, if not exclusively, by how many people it provides with insurance cards, regardless of whether those cards translate into affordable deductibles or access to doctors. I fundamentally disagree with that premise. The American people are worried first and foremost about the rising cost of health coverage -- it's what makes their health care unaffordable, and Obamacare unsustainable.

That's why my plan emphasizes attacking rising health costs, and not simply expanding coverage -- because focusing on the former is the best way to achieve the latter. Conversely, fixating on the latter -- trying to mandate coverage through new regulations, taxes and Washington diktats -- will only make the former less attainable, raising health-care costs in a way that no regime of taxpayer-funded subsidies could ever sustain.

That said, my plan absolutely includes a safety net for the most vulnerable. It provides at least $100 billion for states to guarantee access for individuals with pre-existing conditions. Rather than dictating a top-down approach from Washington, our plan lets the states decide how best to increase access for their citizens. And it does so in a way that encourages states to reform their existing regulatory regimes -- helping to bring down costs.

I believe this plan -- focusing first and foremost on reducing costs, and doing so through the states, not Washington -- provides the best path forward, most closely adheres to conservative principles, and provides a telling contrast to Obamacare's shortcomings and failures. To win elections, conservatives need to have better ideas, not merely mimic the ideas of the left.

(Bobby Jindal is the governor of Lousiana.)

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