Sen. Landrieu: Wyden’s State Flexibility Amendment Is ‘The Ultimate Repeal And Replace’

The White House has portrayed President Obama’s endorsement of a bipartisan proposal that would allow states to opt out of the individual mandate in 2014 as a matter of “state flexibility” and sees the legislation as an attempt to push back against the GOP’s claims of a “government takeover of health care.” I argued yesterday, that by endorsing the proposal, Obama can also challenge Republican governors who oppose his method of reform to prove that their conservative solutions would go as far in expanding health care coverage and reducing costs.

But Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA), who co-sponsored the amendment along with Sens. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Scott Brown (R-MA), is taking this message a step further — co-opting the GOP’s talking points on reform to argue that the amendment is “the ultimate repeal and replace”:

But Landrieu said that her bill was, in effect, “the ultimate repeal and replace,” leaving it to each state that is unhappy with the design of the federal law “to replace it with whatever each state comes up with.”

“The only string (attached) is to cover people that work,” said Landrieu, who said the fundamental premise of reform is that working people should not have to face bankruptcy to pay their medical bills.

“Does (Gov. Jindal) think that people should work 50, 60, sometimes 70 hours a week and not have access to health care?” asked Landrieu, who said the governor needs to bring his expertise to bear to come up with a plan that fits Louisiana’s needs.

If the governor doesn’t like the health-care bill, the beauty of this proposal is that you can create your own, but it’s not responsible and not right to just run away from your responsibilities,” said Landrieu, noting that “anybody can balance a budget if you want people to die in the streets and if you want people to stay out of school.” The mark of a skillful governor, she said, would be crafting a balanced budget that still “finds a way to provide health care and provide education.”

It’s highly unlikely that the GOP will go along with the measure, partly because the amendment is now endorsed by Obama and partly because it’s difficult to come up with an alternative that meets the coverage and cost benchmarks of the Affordable Care Act (with the kind of health care initiatives Republicans have been proposing). But forcing Republicans to step away from the rhetoric of reform and lay out the actual consequences of their policies for the uninsured would go a long way towards sorting out the wheat from the chaff.