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Republican primary voters could help trigger a substantive health care policy debate in this country by giving Jon Huntsman a turn among the frontrunners. We’ve seen a surge of multiple anybody-but-Romney candidates that have failed to address health care in any kind of serious or sophisticated way. Even Newt Gingrich, an idea guy with a variety of provocative views, hasn’t been much help in advancing the debate. That’s because in reality his views are fairly close to Romney and even President Obama.
As a result, Romney hasn’t been pushed to lay out his real views on health care. He’s been able to get away with just throwing darts at the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Let’s face it, the Obama/Clinton face-off in the 2008 Democratic primaries was much more substantive –simultaneously wonkish and aspirational in fact.
Although Huntsman’s website doesn’t even list health care among the list of issues, his Jobs & Economy section includes serious health care proposals and he has a strong track record of reform as Governor of Utah. As Avik Roy points out in Forbes, Huntsman’s plan would eliminate the wasteful, foolish and highly popular $300 billion per year tax exemption for employer sponsored health care.
A July 2011 blog post by Matt Connelly lays out a stark contrast between health care reform in Utah compared to Massachusetts. There are major differences on:
- Individual and employer mandates
- Role of government in facilitating the market
- Order of rollout (private reforms first in Utah, government reforms first in MA)
I’m not saying the Hunstman approach is right or even that the comparison listed above is presented fairly, but at least it seems Huntsman has a real contrasting approach to bring to the discussion.
Although I doubt we’ll see much attention to Huntsman in Iowa tonight perhaps New Hampshire will be a different story in a few days’ time. I sure hope so.
David Williams blogs regularly at the Health Business Blog.