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Does The Gop Really Have An Alternative Plan In The Works?

Having just dropped out of the bipartisan talks on health care, Orrin Hatch now says that he is working on a reform bill of his own. On his Twitter feed this afternoon, Hatch declared that he was "In Washington today working on my health care reform proposal--an alternative to the costly, government-centric plans being foisted on us."

Even before officially announcing that he was dropping out of the Senate Finance Committee's talks, Hatch was making allusions to an alternative that he would propose. On Sunday's "Face the Nation," Hatch said:

I'm going to file a bill in the near future that basically would be modeled after the CHIP bill, the child health insurance bill that was a Hatch-Kennedy bill. And that bill would emphasize and allows the states with all of their different demographics -- each state is different, Utah is notMassachusetts, Massachusetts is not Utah. We would give them the money but let them design their own plan, and do it under certain very good economic circumstances.

His comments don't say much, but they seem to evoke one idea that one policy adviser told me that Hatch was interested in exploring, at least back in February: state insurance exchanges, as opposed to the national insurance exchange that Obama and the Congressional Democrats support. Unfortunately, it's impossible to imagine that a series of state exchanges--only funded under "very good economic circumstances," for that matter--would do much to drive down costs and significantly improve coverage nationwide, i.e. actually deliver meaningful comprehensive reform.

Still, putting an alternative down on paper could prove to be a more politically effective way to challenge the Democratic-led reform effort, as an alternative to the ham-fisted, blatantly partisan attacks that have been the Republican Party's modus operandi so far. As we head into the August recess, it will be interesting to observe whether Hatch and his fellow Republicans will, in fact, propose any concrete alternatives to the Democratic plan-or whether they'll continue to insist that Americans think the status quo is good enough.

--Suzy Khimm