HOUSE Republicans are starting to fill in the details of what health-care policies they would prefer over Obamacare. The 175 conservative representatives in the Republican Study Committee released a plan last week. It's a good start, but there's room for improvement.
The plan, which is mostly the work of Reps. Phil Roe and Steve Scalise, repeals President Barack Obama's health care law.
It replaces the unlimited tax break for employer-provided health insurance with a new tax deduction - $7,500 for individuals or $20,000 for families - to purchase health insurance, whether through an employer or on their own.
It would let insurers sell policies across state lines. And it would put $25 billion into high-risk pools to help people who would still be unable to buy insurance.
The prevailing liberal reaction to the plan has been to dismiss it.
It isn't a serious alternative to the Affordable Care Act, they say, because it doesn't provide health insurance to as many people or offer the same protections to those with pre-existing conditions.
Obamacare supporters expect the law to increase the number of people with insurance by 25 million. The Lewin Group has estimated that a tax deduction would increase that number by only about 9 million.
These criticisms are partly right. The Republicans should replace their tax deduction with a tax credit, which would have a higher value for people with low incomes and thus do more to extend insurance.
Increasing the number of people with health insurance may not do much for their health - the evidence that it would is pretty weak - but it will make them more financially secure.
That's especially worth doing because federal policy, by tying insurance to employment, has locked a lot of people out of health insurance markets and thus made them less secure.
Republicans should make two other modifications to the plan. People who have access to employer coverage shouldn't be allowed to use the tax deduction or tax credit to purchase health insurance on their own.
Eventually we ought to move toward a system that's much less dependent on employers, but we should minimize the disruptiveness of this transition.
And medical malpractice reform, as popular as it is among Republicans, shouldn't be done at the federal level.
Medical torts have traditionally been regulated by states, and states have the incentive to set their policies on it the right way - because their residents will pay the price if they don't.
Even with these flaws, though, the Republican plan is superior to Obamacare.