GOP: State-level reforms are the "antidote" to Obamacare

Gov. Mike Pence, R-Ind., criticized President Obama's health-care law for ushering in a "new normal" of burdensome regulations and higher health-care costs in the weekly Republican address on Saturday, touting Republican governors' efforts to promote "freedom and flexibility" as the antidote to the heavy-handed policies coming out of Washington.

As the full implementation of Obamacare approaches, Pence said, "we are learning more about the burdens it will place on hardworking Americans. In Indiana, the Affordable Care Act will raise the average cost of health insurance in the individual market by an unaffordable 72 percent."

"This health care law is weighing down our economy," he said. "It's costing jobs, discouraging investment and making the future bleak for too many families."

Fortunately, there's an "antidote," Pence said. "All across this country, 30 Republican governors are working hard to push back and preserve freedom," he said. "While Washington raises taxes, Republican governors are cutting them. As Washington stifles job growth by adding new regulations, Republican governors are adding jobs by eliminating unneeded regulations and bringing fresh approaches to some of the nation's greatest challenges."

As an example, Pence cited the "Healthy Indiana Plan," a program in his state that provides the uninsured with an insurance plan and health-savings accounts. "Giving people in Indiana more freedom and more responsibility over their health care has improved outcomes, and now 95 percent our plan's enrollees are satisfied with their coverage," he said. "This is a perfect example of the truth that by letting freedom and personal responsibility work together, you reduce the need for government. Republican governors understand this truth, and the proof is in our results, in balanced budgets, lower taxes and less regulation. That's promoting job growth."

The lesson, Pence said, is that "more freedom and flexibility" to encourage state-level innovations "can and will promote good health care and a healthy economy."

In his own weekly address on Saturday, Mr. Obama underscored the higher education reforms that he laid out in a series of speeches during a bus tour through the Midwest this week, emphasizing the need to make college more affordable.

"At a moment when a higher education has never been more important, it's also never been more expensive," he said. "We cannot price the middle class out of a college education. That's why I proposed major new reforms to make college more affordable and make it easier for folks to pay for their education.

Among the reforms the president proposed is a new college-rating system that takes cost and outcomes into account, helping students choose the education that offers the best value. "In time, we'll use those ratings to make sure that the colleges that keep their tuition down are the ones that will see their taxpayer funding go up," he said.

He also touted a program called "Pay-As-You-Earn," which would cap a student's maximum monthly loan payment at 10 percent of income.

Some of the initiatives the president highlighted can be accomplished with executive action, but others, like tethering the taxpayer funding of colleges to tuition rates, would require action from Congress.

"These reforms won't be popular with everybody, but the path we're on now is unsustainable for our students and our economy," Mr. Obama said. "Higher education shouldn't be a luxury, or a roll of the dice; it's an economic imperative that every family in America should be able to afford."