Barack Obama said this summer that he would be “happy to hear” any health care ideas that rivaled his beleaguered Obamacare, “but I haven’t heard any so far.”

He needs to get around more.

Public opinion outlets are teeming with proposals that would be formidable alternatives to Obamacare (that’s not saying much since recent polls indicate most Americans would actually prefer the 2009 status quo to what they see coming).

The Big Idea is to replace the bureaucratic top-down controls in Obamacare with patient/doctor centered decision making. By each of us becoming accountable for our health care consumption, we could unleash the prodigious power of the free market to provide services efficiently and effectively.

Proper provisions would be made for those requiring catastrophic care or needing subsidies for even routine expenses. Additional measures would be required to make health care more affordable (sharply curtailing medical malpractice and “defensive medicine”), more accessible (giving all premium payers the deduction available to employers) and more rational (selling health insurance policies across state lines, like other insurance products).

The problem is hardly that there are any plans rivaling Obamacare. It is that opponents have failed to coalesce behind a single unified proposal. As Obamacare continues to suffer from unfavorable reactions during its rollout, opponents may yet have the chance to do that.

Yet the party out of power has an inherently difficult time marching in step. The hope is that if Obamacare could be defunded or delayed, a viable alternative could be marketed to a restive public.

Now the golden chance to delay and further discredit Obamacare may be at hand. It turns out that the exemption from Obamacare granted to Congress may be one of the most unpopular things ever done by our government.

You remember the story. Congress rightly included itself and their staff in the original provisions regarding the health care exchanges and the prohibitions against employer contributions. But when the time came for implementation, Capitol Hill had a bipartisan nasty shock. When they finally read the bill, they realized it wasn’t a good deal at all, it was going to cost them money and they wanted out.

Well, most Americans are learning that parts of Obamacare work against them. Unions, young adults and seniors are among those groups not pleased when they find out “what’s in it,” but there’s not much they can do about it.

But in the case of Congress, Obama himself came to the rescue. Without authority, he simply decreed that each member and staffer be given an illegal subsidy of $5,000 to $11,000. Both sides of the aisle were quietly thrilled.

Their main argument, when they’re forced to discuss it at all, is that there would be a brain drain if the brightest workers had to put up with Obamacare like the rest of us. What twaddle. We’d be far better off if the more productive private sector attracted the best workers.

Now Congressional leaders of both parties have agreed to a truce. Neither side will discuss the issue in the upcoming campaign cycle. But if lawmakers are united in support, voters are equally united in vehement opposition.

In a recent poll done for Independent Women’s Voices, an astonishing 92 percent thought it unfair that Congress should be exempt from buying insurance on the same terms as the rest of us. Cutting across party lines and opinions about Obamacare, 88 percent of Democrats and 91 percent of “liberals” agreed.

Sixty-nine percent said they would vote to replace their representative if they accepted the exemption, even if they voted against Obamacare. Moreover, 85 percent of voters disapprove of the “truce,” 79 percent strongly so.

This could be a real game changer. As one strategy, Republicans could offer a rejection of the exemption in the upcoming Continuing Resolution. Obamacare supporters would oppose it at their considerable. Yet if they went along, the only way they could keep their own health insurance would be to delay Obamacare itself.

In yet another glaring lack of leadership, Republicans aren’t interested at this point. They would rather have their own stuff from government.

It’s unbelievable. This is a straightforward conflict between we, the people, and our governing elite. If you want to get involved, go to NoWashingtonExemption.com and make your voice heard.

• East Valley resident Tom Patterson is a retired physician and former state senator. He can be reached at pattersontomc@cox.net.

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