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New GOP health plan still misses the mark

  • The revised GOP Obamacare replacement bill has been leaked to the public.
  • The new plan allows for states to apply for 'limited waivers' to some Obamacare rules.
  • The new bill may pass the House, but it defies the free market principles America needs.

The new GOP Obamacare replacement bill has been leaked and is now available for public scrutiny. On first glance, this plan looks like it might get enough votes to pass and even be enacted. Good news for the White House and the Republicans, right?

Not quite.

The only real difference between this bill and the one that didn't have enough support to even go up for a vote last month is a series of "limited waiver option" opportunities made available to the states.

If any given state wants a way out of Obamacare's existing essential benefits or community rating rules requirements (both of which jack up minimum premium costs and restrict real insurance industry competition) it can apply for a waiver. And those states might actually get that waiver, as long as they (according to the leaked document)

(can) attest that the purpose of their requested waiver is to reduce premium costs, increase the number of persons with healthcare coverage, or advance another benefit to the public interest in the state, including the guarantee of coverage for persons with pre-existing medical conditions.

Well, that's not actually very helpful or inspiring. If there is good enough reason to allow any state that wants to be freed from key provisions of the GOP bill, why not just eliminate them in the first place? This waiver process filled with exceptions and conditions is just the kind of Byzantine nonsense government bureaucrats love to create. It is a de facto endorsement of the false idea that economies and industries can be managed effectively by a central government monolith. So much for the Republicans being against "Big Government."

And that's been the problem with Obamacare all along—it takes away the free market's power to lower prices and make innovations. Obamacare and this new bill still restrict suppliers' options and take consumer freedom off the table entirely.

Of course the waiver option is all about shifting the political heat if people start losing coverage. By making the individual states apply for waivers, the Republican Congress thinks it can effectively blame the governors and state legislators if things don't work out in the states that get those waivers. Not only is that craven politics, it's delusional. Anyone who thinks the Republicans in Washington won't own every aspect of the results of this new law if it's enacted is totally clueless.

CNBC's own reports out of Washington say this waiver option will be enough to flip about 20 GOP members of the House to vote for the bill. That sounds like it will indeed be enough for passage. The Senate will be a different story, but more changes to the bill would surely come from conference committee work.

Perhaps there will be improvement there. But based on the House Republicans' clear lack of a commitment to truly and fully repealing Obamacare and embracing the conservative free market principles they seem to only care about during election speeches, don't hold your breath.

America doesn't need a "repeal" of a troubled Obamacare system that really only changes it by offering limited vouchers. It needs Congress and the White House to start from square one and decide what kind of bill would unleash the free market to provide actual health care, not just insurance, at the lowest cost and the greatest possible supply.

In short, we need courage and smarts. And this new Republican plan is cowardly and small-minded.

Commentary by Jake Novak, CNBC.com senior columnist. Follow him on Twitter @jakejakeny.

For more insight from CNBC contributors, follow @CNBCopinion on Twitter.