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A GOP Vision of Health Reform From a Bush (but Not That Bush)

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- When the Affordable Care Act passed in 2010, one of the best arguments for it was the lack of any serious Republican alternative.

Instead, we got Sarah Palin claiming Barack Obama's "death panels" could murder Palin's son (who has Down syndrome), and Tea Party members publicly calling Barney Frank, the openly gay congressman from  Massachusetts, a "faggot."

No wonder it's the law.

But what if a health-care obsessed Republican came along who actually knew what he was talking about? Say, a private-sector entrepreneur who has created 3,000 jobs and $5 billion of value building a cloud software company that runs electronic medical records and billing services for 50,000 doctors and other practitioners?

Or if he offered a more-coherent narrative of where the waste in the $3 trillion system actually is rather than blaming poor folks and contraception-seeking females? Or acknowledged that people should have a right to at least catastrophic health coverage and told his party to get over its obsession with malpractice litigation because that's not where the money really is?

In that case, the GOP might actually learn something from Athenahealth (ATHN) CEO Jonathan Bush's new book, Where Does It Hurt? An Entrepreneur's Guide to Fixing Health Care. (Disclosure: Bush's co-author, Steve Baker, worked with me at BusinessWeek until 2006).

Even investors will find some ideas worth thinking about. And it's sprinkled with enough antic stories from Bush -- who resembles his brother Billy, the Access Hollywood host, more than his uncle George H.W., or cousin George W., the presidents -- to make its 212 pages a plausible summer read for wonks.

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The core of the Bush prescription is radically more competition in health care. It's a big idea, that even the bureaucratic mess of health care can be fixed by more choice and deregulation that lets entrepreneurs (many of Bush's examples are also his customers) chop down incumbents who would no longer be protected by regulation and subsidized by Medicare.

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