Michael Tanner of the Cato Institute devotes his latest National Review Online column to the need for Republican presidential candidates to present a workable alternative to the Affordable Care Act.

Somewhere in America today, a Republican candidate for dogcatcher is calling for the repeal of Obamacare. Opposition to the health-care law is perhaps the one issue that unites all the disparate factions of the Republican party — and for good reason. …

… But, as much as the American people dislike Obamacare, most are less than enthusiastic about returning to the pre-Obamacare status quo. It is important, therefore, that Republicans offer their own alternatives for health-care reform. There are already several such proposals in Congress. But what the Republican candidates for president have to say about the issue will be even more important.

Perhaps no candidate has been more outspoken in opposition to Obamacare than Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, who has vowed to “repeal every word” of the law. Cruz has co-sponsored the Health Care Choices Act, which would allow insurance plans to be sold across state lines as long as they met certain minimum consumer protections. Beyond this, Cruz has called generally for health insurance to be “personal and portable and affordable.” This suggests that he would support proposals to provide the same tax breaks for individually purchased insurance as are currently provided for employer-based insurance. However, Cruz has not yet given any details about whether or how he would do so.

On the other hand, Senator Marco Rubio of Florida has laid out perhaps the most detailed proposal for replacing Obamacare. This is not terribly surprising, since Rubio, who plans to announce for president on April 13, has tried to position himself as the “ideas” candidate. In his book, American Dreams: Restoring Economic Opportunity for Everyone, Rubio says that he would provide all Americans with a refundable tax credit that could be used to purchase insurance, while gradually reducing the tax break provided for employer-based insurance. This would transition Americans to a system where they — rather than their employers — controlled their insurance. Rubio also calls for allowing the purchase of insurance across state lines and for setting up state-run, but federally funded, high-risk pools to assist individuals with pre-existing conditions. Finally, Rubio has been a leader in opposing any bailout of insurance companies that lose money as a result either of Obamacare or of other policies.

Tanner goes on to assess other potential Republican presidential candidates’ approaches to the future of American heath care.