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With an eye on 2016, Louisiana's Jindal offers healthcare plan

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal makes remarks to the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Oxon Hill, Maryland, March 6, 2014. REUT
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal makes remarks to the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Oxon Hill, Maryland, March 6, 2014. REUT

By Gabriel Debenedetti

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, who is testing the waters for the 2016 presidential race, on Wednesday unveiled a set of ideas on U.S. healthcare policy that he said could take the place of President Barack Obama's signature healthcare law.

Republicans have put their call to repeal Obamacare at the center of their campaigns for November's congressional elections, but have yet to coalesce around an alternative to the health law. Obama and his Democratic allies in Congress have sought to use the lack of a Republican plan as ammunition in the campaign.

Jindal said his proposal could be a model for the Republican alternative.

"If we want to earn the right to be in the majority, we have to have specific issues," Jindal said at a breakfast sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor. "The president likes to say there's no alternative, but there is an alternative. He may not like that alternative, but there is an alternative."

The proposal, dubbed "The Freedom and Empowerment Plan," relies on first repealing Obamacare. The plan would give states "global grants," or fixed sums of money from the federal government, for the Medicaid health program for the poor. States would be encouraged to experiment with the program.

Jindal's plan would allow people to buy insurance across state lines. Currently, states have the authority to regulate insurance sold within their borders.

The Louisiana governor would also let people take a standard tax deduction for the cost of their health care coverage, regardless of whether they receive coverage from their employers or purchase it on their own.

The 26-page plan came a day after Obama touted the signup of more than 7 million people for the health program before the March 31 enrollment deadline.

Obamacare remains controversial with the public, however, creating angst for Democratic candidates in tight races in the congressional elections.

Conservative groups are spending millions of dollars on advertisements attacking the program. Republicans are hoping to seize control of the Senate and increase their numbers in the House in November.

Jindal said he would be releasing similar policy plans about energy and education.

The second-term governor and former congressman trails other potential contenders in preliminary presidential polls. Still, he has formed a political action committee and has not been shy about considering a run or appearing in New Hampshire, an influential state in primary elections.

On Wednesday he said it was "no secret" he was considering a run. The list of other Republican White House hopefuls for 2016 is long.

Last weekend in Las Vegas, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Ohio Governor John Kasich, and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush courted mega-donor and casino magnate Sheldon Adelson.

Other Republicans considering a White House bid include Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, Florida Senator Marco Rubio and Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan.

(Editing by Caren Bohan and Andrew Hay)

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