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I think Paul Ryan is trying to pull a fast one on repealing Obamacare

The latest twist in the Republican effort to pass an Obamacare replacement bill manifested itself with shameful clarity on Thursday morning. On the surface, it looked like a GOP news conference touting a possible compromise with conservatives to help get the health-care reform bill passed. But House Speaker Paul Ryan and his fellow Republicans really just tipped their hand and admitted their top concern isn't really repealing and replacing Obamacare, it's keeping what's left of the Obamacare exchanges up and running.

Don't take my word for it. House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden said it himself when he cheered on the compromise:

"So this is another step in the right direction and I know we'll keep working forward in this process in the next couple of weeks as we work to refine our product, improve our product, and get to the goal of saving Americans on their premiums, making sure that the Affordable Care Act exchanges don't fully collapse, we see examples again of more insurers contemplating pulling out of the market, and our job is to try and reform this process in a timely manner."

"It seems as if Ryan and company are trying to keep much of Obamacare in place, tweak a few other parts, and that they hope doing it quickly will result in the voters not taking notice."

This wasn't really a surprise coming from Walden, who has been the House GOP's leading worry wart about what really terrifies all of his colleagues: millions of Americans suddenly losing their health insurance coverage. That's certainly a dose of political poison, and everyone can understand why the Republicans would want to avoid it. But the problem is that Walden seems intent on avoiding that by doing what politicians in both parties always do when a government program is spiraling toward failure: subsidizing it with just enough money to kick the can down the road instead of replacing it with something that works.

By contrast, conservatives and free-market experts have long been urging Republicans to enact a real Obamacare repeal and do the double duty of giving people more direct control of buying their own health insurance and allowing the health insurers to offer them as many different kinds of plans as possible. It's a simple free market philosophy that insists that individuals, and not the politicians or their employers, are the best judges of what kind of products they need and want. And it also puts forth the obvious truth that keeping third parties out of the transaction process as much as possible is the best way to get fair and clear pricing and better goods and services.

It's not about replacing a failing system with just an ideology. Granted, this kind of plan to replace the exchanges and employers with a more consumer-based and individual choice market will take time to plan out and put into effect. Conservatives want the Obamacare exchanges to be phased out in an orderly fashion. Instead, Ryan and Walden are pushing to keep them on indefinite life support.

Ryan and those establishment Republicans have seemed intent on rushing the process instead of taking the time to actually give the nation meaningful health insurance policy. Remember that the Democrats took more than a year following President Obama's election to get the Obamacare bill put together, and it was still deeply flawed.

It seems as if Ryan and company are trying to keep much of Obamacare in place, tweak a few other parts, and that they hope doing it quickly will result in the voters not taking notice. But the insurance companies, who do a lot of lobbying and make a lot of donations, are definitely watching this process all the way. And it sure looks like this health coverage policy reform process is being catered to them... again.

The good news is that there's still time and good reason to fix all of this because regular Americans are paying closer attention this time to the health policy negotiations than ever before. Distractions like the Great Recession that helped cloak the original Obamacare building process in 2009-2010 aren't in play this time around. When Walden makes statements like he did on Thursday, people are going to notice. And also this time, conservatives and liberal critics of the process are both acting vigilantly when it was only conservatives who stood watch against the Democrat-controlled Congress and its ACA enactment process last time.

Protecting or just patching up an increasingly non-viable Obamacare isn't in anyone's best interest. But today we learned at least the top Republicans in the House are trying to do just that. Instead, they need to slow things down, follow solid conservative principles, and stop trying to pull a fast one.

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

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