There is no greater example of government overreach and unrestrained liberalism than “Obamacare,” the president’s signature legislative initiative. It is so deeply flawed and such a clear and present threat to our economic stability that there is no way to fix it; it must be repealed entirely and replaced with market-based solutions that work.

This past week, the U.S. Supreme Court placed the final decision regarding the future of “Obamacare” in the hands of Congress. As a U.S. senator, I will use every measure to ensure a vote for the full repeal of “Obamacare” will be priority No. 1 in the U.S. Senate.

“Obamacare” is an unprecedented, budget-busting government takeover of one of the largest sectors of our economy. We need only to look at southern Europe to see the long-term results of government overreach and excessive control of major sectors of the economy.

We are destined to follow in Europe’s path unless “Obamacare” is fully repealed and replaced with a market-based solution that relies on the efficiency and innovation of the private sector to solve our most pressing health care challenges.

“Obamacare” isn’t the answer. But merely repealing bad policy is also not the answer. Our nation can afford neither “Obamacare” nor prior policy, both of which will cause deficits to balloon, businesses to suffer under excessive costs and families to fear loss of affordable care.

My plan for health care reform addresses the fundamental flaws of our current system, including regulatory complexity, consumer detachment from decisions and the lack of rewards for quality and innovation.

The key elements of my blueprint for restoring our health care system are as follows:

• Incentivize Quality

The health care debate too often ignores the importance of quality outcomes – both for cost and for the health of our citizens. I’ve been a leader in linking quality of health delivery to lower cost and better health.

As secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, I launched the Hospital Quality Incentive Demonstration (HQID) based on the simple premise that hospitals can save money and improve outcomes with the right incentives. It worked.

With 250 hospitals around the country participating over six years, the program focused on quality improvements in treating heart attacks, congestive heart failure, pneumonia, hip and knee replacement and surgical care. Hospitals with improved performance received increased Medicare reimbursement.

The results were profound, including extensive quality improvements, 6,500 fewer deaths annually and savings to Medicare of an estimated $1 billion. Linking federal reimbursement for health care costs with quality outcomes drives down costs and incentivizes innovation.

• Encourage Personal Responsibility

We’ll never truly reform our health care system until consumers take more responsibility for their health and for spending on their care. Up to 75 percent of health care costs are for chronic illnesses, which can be best addressed by improved behaviors. Health care and insurance reform must provide incentives for healthy behaviors such as smoking cessation, weight reductions and chronic disease management.

• Enact Medical Liability Reform

Frivolous and excessive litigation is driving up medical costs through burdensome medical malpractice insurance, court interference and pressure on doctors to practice so-called “defensive medicine.”

Any credible health care reform legislation must include caps on noneconomic damages, penalties for frivolous lawsuits and limited liability for products approved for use by the FDA.

And liability reform must include policies to allow broader use of experimental treatments for patients who are diagnosed as having terminal illnesses. Our citizens should not have to leave our country to receive potentially life-saving treatments.

• Establish Voluntary State-Federal Initiative

I’m proposing a new voluntary state-federal initiative to enable secure coverage for pre-existing conditions, broaden coverage for the uninsured, and stabilize insurance for individuals and small business workers. We must deal with risk sharing in order to address these critical issues, but we can do it without excessive new regulations or mandates.

This initiative would be based primarily on federally funded high-risk pools. States choosing not to participate in the new federal-state initiative would still be eligible for some federal cost sharing, and they would be allowed to participate in Medicaid reforms.

• Reform Insurance, Support Employer Coverage

Our nation’s private health insurance market is barely functioning as a result of a complex web of regulations that curtail options for consumers and prevent a real market from emerging. We must establish a vibrant health insurance market and make access to care more affordable for our employers and families.

Key elements of insurance reform include catastrophic policies that can be purchased across state lines and making insurance more affordable through tax credits for businesses and the self-employed.

I would also relieve regulations to allow individuals to customize and personalize their insurance coverage so that they are purchasing only the coverage they need, allowing Health Savings Accounts to be used more effectively.

• Reform Medicaid

Finally, the costs of Medicaid are skyrocketing, creating burdens on taxpayers at both the state and federal level. I would create block grants to states to allow new ideas to emerge. If we reduce red tape and regulation, states will find new ways to serve the most vulnerable citizens.

Other budget savings and entitlement reform would cover the costs for my health care reforms. This proposal will be funded within the fiscal parameters of Rep. Paul Ryan’s Path to Prosperity, which I have endorsed.

Our nation has had an inefficient health care financing and delivery system for a long time, but “Obamacare” has made it far worse. Repealing “Obamacare” is an imperative for the next congressional session.

Merely repealing, however, would leave our health care system in disarray, burdened by complex regulations and lacking market forces that drive innovation and efficiency. We need a series of fundamental reforms. In 2012, we have the opportunity to elect policymakers who will reform health care without leading us down the path to a European model of government control.

We have to get it right this time.

Tommy Thompson, a former Wisconsin governor and secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is a candidate for U.S. Senate.