House Republicans Wednesday unveiled their version of health reform legislation. It offers tax credits to help people buy insurance and doesn't require individuals or businesses to carry coverage, The Associated Press reports. The plan costs $700 billion, less than current Democratic proposals in Congress.
"Some of the ideas in the plan appeal to moderate Democrats, but with Republicans out of power, there's little likelihood their proposal will be enacted. Nonetheless, it will give GOP lawmakers under fire for their opposition to President Barack Obama's plan something positive to point to when they go home for the congressional August break."
Drafted by Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., a physician, the GOP plan "avoids expanding the federal role in overseeing the health insurance industry. Unlike Democratic proposals, it would not set up new federally regulated purchasing pools for individuals and small businesses. Instead, it would allow individuals to use the Internet to purchase lower-cost coverage available anywhere in the country. That idea won't please insurance commissioners from states with strong consumer protections, who have argued it will set off a 'race to the bottom' that undermines coverage for those in frail health."
The bill would also set up high-risk pools for people with medical problems who are denied coverage by commercial insurers and would allow employers to automatically enroll employees in company coverage. It also limits medical malpractice awards in jury trials and would give doctors power to ignore recommendations from a new federal board tasked with comparing "new treatments, tests and medications," the AP reports.
The GOP measure takes on medical malpractice and creates special health courts for cases involving medical negligence. In addition, their draft includes a Council for Comparative Effectiveness Research, but its recommendations could not be enacted without the approval of the medical specialty society that would be affected.
"Republicans say their plan is fully paid for, but it hasn't been assessed yet by the Congressional Budget Office, the official scorekeeper for the costs of legislation" (Alonso-Zaldivar, 7/29).
CBS News: "According to the (bill's) summary, the bill aims to make health care accessible to all Americans by creating tax incentives for consumers to purchase insurance on the individual market, encouraging states to assist consumers with pre-existing conditions, and promoting the employer-based insurance system that is popular with many Americans."
"Republican and Democratic ideas about health care reform perhaps differ most substantially on the issue of cost containment. Most of the reforms proposed in the bill, the summary says, would be paid for by decreasing defensive medicine; savings from health care efficiencies; reducing waste, fraud and abuse; and an annual one-percent non-defense discretionary spending step down" (Condon, 7/29).
In addition to advancing their own measure, House Republicans reacted to developments on the Democratic side. According to The Hill, "House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) predicts that unless Democrats have a vote in the House before recess on their healthcare reform bill, it will get 'shredded' when their members hear from constituents angry over the president's healthcare overhaul. … For his part, Boehner hopes 'that this healthcare bill will be scrapped' so that lawmakers can return after recess and 'work together' on a bipartisan solution" (Hooper, 7/29).
The GOP also criticized the Democrat's House bill for having loopholes that could benefit illegal immigrants, CongressDaily reports. "'The proposed healthcare scheme could force the American people to pay for the health care of illegal immigrants,' said House Judiciary ranking member Lamar Smith. 'This is another reason to oppose it.' House Speaker Pelosi disputed the notion that those in the country illegally could get coverage under the bill. 'Illegal immigrants are not covered by this plan,' she said Sunday on CNN's State of the Union. Indeed, Section 246 of the bill expressly states: 'Nothing in this subtitle shall allow federal payments for affordability credits on behalf of individuals who are not lawfully present in the United States.' But Republicans complain the bill does not include a specific requirement that a person prove his or her citizenship in order to obtain affordability credits" (Strohm, 7/28).