Congressional Republicans today unveiled a health care reform plan they hope will compete with what Democrats are planning to offer.
U.S. Senators Tom Coburn, M.D., of Oklahoma, and Richard Burr, of North Carolina, along with U.S. Representatives Paul Ryan of Wisconsin and Devin Nunes of California introduced legislation that shares the goal of the opposite party: the promotion of universal access to quality, affordable health care.
But the Republican plan promises to achieve this universal access without creating any new government-sponsored insurance plan, an idea that many Democrats support, and without raising taxes.
The public option has been opposed by health insurers, agents and conservative groups.
Some of the other features discussed by Democrats are adopted in the Republican plan, such as the concept of a health insurance exchange, assistance for low income insureds and building on the existing employer-based system.
In its major features, the Republican bill, dubbed The Patients’ Choice Act of 2009, would:
- Create state health insurance exchanges to allow Americans to compare different private market health insurance policies
- Guarantee Americans the same standard health benefits and choices as members of Congress now enjoy
- Ensure that no individual would be turned down by a participating
exchange insurers based on age or health
- Create a non-profit, independent board to risk adjust among participating insurance companies to penalize companies that “cherry pick” health patients and reward insurers that encourage prevention/wellness and cover patients with pre‐-existing conditions
- Gives states the ability to band together in regional pooling arrangements, as well as risk pools, reinsurance markets, or risk adjustment mechanisms to cover those deemed uninsurable.
Republicans said their Patients’ Choice Act of 2009 would utilize the tax code to give every American, regardless of employment status, the ability to purchase health insurance by providing an advanceable and refundable tax credit of $2,300 per individual or $5,700 per family.
It would also seek to improve the operation of Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) by allowing health insurance premiums to be paid
with HSAs without a tax penalty and raising the amount of money HSA owners may annually contribute to their account.
“As a practicing physician, I have seen first-hand how giving government more control over health care has failed to make health care more affordable and accessible. The American people deserve health care reform that will work, not another round of so-called reform that repeats the same failed policies of the past. Congress and the administration have the opportunity to pursue bold reform and a fresh start. The Patients’ Choice Act will provide every American with access to affordable health care without a tax increase, more debt and waiting lines,” Senator Coburn said.
“Both parties need to step up to the plate with specific solutions to our nation’s health care crisis,” said Rep. Ryan. “The Patients’ Choice Act represents a clear alternative to those who seek to empower Washington at the expense of the individual, and I am hopeful that our efforts can help push Congress to enact a more sensible health care reform bill this year. The Patients’ Choice Act proves that America can have universal health care coverage without the government running our health care system.”