Republican lawmakers respond to health care reform proposed by Democrats.
Bipartisan by October?
Health care reform has taken over Washington as Congress and the White House work to finish legislation for President Obama to sign by October of this year. The Senate Finance Committee has Republican and Democratic members working together to craft a bill to gain support from both parties. The Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee, sponsored by Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., has a proposal crafted by Democrats with little Republican input until after the plan was presented.
There is agreement between the parties that reform must happen this year if it's going to happen at all. Republicans believe they can deal a major blow to the Obama administration by derailing any major health care initiative. President Clinton's health care reform plan was defeated in 1994, which helped open the doors for a GOP takeover of Congress that year.
A Public Plan Provokes A Fight
The Democratic proposal of a government sponsored health insurance program sparks the biggest fight between the parties. Democrats say that a public plan would give consumers a more competitive option that would cost less than coverage offered by private insurers while covering everyone in the country who wants health insurance. Republicans argue the public option is a Trojan horse that will inevitably drive private insurance companies out of business while reducing health care quality and choices for consumers.
Though not yet presented, the bill being drafted by the Senate Finance Committee replaces the public option plan with a series of health insurance nonprofit organizations that would compete with the private sector.
Same Old Objections?
Democrats say that the Republican complaints of government control and a centralized bureaucracy are the same as their objections to the creation of Medicare in 1965. Proponents of a public option refer to 30 states that have state employee plans side by side with private options. Advocates of a public option also point to government run children’s health insurance programs competing with private plans. Republicans counter that Medicare and Medicaid are on paths of fiscal insolvency, and that creating a brand new government program is senseless.
Republican lawmakers are particularly worried that a government run health care plan will cost a lot more, not less. They believe that a public plan will ultimately determine arbitrary price controls that will drive many doctors and hospitals out of business, resulting in fewer consumer choices. Opponents also argue that any public health care option will move millions of Americans away from health insurance they currently have into a government run health care program.
The Republican Alternative
Republicans in the House of Representatives unveiled a 3-and-a-half page summary of their own health plan, without details or an estimate of costs, but emphasized that their plan would cost less than the Democratic plan.
Key Provisions of the House GOP Plan
- States, small businesses, and others could group together to offer lower-cost, health care plans.
- Medicaid users could take the value of their Medicaid benefits and transfer them to a private health care plan.
- People, especially those in lower income brackets or over 55, would receive incentives to build up health care savings accounts.
- Employers would automatically sign up their workers for health insurance, so that employees would have to opt out of coverage if they didn't want it.
- Tax deductions on insurance premiums for people who get their plans individually or from their companies.
Ideas in the House GOP Plan that Are Supported by Both Parties
- Dependent children can stay on their parents' policies until they are 25.
- Employers would be encouraged to reward employees for improved health.
- Community health centers could be expanded.
- Americans can maintain their specific health insurance policies when they lose or leave jobs.
- In-home care over institutional care would be encouraged with financial help.
- Medical malpractice lawsuits would be limited - though there are significant disagreements between the parties by how much.
- Health Care Reform - A Balance of Interests
- Health Care Reform - The Public Option
- Health Care Reform - How Much Will It Cost and Who Will Pay?