Republicans Have Offered Three Alternative Health Care Reform Bills
August 21, 2009President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats have criticized Republicans as offering only opposition and no ideas for health care reform, but the GOP, despite the lack of media attention, has introduced three health care bills.
The three Republican bills total almost 400 pages and have been on the table since May and June.
In May, Republicans in the House and the Senate formed a bicameral coalition to produce the130-page “Patients Choice Act of 2009.”
In June, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) introduced the “Health Care Freedom Plan,” a 41-page proposal.
And in July, the Republican Study Committee, under the leadership of Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), unveiled the “Empowering Patients First Act,” a 130-page plan.
Some of the provisions included in one or more of the bills include: investing in preventive medicine, an overhaul of Medicaid, reduction of abuse and fraud in the Medicare program, supplemental health insurance for low-income families, tax credits for health insurance, and a ban on federal funds being used for abortions. However, supporters of the Democratic plans have accused Republicans of trying to derail attempts at reforming health care without having a plan of their own.
“There is no Republican health care plan out there,” Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) told Talk Radio News Service on July 31 about what he called the Republican-backed “misinformation campaign” that is slowing health care reform.
He said Republicans are satisfied with the status quo and “don’t want to show the American people where they stand on these issues.”
At a White House briefing on Aug. 18, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs criticized Republicans for not wanting to make the health care system better.
“Only a handful seem interested in the type of comprehensive reform that so many people believe is necessary to ensure the principles and the goals that the president has laid out,” Gibbs said.
In May, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) said his bill, co-sponsored by Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), and Reps. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), puts a priority on patients and their ability to oversee their own health care choices.
“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 or accessible,” Coburn said. “The ‘Patients Choice Act’ will provide every American with access to affordable health care without a tax increase, more debt or waiting lines.”
“The American health care system needs a complete transformation,” Burr said. “The ‘Patients’ Choice Act’ will finally enable Americans to own their health care instead of being trapped in the current system, which leaves people either uninsured, dependent on their employer, or forced into a government program.”
The “Patients Choice Act” has been referred to the Senate Finance Committee, which is set to release a Democratic-crafted bill from that committee when Congress returns after Labor Day.
In June, DeMint, chairman of the Senate Steering Committee, introduced the “Health Care Freedom Plan,” which was analyzed by the Heritage Foundation. The conservative policy think tank said DeMint’s bill could reduce the number of uninsured by 22.4 million people in five years.
It also provides grants to help people with pre-existing conditions gain access to affordable insurance, and allows Americans to purchase health savings accounts to pay for insurance.
“The time has come for Americans to regain control of their health care choices, and the ‘Health Care Freedom Act’ empowers every American with the freedom to choose and own a plan that is best for them,” DeMint said.
DeMint’s bill also has been referred to the Senate Finance Committee.
In July, Price, who is also a practicing physician, introduced the “Empowering Patients First Act.”
“Today, we present a solution for health care reform that offers more patient-centered choices and care of the highest quality,” Price said. “The ‘Empowering Patients First Act’ is a budget neutral proposal based on the fundamental principle that personal medical decisions should be made by patients in consultation with the doctors rather than unaccountable bureaucrats in Washington.”
Price’s bill also emphasizes preventive health care, tax credits, reduction of fraud and abuse in existing federal health care programs, and health care programs tailored to meet the needs of Native Americans and U.S. military veterans.
The bill has been referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, as well as to the committees on Ways and Means, Education and Labor, Oversight and Government Reform, and the Judiciary, Rules, Budget, and Appropriations committees.
There are differences between the legislation offered so far by Republicans. The “Empowering Patients First Act,” for example, is the only one of the three proposed bills that specifically prohibits federal funds being used for abortion.
The fate of the Republican proposals is also uncertain, with the Democrats controlling both chambers of Congress and Obama in charge of signing whatever final health care reform legislation lands on his desk.