After months of bashing the Democratic bills, House Republicans have come up with their own health care proposal.
The near-final draft focuses more on cutting costs than on covering the uninsured. And it comes in at 230 pages, compared to the 1,990-page behemoth that Democrats plan to bring to the House floor for a vote this week.
UPDATE: Late this afternoon, Republicans announced that party Chairman Michael Steele, House Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence and other House members will hold a 12-hour online town hall marathon -- from 1 p.m. EST Thursday to 1 a.m. EST Friday.
"This online health care forum named 'Pelosi Plan Exposed' will ... expose the 12 truths of Nancy Pelosi’s health care bill. House Republicans will also promote and discuss the GOP health care legislation introduced in the House this week," the announcement said.
Republicans plan to offer their bill as an alternative on the floor. It does not require employers to offer coverage and does not require individuals to obtain, and does not ban insurers from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions. It most certainly does not include any kind of "public option" government plan to compete with private insurers.
Rather, the GOP plan incorporates some tried -- and Democrats would argue tired -- prescriptions: more health savings accounts, limits on pain and suffering awards in medical malpractice cases, and more leeway to sell health insurance to be sold across state lines.
"Americans want a step-by-step, common-sense approach to health care reform, not Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s costly, 1,990-page government takeover of our nation’s health care system. Republicans’ alternative solution focuses on lowering health care premiums for families and small businesses, increasing access to affordable, high-quality care, and promoting healthier lifestyles – without adding to the crushing debt Washington has placed on our children and grandchildren," House Republicans said in releasing their plan.
House Republicans this morning released the full text of their plan, available here. (Their summary of the plan is below.)
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs quickly noted how long it took Republicans to roll out their health care alternative and that it does not include "banning insurance companies from discrimination against sick people."
But Gibbs went on to say during his daily briefing that the Obama will continue to try to work with Republicans.
Congressional Democrats were even more dismissive of the GOP plan.
The No. 2 House Democrat, Steny Hoyer of Maryland, told the Associated Press that the Republican alternative "does little to provide security and stability to all Americans, doesn't provide insurance availability for all Americans, does little to expand access to coverage."
"Ours is vastly superior and we think the American public will think that," Hoyer added.
The Democratic National Committee called the GOP bill the "Health Insurance Company Protection Act.”
“It’s appalling that John Boehner and Republicans in Congress would rather maintain the status quo and allow insurance companies to continue engaging in unfair practices that boost their profits at the expense of consumers than pass the health insurance reform American families and businesses so desperately need," Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, a DNC co-chairwoman, said in a statement.
"We have said for some time that Republicans are more interested in protecting the health insurance industry than in helping consumers - and the plan Republicans are putting forward is all the proof anyone would need to know we've been telling the truth. The Republican plan amounts to a ‘Health Insurance Company Protection Act’ and shows once and for all that Republicans don’t want real reform and will fight to protect the status quo every step of the way. At a time when health insurance costs are skyrocketing and families fear losing their coverage if someone gets sick, the last thing we need is to give insurance companies another break. Passing the Republicans’ bill would be worse than passing no reform at all," she added.
“It’s time for Republicans to get the message: Americans want real reform. Instead of handing out favors to big insurance companies, Republicans should work with President Obama and Democrats in Congress to pass the health insurance reform our country needs.”
"This is it?" asked Americans United for Change, a liberal-labor coalition supporting the Democratic bills. "Only 139 days after promising a better proposal for health insurance reform, the Republican House Leadership are today proudly waving in the air a thin outline of a bill that ought to be named the ‘Perpetuate the Status Quo to Protect Insurance Industry Profits Act of 2009.’
"Congressional Republicans say their bill will show they mean business -- except that business is the health insurance industry, and their bill is all about protecting its massive profits. And demonstrating just how serious congressional Republicans are about reform, they’ve decided to omit reforms the American people support the most -- namely the GOP bill does nothing to end the unscrupulous insurance industry practices of denying coverage to Americans who are sick or have ‘pre-existing’ conditions," the group added.
GOP SUMMARY OF PLAN
Some key elements of Republicans’ alternative plan:
· Lowering health care premiums. The GOP plan will lower health care premiums for American families and small businesses, addressing Americans’ number-one priority for health care reform.
· Establishing Universal Access Programs to guarantee access to affordable care for those with pre-existing conditions. The GOP plan creates Universal Access Programs that expand and reform high-risk pools and reinsurance programs to guarantee that all Americans, regardless of pre-existing conditions or past illnesses, have access to affordable care – while lowering costs for all Americans.
· Ending junk lawsuits. The GOP plan would help end costly junk lawsuits and curb defensive medicine by enacting medical liability reforms modeled after the successful state laws of California and Texas.
· Prevents insurers from unjustly cancelling a policy or instituting annual of lifetime spending caps. The GOP plan prohibits an insurer from cancelling a policy unless a person commits fraud or conceals material facts about a health condition. It also prohibits insurance plans from instituting annual or lifetime spending limits.
· Encouraging Small Business Health Plans. The GOP plan gives small businesses the power to pool together and offer health care at lower prices, just as corporations and labor unions do.
· Encouraging innovative state programs. The GOP plan rewards innovation by providing incentive payments to states that reduce premiums and the number of uninsured.
· Allowing Americans to buy insurance across state lines. The GOP plan allows Americans to shop for coverage from coast to coast by allowing Americans living in one state to purchase insurance in another.
· Codifying the Hyde Amendment. The GOP plan explicitly prohibits all federal funds, whether they are authorized funds or appropriated funds, from being used to pay for abortion.
· Promoting healthier lifestyles. The GOP plan promotes prevention & wellness by giving employers greater flexibility to financially reward employees who adopt healthier lifestyles.
· Enhancing Health Savings Accounts (HSAs). The GOP plan creates new incentives to save for future and long-term care needs by allowing qualified participants to use HSAs to pay premiums.
· Allowing dependents to remain on their parents’ policies. The GOP plan encourages coverage of young adults on their parents’ insurance through age 25.
About Political Intelligence
Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.