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THE MUSINGS OF A TRADITIONAL SOUTHERN DEMOCRAT

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Sid in his law office where he sits when meeting with clients. Observant eyes will notice the statuette of one of Sid's favorite Democrats.

Monday, March 17, 2014

House Republican leaders craft their vision for an alternative to health-care law

From The Washington Post:

House Republican leaders are adopting an agreed-upon conservative approach to fixing the nation’s health-care system, in part to draw an election-year contrast with President Obama’s Affordable Care Act.

The plan includes an expansion of high-risk insurance pools, promotion of health savings accounts and inducements for small businesses to purchase coverage together.

The tenets of the plan — which could expand to include the ability to buy insurance across state lines, guaranteed renewability of policies and changes to medical-malpractice regulations — are ideas that various conservatives have for a long time backed as part of broader bills.

But this is the first time this year that House leaders will put their full force behind a single set of principles from those bills and present it as their vision. This month, House leaders will begin to share a memo with lawmakers outlining the plan, called “A Stronger Health Care System: The GOP Plan for Freedom, Flexibility, & Peace of Mind,” with suggestions on how Republicans should talk about it to their constituents.

The Republicans’ plan is hardly intended as a full replacement of the federal health-care law — and that is by design. They would prefer to see a shift away from the federal government and to the states, with an emphasis on getting more consumers on private plans.

As they finalize their alternative, House Republicans are continuing their years-long effort to take a legislative hammer to the law, passing a bill Friday that would delay the individual mandate and repeal Medicare’s sustainable-growth rate.

Conservative leaders in the House, such as Rep. Tom Price (Ga.), a physician from the Atlanta suburbs, and Rep. Steve Scalise (La.), chairman of the Republican Study Committee, have also played critical roles. Their involvement has enabled the leadership to avoid complaints from the right flank — and ensured that Republicans would not veer from conservative doctrine.

But some conservatives are wary of the push to have House Republicans sing as a unified chorus.

A complete health-care overhaul remains the GOP’s overarching goal. GOP leaders, however, are open to adopting conservative versions of elements of the law. Regarding people with preexisting conditions, for instance, they point to the high-risk insurance pools, which would be managed and subsidized by states. On allowing children to stay on their parents’ health insurance plans until age 26, they said Republicans may back that policy.

Meanwhile, Senate Republicans are closely watching the House GOP’s activity. This year, Sens. Tom Coburn (Okla.), Orrin G. Hatch (Utah) and Richard Burr (N.C.) proposed their own alternative, which they suggested could be the basis for the party-wide pitch on health care.

“There are only so many answers — that’s the thing,” Coburn said. “I don’t care about the politics of it. I want to solve the problem. Eventually we’re going to have to roll up our sleeves and have some kind of combined message.”

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