Wednesday, October 28, 2009

GOP health care bill, all six of them.

Chicago Tribune

A GOP health plan

Democrats in the U.S. House and Senate have spent the spring, summer and fall grappling with how to fix the health care system. They're still trying to craft a bill they can sell to Americans -- or even explain in plain English.

And the
Republicans? Well, as the minority party, they're mainly on the sidelines. They've become the party of "no," sniping at every Democratic health care reform idea without promoting any of their own. Right?

Not entirely.

Over the summer and fall,
Republicans in the House and Senate have introduced six -- yes, six -- health care reform proposals. You didn't hear? Well, those plans didn't produce much of a ripple because Democrats dominate the Congress.

But now Republicans are weighing a shift in strategy. Instead of taking more potshots, some Republicans say their party should present a coherent alternative to whatever final Democratic plans emerge in the House and Senate. Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee reportedly are drafting legislation the GOP could introduce when Democrats bring their proposals to the floor.

Here's hoping they do. Rep. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., who sponsored a health reform bill, said recently: "The job of the opposition is not just to point out all the flaws in legislation coming to the floor, but to offer ideas for how you would fix it."

He's right. Others offering proposals: Rep. Tom Price of Georgia, Rep.
Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, Rep. Roy Blunt ofMissouri, Rep. John Shadegg of Arizona and Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina.

We don't agree with everything in these bills. But the GOP proposals contain smart ideas to increase choice and competition in the health insurance market -- a powerful Republican counterpoint to the Democrats' expensive plans. The ideas include:

Let insurers sell policies across state lines. That would loosen the strangling state-by-state regulations and unleash competition to drive premium prices down.

-Give people who buy insurance in the private market the same tax breaks as those who get it through employers .Now, employers that offer coverage get a tax break on the premiums they pay for employees. And employees don't pay taxes on the value of the coverage they receive. People who want to buy insurance in the individual market should get the same tax breaks. That would help millions of people acquire coverage.

--Expand the ability of small businesses, trade associations and other groups to set up insurance pools to offer coverage at more attractive rates.

--Control health costs in part by reining in the medical malpractice system that raises insurance premiums and forces doctors to order tests to protect themselves from lawsuits. Limiting certain kinds of damage awards would reduce spending on health care by about $11 billion in 2009, or about one-half of 1 percent, the
Congressional Budget Office estimates. Think about that in human terms: Reform would save millions of patients the expense and trauma of unnecessary tests and procedures.

These excellent ideas could expand coverage for the uninsured without cratering the federal budget or curbing the competition and innovation that drive the U.S. health care system. Republicans should keep pushing them -- and ruling Democrats need to give them a full and fair hearing.

House health bill clocks in at 1,990 pages

It runs more pages than War and Peace, has nearly five times as many words as the Torah, and its tables of contents alone run far longer than this story.

The House health care bill unveiled Thursday clocks in at 1,990 pages and about 400,000 words. With an estimated 10-year cost of $894 billion, that comes out to about $2.24 million per word. .

KN: How many are going to read it? NONE!

The Medicare end-of-life planning provision that 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin said was tantamount to 'death panels' for seniors is staying in the latest Democratic health care bill unveiled Thursday. The provision allows Medicare to pay for voluntary counseling to help beneficiaries deal with the complex and painful decisions families face when a loved one is approaching death.

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