Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 9, 2016

Cantor: House to Vote on GOP Obamacare Alternative

(Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call)

(Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

CAMBRIDGE, Md. — Seeking to distinguish themselves as a party of alternatives, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said Republicans will vote on an alternative to President Barack Obama’s health care law this year.

The size and structure of the bill remains in flux, he said, but he announced to the GOP Conference members gathered here for their annual retreat that a vote will happen in the coming months, according to a source in the meeting.

“House Republicans will rally around an alternative to Obamacare and put it on the floor and pass it this year,” he said.

A few Republicans have produced comprehensive bills that they have pitched as viable alternatives to the Affordable Care Act. Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., for instance, has a bill and the conservative Republican Study Committee has asked leaders to consider another bill that it has touted.

The group’s chairman, Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., told reporters at the retreat here that it matters less whose name is on the bill than that Republicans produce a proposal that can prove they have constructive ideas, rather than just a defensive posture toward Democratic legislation.

But, he added, “I’d like it to be a single bill,” rather than a hodgepodge of Republican legislation.

In the meeting, Cantor noted several ideas Republicans have rallied around — notably high-risk pools for those with pre-existing conditions, health savings accounts, insurance portability across state lines and medical liability changes — but did not specify whether leadership would move ahead with one bill or several.

The move has drawn some praise already from younger members. Rep. Jason Smith, R-Mo., one of the newest members of the House, said he wants to see Republicans produce their own bills, rather than simply deriding Democratic legislation.

“I think it’s essential that we’re the party of solutions,” he said. “I truly believe that before this year’s over you’ll see the House Republicans pass a bill that will be our way to address the situation that’s going on now with Obamacare.”

The discussion among Republicans, however, has centered on whether they should produce lengthy bills during an election year when the party has as close to a sure lock on maintaining a majority in the House.

National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Greg Walden told reporters that any time you produce legislation you risk facing backlash, but he said he prefers for his candidates to have policy to defend on the campaign trail.

“I think as a party, if we’re seen as the opposition party and we spend all our time talking about what we’re opposed to, we miss a great opportunity to actually woo voters over to our side,” the Oregon Republican said. “You need something positive to run on.”

Matt Fuller contributed to this report.

  • Zach

    Only took about five years.

  • Mary Bell Lockhart

    ALL of those suggestions named WERE considered and rejected when the ACA was debated. ALL of them have problems, including not doing anything to enable people to get health care. For example, medical liability changes just enable doctors and hospitals to avoid responsibility for malpractice and do nothing to insure more people or lower costs. Buying insurance across state lines violates the right of states to regulate insurance within their borders and would result in insurance policies, like some of our previous ones, that may be cheap but don’t cover essentials thus leaving people with economic disasters if they become ill or injured.

    • cnourse57

      “Medical liability” is a slap against lawyers who urge injured patients to sue for an enormous sum. Then the lawyer takes at least 50% of what the jury awards instead of charging a set fee for filing the law suit. In all proposals I have seen or read about in which a doctor or a hospital caused a patient to be injured, it was guaranteed that the victim would have all future medical costs related to the problem would be paid. But the doctor or hospital would not be required to pay many millions of dollars as extra damages.
      The possibility of those extra damages is what drives doctors to order every possible test to have a defense against a claim of negligence. If a jury finds “negligence” then all those extra millions of dollars in punishment come into play. A huge part of those dollars wind up in the pockets of the lawyer who represented the patient.

      • Beeker

        Even Texas had malpractice reform and yet it did not stop the rise of cost defensive medicine.

      • Mary Bell Lockhart

        They “reformed” medical liability in Texas and it didn’t reduce costs. It also didn’t allow full medical costs to be paid to injured parties. They claimed it was to reduce “frivolous law suits” and “overly generous jury awards” but had little evidence of either. Also the biggest reason why doctors order excessive testing is they themselves own the testing companies, not to protect themselves. FURTHERMORE, medical liability “reform” will not provide a single other person with health insurance or health care. So it is not a “replacement” for ACA, might only be at best a slightly useful adjunct.

  • cnourse57

    This is very good strategy. I am tired of reading that “The Republicans have no plan; they just want to oppose ObamaCare.” The truth is that some problems about health care delivery did, indeed, need to be fixed. But ObamaCare causes more problems than the ones that needed repair. It sounds like the Republican plan will fix what was broken, and fix the good things that ObamaCare broke. I look forward to reading more details about the final bill to be proposed.
    Of course there is no chance a Republican alternative would pass the Senate or be signed by Obama. But it would give all Republican candidates a platform to run on.

  • Beeker

    One of the component of the plan is that the older person will be assessed a higher rate than the younger person (Republicans would widen that age band, allowing insurers to charge older subscribers five times as much — lowering premiums for younger people in the process).

    How are they plan to pay for it:
    The replacement plan repeals a whole slew of industry taxes that had the insurance companies, hospitals and medical device makers all helping to foot the bill. Those are gone. In their place is a limit on the the tax exclusion for employer-sponsored insurance-would limit the tax exclusion to 65 percent of the average health insurance plan. Any amount of a premium beyond that amount would need to be paid with post-tax dollars. Thus those with employer based insurance, it is going to get expensive in the process.
    It also acknowledged that ACA is not going to disappear.

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