Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 11, 2016

GOP Senators Release Obamacare Alternative

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Hatch, above, Burr and Coburn released new health care legislation. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sens. Richard M. Burr, R-N.C., Tom Coburn, R-Okla., and Orrin G. Hatch, R-Utah, released legislation today that would repeal President Barack Obama’s signature Affordable Care Act and replace it with an overhaul of their own.

“The American people have found out what is in Obamacare — broken promises in the form of increased health care costs, costly mandates, and government bureaucracy. They don’t like it and don’t want to keep it,” Burr said in a release.

“We can lower costs and expand access to quality coverage and care by empowering individuals and their families to make their own health care decisions, rather than empowering the government to make those decisions for them,” Burr noted.

The bill comes after the GOP has pounded Obama and Democrats over the troubled rollout of the health care law, which resulted in some people losing their insurance due to cancellation of non-compliant plans and difficulty in signing up for insurance on HealthCare.gov.

The bill also comes a day before the president’s State of the Union address. Republicans hope to use the fallout from the law, also known as Obamacare, against Democrats in the November elections.

The GOP plan notably would allow insurance companies to once again discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions — unless people maintain continuous coverage.

“So long as an individual, or family in the case of a family policy, has stayed continuously covered, they should not be forced to pay a higher premium solely because of a costly health condition when switching plans,” the summary said.

Republicans argue that the provisions in their bill are better than the individual mandate in Obamacare, which requires Americans to buy insurance in order to spread the costs among a larger pool and prohibit discrimination based on health.

“These alternative provisions strike the right balance between strongly encouraging individuals to become insured, while ensuring greater regulatory predictability and market stability, which in turn helps to keep health care costs down,” the summary said.

For the Republicans, keeping insurance is an issue of individual responsibility.

“This new consumer protection helps incentivize responsible behaviors by encouraging consumers to keep their health,” the summary continued.

The bill would also return oversight of health insurance to states and put in place some measures to smooth the transition, such as limiting the premiums of older people to no more than five times that of younger people.

“This … will have the effect of helping to immediately lower healthcare costs for millions of Americans,” according to a summary. The bill, however, has not been scored by the Congressional Budget Office.

In the future, if a state finds the rule too restrictive, or not restrictive enough, it would just need to pass a law opting out of the provision for the plans it regulates.

The bill would also continue the provision in Obamacare allowing dependents to stay on their parents’ insurance plan until age 26, but states could opt out by passing a law.

The bill would provide a tax credit to those who qualify to help them buy insurance.

The plans also would give states far more flexibility to reshape the state-federal Medicaid program — something Republicans have long sought but strongly criticized by Democrats for saving money on the backs of the poor.

“Congress has a responsibility to not only repeal this misguided law but replace it with a plan that will provide better care at a lower cost, and will help preserve programs like Medicaid instead of driving them closer to bankruptcy,” Coburn said.

“Forcing too many Americans out of the insurance they have, away from the doctor they trust and, for some, out of the job they need, Obamacare is a disaster,” said Hatch. “With our plan, we’ve shown once again that by empowering Americans — not Washington — with the right tools and information, they will make the best informed health care decisions for themselves.”

Democrats were not impressed by the GOP proposal.

“It took four years to come up with this? This is proof positive that Republicans do not believe in the fundamental right to health care,” a congressional Democratic aide said. “This plan might appeal to Republican donors, but it must scare the millions of Americans who would lose health insurance because of it.”

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