Either way, the notion that Republicans have no plan to replace Obamacare is news to Representative Tom Price (R., Ga.), who in June introduced a comprehensive alternative health-care plan — for the third time since 2009. It was originally introduced as the Obamacare alternative from the conservative Republican Study Committee (RSC), which Price chaired at the time.
The 250-page legislation, known as the Empowering Patients First Act, has yet to receive a vote in the House, but currently has 32 co-sponsors, including Representatives Michele Bachmann (R., Minn.), Tim Huelskamp (R., Kans.), Jeb Hensarling (R., Texas), and Tom Cotton (R., Ark.).
The bill is a comprehensive alternative, notes Price, who has more than 20 years of experience as a practicing orthopedic surgeon. His policy proposals, which conservative experts have praised, will probably be familiar to those who have closely followed the ongoing health-care debate.
The bill aims to provide affordable coverage for all through a series of tax credits and deductions designed to entice individuals into the insurance market with positive incentives, as opposed to Obamacare’s solution of fining those who refuse to purchase health insurance. “It’s a carrot instead of a two-by-four,” Price says. “Regardless of where one fits in the economic spectrum, there is a financial incentive to purchase health coverage that the individual wants, not that the government forces them to buy.”
The law would allow individuals to opt out of Medicare, Medicaid, and other federal health-care-benefit programs in favor of receiving a tax credit; an individual’s health coverage would be “portable” — no longer tied to an employer — so losing a job wouldn’t also mean losing insurance; individuals and small businessed would be able to access insurance pools that reduce risk for those with pre-existing conditions, and they could purchase plans across state lines. Tort reforms would cut down on physicians’ practicing “defensive medicine” and driving up costs by ordering unnecessary procedures in an effort to avoid lawsuits.
The plan is based on six principles: affordability, accessibility, quality, responsiveness, innovation, and choice. “All of those principles are violated by the Affordable Care Act,” Price says. “When you step back and look at those principles, it guides you to a system that allows patients and families and doctors to be in charge.” (emphasis added)
And yet when Republicans talk about health care, few actually point to Price’s bill as an alternative plan, which only reinforces the perception that the GOP has no plan beyond repealing Obamacare. “No,” Price laughs when asked if his plan has gotten the attention it deserves. Why not?