Wednesday, May 20, 2009

New Republican-Proposed Patients’ Choice Act Offers Smart Alternative To Obamacare

Some Congressional Republicans proposed today a new health care reform plan that promises substantial improvement over what we have but, by placing control in the hands of consumers, avoids the federal government-centric features favored by most Democrats that many fear are surreptitiously designed to eventually usher in universal single-payer health care, premised as it is elsewhere on significant rationing of care, limited adoption of new technologies, and substantial wage and price controls for providers.

Called the Patients’ Choice Act, the heart of the plan seems to be reform of the tax code and using that money to give everyone an amount of money with which to purchase a health care policy, either as a refundable tax credit for tax payers or as a direct subsidy for the poor. Consumers with employer-based policies can keep them if they desire or shop for a different policy along with everyone else in the open market or on a state-government-sponsored exchange with competing policies that all meet some minimum standard.

What’s in this plan:
· Portability – workers can take their employer-sponsored policy with them if they want when they change jobs
· Health Savings Account option with its incentives for cost-conscious consumption of services
· No exclusions for pre-existing conditions when consumers sign up for new policies, accomplished through a state-controlled risk-adjustment process across insurers
· State subsidized coverage for the uninsurable through a state risk-pool
· Creation of a bonus incentive for providers to form “Accountable Health Organizations” that deliver higher quality care at less cost
· Creation of an online personal preventive care plan designer
· Lawsuit reform at the state level through creation of expert review panels and specialized health courts
· A Health Services Commission to report on price and quality data and trends
· Strengthening the Medicare Advantage program

What’s not in:
· Individual or employer mandates to have/offer health insurance
· Federal comparative effectiveness board to make and mandate coverage determinations – who can get what care when.
· Federal Medicare-type plan as an option for everyone (the “public plan” option)

The best and most detailed overview I’ve seen so far is by Peter Ferrara at The American Spectator online (link). Ferrara concludes:
The bill would assure essential health coverage and health care to every U.S. citizen, without increased federal spending and taxes, and without the federal government taking over your health care. For precisely those reasons, today's left wing Democrats will not support it…. This bill demonstrates that there is no reason for a government takeover of health care other than the lust for political power that drives the liberal/left political machine.
Philip Klein, also at The American Spectator, has some well-reasoned areas of concern, but is overall very positive (link):
Politically, I think this was a masterful move by this group of Republicans. Keep in mind that [this] alternative never has any chance of being passed [by Democrat-controlled Congress], but it's a statement by the minority party about their approach to an issue. Agree or disagree with the components of the plan, these Republicans have released an undeniably serious health care proposal, and they have done so months before the Democrats have come up with theirs…. This offers a way to oppose the Democratic approach to health care while pushing back against charges that the GOP is "the party of no."
Grace-Marie Turner and Joseph R. Antos have a briefer treatment (link) of this new proposal in the Wall Street Journal. They write:
Republican congressional leaders are finally offering a clear alternative to the health-reform plans being developed by the White House and Democrats in Congress. The goals and the rhetoric of both sides are remarkably similar: cover the uninsured, allow people to keep the coverage they have, provide more choices of affordable health insurance, and rein in health costs. But their policy prescriptions are remarkably different…. Who will control the system? Doctors and patients, or politicians and regulators? That's the crux of this year's health-care debate. The Republican proposal makes the choice clear.
Related posts:
Prospects Uncertain for “Public Plan” Option in Health Care Reform
Health Care Reform – Major Players Pledge to Reduce Costs, While the “Game Changing” Public Option Lurks

John M Greco

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