Republican Healthcare Alternative Unveiled; Gitmo Closure Held Up

Senators Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-Okla.) and Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Reps. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) introduced yesterday a Republican health care reform package that offers tax incentives and advances to allow everyone in America to purchase their own private health insurance (short summary (pdf), long summary (pdf), Q & A (pdf)).  This budget neutral proposal would indemnify everyone, folding in Medicaid and offering universal access within the private insurance sector for every American without adding new debt or taxes.

“As a practicing physician, I have seen first-hand how giving government more control over health care has failed to make health care more affordable and accessible,” Dr. Coburn said.  “The American people deserve health care reform that will work, not another round of so-called reform that repeats the same failed policies of the past. Congress and the administration have the opportunity to pursue bold reform and a fresh start. The Patients’ Choice Act will provide every American with access to affordable health care without a tax increase, more debt and waiting lines.”

The basis of the plan is a $2,300 per individual and $5,700 per family advanceable and refundable tax credit which would be used to purchase medical insurance privately or to apply to your portion of employer-based premiums.  The money could also be directed into your private Health Savings Account (HSA).  Funding would come from shifting more than $300 billion in current annual tax subsidies away from employers to individuals. This would result in a dramatic change in the current system that ties your coverage to your job.  There would be no change in allowing employers to deduct the cost of their portion of employee insurance premiums.

The folding in of Medicaid would free up the funding to offer low-income Americans an additional annual subsidy of $5,000 to help purchase the insurance and defray costs. Up to one-fourth of the annual stipend could roll over into an HSA each year, so there is an incentive built in to spend wisely.

“For non-taxpayers, for those whom the credit is advanceable and refundable, we provide a credit in the same amount, but the funding for the credit is generated by savings in entitlement programs,” Ryan told HUMAN EVENTS at the press conference.  “On top of that, Medicaid and SCHIP populations will get additional assistance to cover out of pocket costs.  This removes the stigma associated with second class health care that the Medicaid population is experiencing today."  

"Right now, those folks on Medicaid are going into a doctor’s office and being denied,” Ryan said.  “They are going through health care with a second class system.  We want to give them the dignity of private health insurance that everybody else in America is enjoying and that everybody should enjoy in America.  Medicaid families will get the same $5,700 tax credit available to the rest of the population in addition to a supplemental card with up to $5,000, so up to $10,700 for low-income families to pay for health care coverage.”

According to the Patient Choice Act summary, Health Care Exchanges would be set up at the state level that would allow those who do not have an opportunity for employer-based insurance to have access to a range of private plans that would be the same as those offered to members of Congress.  States could band together in “regional pooling arrangements” and would also offer risk adjustment mechanisms to cover those “deemed uninsurable.”  The credit would be used to auto-enroll anyone who did not for whatever reason pick their own insurance plan at the beginning of the year either at the state level or at “medical points of service.”

The bill would also set up a non-profit, independent board to “risk adjust among participating insurance companies and to severely penalize those companies who would ‘cherry pick’ health patients and reward insurers that encourage prevention/wellness and cover patients with pre-existing conditions.”

It also improves the operation of health savings accounts by allowing payment of insurance premiums from these accounts without tax penalties while also increasing the allowable amount of contributions annually.

“The ongoing tax debate with taxes and health care represents a clear difference between the two approaches here in Washington,” Ryan said.  “The President and the Democrats discuss tax reform as a means to get higher revenues into Washington with the idea that the federal government knows best.  Their government-centric approach will require massive tax increases seeking to chase ever higher spending with ever higher taxes.  

“We believe in a patient-centered model,” Ryan concluded.  “We remain firmly committed to directing the resources and the decision-making power with individuals.  We already spend twice as much per person on health care in America than all of the other industrialized countries.  The answer is not a massive new tax increase and massive new spending programs. The answer is to take the money we’re already spending and spend it far more efficiently, far more effectively to reflect the dynamics of the 21st Century so that the center of this system is not politicians and bureaucrats making the decisions.  The center of this system is patients and their doctors making the decisions.”

Senate Overwhelmingly Strips Gitmo Closure Funding from Supplemental Bill

Democrats finally noticed the bright neon writing on the wall. The highly unpopular measures floated by the White House to release terrorists into the United States in order to meet an arbitrary deadline set by the President to close Gitmo became yet another hanging albatross for Democrats.  

Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) who has led for weeks in the Senate on this issue offered an amendment that stripped the $80 million in funds from supplemental slated for the closure of Gitmo.  

Democrats made a very public break with President Obama on this issue and offered their own amendment nearly identical to Inhofe’s to accomplish the same purpose.  The Democrat amendment passed with 95 votes in the Senate serving as a body blow to the Obama administration who sought these funds to begin the task of closing the state-of-the-art detention facility.  

The President to address the Gitmo closing in a speech today and is expected to continue his acts aimed at moving terrorists into U.S. jails, in addition to setting some free inside the U.S.

The Democrat amendment that passed yesterday only barred funding these transfers through the end of the fiscal year.  Inhofe has authored another amendment to be offered before the September 30 fiscal year-end deadline that would permanently bar any funding to move onto U.S. soil the worst of the worst of the terrorist detainees currently being held at Gitmo.  

“Though I am very pleased that Democrats in the Senate reversed course and voted today against including the $80 million in the war supplemental to close Gitmo, it is very likely that this funding could be included in future appropriations bills,” Inhofe said.  “I am encouraging all of my colleagues to sign onto my legislation to prevent any future funding for detainee transfers to the U.S.  President Obama’s executive order to close Gitmo failed to take into consideration the monetary and security costs accrued by closing Gitmo, such as what happens to current detainees at GITMO, what the military would do with detainees held in other military prisons around the world, how the military should handle terrorists captured in the future, and what judicial process is going to be used.”  

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) told HUMAN EVENTS at the press conference, “The disturbing fact of this whole debate is that the President and the Democrat majority were willing to compromise the security of our homeland to please the rest of the world.  There’s no question the President was going to close Gitmo, and he asked for the money to bring them to the United States and bring them to our prisons to hold them here.  You have to be very naïve to think that the rest of the world is going to cheer when we put them in American prisons or release them on American soil. …The Democrats backed down and are now trying to take credit for what has happened. …The Democrats have only backed down because the American people found out what they were planning to do.”

At the press conference, Sen. Jeff Sessions expressed disappointment that Attorney General Eric Holder has not responded to his letters of April 2 and May 4 in which he inquired about Holder’s stated objective to release the Uighur terrorist detainees from Guantanamo into our society, not into a prison but to actually release them into a northern Virginia community.

Later in the day, Hill staff sources told HUMAN EVENTS the scuttlebutt was that Holder would not respond until after President Obama’s speech Thursday on his plans for the Gitmo closure.