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House GOP prepping alternative health-care reform bill

By Ben Pershing
After months of criticizing Democrats' health-care proposals without offering one of their own, House Republicans are preparing to unveil a reform bill this week to compete with the majority's ideas.

Having lambasted the bill unveiled by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) for being nearly 2,000 pages long with a price tag of $1 trillion, Republicans plan to offer a measure much narrower in scope and more modest in its goals. GOP leaders are unable to say yet how much their bill would cost or how many Americans would gain health insurance under their plan, but House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Monday that his party's bill had been sent to the Congressional Budget Office for scoring. "We expect it to be ready in the next several days," Boehner said.

Though specific details aren't available yet, Boehner provided this four-point outline of the GOP bill during Saturday's weekly Republican address:

Number one: let families and businesses buy health insurance across state lines;

Number two: allow individuals, small businesses, and trade associations to pool together and acquire health insurance at lower prices, the same way large corporations and labor unions do today;

Number three: give states the tools to create their own innovative reforms that lower health care costs; and

Number four: end junk lawsuits that contribute to higher health care costs by increasing the number of tests and procedures that physicians sometimes order not because they think it's good medicine, but because they are afraid of being sued.

Boehner said Monday that the measure would not include language banning insurance companies from denying coverage to consumers with preexisting conditions, a prominent feature of Democrats' bills in both the House and Senate. And while some Republican health-care proposals have called for giving individuals tax credits to help them buy insurance, that idea won't be included in this week's GOP bill because it would cost too much, explained House Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence (Ind.). Therein lies a key difference between the majority's approach to reform and the minority's ideas.

"Their focus is to get as close, presumably, to universal coverage as possible," Pence said of Democrats' plans. "Republicans, listening to the American people back home, believe the real issue here is cost.... The Republican plan is intended to focus on the kind of reforms that are going to drive the cost of insurance and the cost of health care down."

Democrats, for their part, mocked the GOP's proposals as too little, too late.

"Ten months into this debate on how to make quality health care affordable for all Americans, House Republicans have 'eight or nine ideas' according to their leadership," said Pelosi spokesman Nadeam Elshami. "They're not even attempting to cover most Americans -- the cornerstone of how we lower costs for all and have the leverage to reform the insurance industry. House Republicans are now rushing to try to convert those 'ideas' into legislation, but without offering real reforms for Americans like ending the insurance industry practice of discriminating against you if you have pre-existing medical condition or dropping coverage when you get sick."

Democrats have pledged to put their final bill online for public consumption for 72 hours before the House votes, and leaders hope to have the manager's amendment -- containing the final legislative tweaks -- ready for viewing by Tuesday, which would allow a final vote as early as Friday.

Boehner said he also expected to have the GOP's bill online for 72 hours, though it remains unclear whether the minority's proposal will actually get a shot on the floor. "We're hopeful that Speaker Pelosi will allow us time to debate and vote on our substitute," Boehner said.

Pelosi's office did not respond to a request for comment on whether the Republican bill would get a vote.

As they prepare to release their own bill, Republicans plan to continue their drumbeat against Democrats' proposal. Several House GOP women will speak out this week in hopes of appealing to women voters. Republicans will make scores of special order speeches on the House floor, and will set up a special "reading room" where members (and the press) can read the Democrats' bill with policy aides present to guide them through it. Republicans also plan to hold a 12-hour online town hall meeting on health care, starting at 1 p.m. Thursday.

Some GOP lawmakers have used controversial language in criticizing the Democrats' bill.

On the House floor Monday, Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) said: "I believe we have more to fear from the potential of that bill passing than we do from any terrorist right now in any country."

Asked for his reaction to Foxx's comment, Boehner said "members are entitled to their opinions" but wouldn't say whether he agreed with the sentiment.

The Minority Leader, who is known for sometimes shrugging his shoulders rather than answering questions from the press that he doesn't want to answer, then turned to Pence and said: "This is where they get the 'Boehner shrug,' Mike."

By Ben Pershing  |  November 2, 2009; 6:01 PM ET
Categories:  GOP Leaders , Health Reform  
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Next: Senate health-care debate still weeks away


It would not surprise me if noone is commenting. The last time I read the comments at a Washington Post article re: Health care, there were all the same old negative remarks that the Conservative Repubs have been making, denigrating everything and everyone. I was very disappointed at the lack of substantive remarks, the lack of informed writers contributing to the debate of a very important issue and its solution.

Posted by: nkelly1 | November 2, 2009 7:22 PM | Report abuse

Boener says that the House Republican health-care bill wouldn't seek to prevent health-insurance companies from denying sick people insurance.

I guess the Rep. from Florida was right, they do want sick people to just hurry up and die.

Posted by: thebobbob | November 2, 2009 7:27 PM | Report abuse

What we need is reform:
1) Open bidding- all insurance companies can bid in all 50 states
2) cannot reject anyone for "preexisting conditions"
3) cannot cancel anyone for diagnosed health problems after coverage begins

Public Option - We cannot even get a vaccine out to the public in an epidemic.

Posted by: Texan2007 | November 2, 2009 7:46 PM | Report abuse

I see that the Republicans a/k/a "The Party of No!" is hard at work...oops...pardon me...hardly working on their own health care proposals!

Posted by: cowboyjohn57 | November 2, 2009 7:59 PM | Report abuse

Gee! Fifteen years after they shot down Hilary care the republican healthcare 1.0 beta has reached the vapor ware stage.

At that rate Buck Rodgers in the twenty-Fifth century MIGHT qualify for health care under a Republican system.

Note that they DIDN'T actually publish the plan.

Posted by: ceflynline | November 2, 2009 8:46 PM | Report abuse

The few lines describing the four proposals offer the possibility of REAL reforms that would help lower costs and improve health care. The close of 2000 pages of Obamacare, on the other hand, have nothing to do any REAL reforms. They are a GIANT and criminal SCAM that would further destroy our health care, our economy, our freedoms and our country.

Posted by: AntonioSosa | November 2, 2009 9:36 PM | Report abuse

Will they let the CBO score their "bill"? The CBO will come back and say that the Republican wish lists are to vague to be scored effectively. Then the Republicans will trash the CBO and say that the CBO doesn't matter.

Posted by: ATLGuy | November 3, 2009 1:36 AM | Report abuse

Lets remember this 1,990 page bill has to be paid for by us. even the democrats say it almost a trillion dollars and still won't cover everyone. they want to vote on it quickly so we won't read it. It doesn't matter if you read it, its incomprehensible. "health committees" and commissioners and czars and all the confusing language. I smell a rat. A lot of political payback and we and our children will bear the cost. Medicare cuts will surely affect our seniors when they are most vulnerable. remember what robert reich said, "we wont spend all the technology on you so you can live a few more months". God help us if this thing passes. And they wont even post it for 72 hours. What a travesty.

Posted by: wilcan1 | November 3, 2009 10:38 AM | Report abuse

Reality Check!
In reference to the proposed 4 points in the article:
1. No family with a member considered "high risk" is going to get insurance in-state or out-of-state. Most conditions are considered high risk and insurance companies will mark up your premiums. Finding affordable health insurance if you are 50 and unemployed is impossible - what is your solution for that one?
2. How do you propose that individuals band together when it is the large associations and corporations that get the best rates?
3. States already are being innovative look at Kennedy's implemented plan for health care for all residents of his state.
4. Some lawsuits are warranted and other's are not, but in the end individuals who feel the need to file a lawsuit have a reason - find out the reason - in many cases it can be resolved. Look at our Veteran's Hospitals - if they make a mistake they admit it and compensate the patient and/or patient's family.

Stop being influenced by lobbyists and get in touch with the health care needs of this nation.

Remember we all pay for the uninsured and uninsurable!

Posted by: sharpone | November 3, 2009 10:41 AM | Report abuse

What does it mean that more American's are upset about health-care reform than about any other national or international issue? What is more important than the health of the citizens of this country and their ability to obtain affordable healthcare?

Posted by: sharpone | November 3, 2009 10:43 AM | Report abuse

First, this is directed at nkelly1, you criticize people for not having substantive posts...Well, a post that is entirely a critique of non-substantive posts in a topic about health-care reform, isn't a substantive post.

Secondly, I can agree with some of the 4 ideas that the republicans have brought to the reform debate, but like the article says, I fear the plan will get muddled once the GOP tries to rush it through to the floor.

Lastly, I really hope that they slip some REAL reform such as ending the discriminatory practices currently in use so we can avoid contentions such as number 1 in sharpone's list.

Posted by: GickNiffin | November 3, 2009 3:09 PM | Report abuse

Republicans had a skunk in their front yard for 8 years and not one single of them dared to throw him out and on top of that, every time that skunk pissed on all of us, they all cheered and aproved it. Why would Americans listen to these current republican senators and congressmen when they keep having change of heart every time when they can't call any shots. Maybe Americans are making mistakes voting for these same crooks and then they complain.

Posted by: BOBSTERII | November 3, 2009 3:59 PM | Report abuse

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