After months of debate within Republican ranks, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) is finally about to release his health care bill, but the outline he gave reporters does little to cover the tens of millions of Americans without health insurance.
GOP Conference Chairman Mike Pence (Ind.) said the central difference between Republicans and Democrats on the issue is that Democrats want to achieve near-universal coverage.
Their focus is to get as close presumably to universal coverage as possible, Pence said. Republicans, listening to the American people back home, believe the real issue here is cost.
Under the GOP plan, insurance companies would still be allowed to exclude anyone with a pre-existing medical condition from coverage, there would be no national insurance exchange and businesses would not face any mandate to provide insurance nor individuals to buy it.
Boehner also left out tax credits to help the poor and middle class buy insurance a central pillar of most GOP reform proposals and a key feature of a four-page outline Republican leaders released in June.
Boehner said Monday that the tax credits cost too much.
Instead, the Republican plan relies on low-cost ideas, such as allowing purchasing of insurance across state lines, allowing small businesses to band together to get cheaper rates, and limiting medical malpractice lawsuits.
Our substitute aims at driving down costs, Boehner said. Clearly, if you drive down costs, you expand access.
The GOP also plans to beef up state government-run high-risk pools for people who have pre-existing conditions, with additional federal funding. Most states have such pools, but they often are much more expensive than regular insurance and have had only limited success in reducing the ranks of the uninsured.
The pronouncements from Boehner and Pence had Democrats ripping their plan.
Theyre not even attempting to cover most uninsured Americans the cornerstone of how we lower costs for all and have the leverage to reform the insurance industry, said Nadeam Elshami, spokesman for Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.