INDIANAPOLIS | A group of Congressional Republicans, led in part by U.S. Rep. Todd Rokita, R-Indianapolis, proposed an alternative to the Affordable Care Act Wednesday that goes beyond just repealing Obamacare.
The American Health Care Reform Act would change how most Americans obtain health insurance by discouraging employer-subsidized coverage and instead providing a federal income and payroll tax deduction totaling $7,500 for individuals and $20,000 for families that could be used to buy insurance on the open market -- or for any other purpose.
"We haven't been allowed as consumers to apply the skill-set we innately have as Americans. This bill does that," said Rokita, a Munster native. "It kick-starts what we hope to be a cascading, or domino, effect in price transparency."
Unlike the Affordable Care Act, which requires all health plans provide a minimum level of coverage for pregnancy, preventative care and other common health issues, Rokita's proposal lets health insurance companies decide what their policies should cover and permits Americans to buy insurance across state lines.
The GOP measure also fully repeals the Affordable Care Act, which means insurance companies again would be permitted to deny coverage to individuals with pre-existing conditions, could kick college students off their parents' policies and mask their prices, likely making it more difficult for consumers to compare policies.
Under the plan, Medicare price data would be made public, but expanded Medicaid coverage for low-income and elderly Americans as well as the requirement that all Americans buy health insurance would be scrapped.
In their place, the federal government would provide states $2.5 billion a year to fund high-risk insurance pools to help citizens with pre-existing conditions buy insurance, most medical error lawsuit payments would be capped and practically all insurance coverage for abortion prohibited.
"(This) is a market-based, commonsense alternative to Obamacare," said U.S. Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn. "Our bill will not increase taxes, does not rely on mandates, expands coverage and lowers costs."
Republicans unsuccessfully offered similar proposals during 2009-10 Congressional debates over the Affordable Care Act. A cost estimate of this measure was not provided.
The new plan -- crafted by the Republican Study Committee -- gives the GOP, at the least, something to say they support as the House Republican majority approaches its 50th certain-to-fail vote to repeal Obamacare.
But the proposal will not become law any time soon. The Senate and White House are both controlled by Democrats, and they are looking forward to the Oct. 1 start date for the main health coverage provisions of the Affordable Care Act.