Amid shouts of “Kill the bill,” “You work for us!” and “Can you hear us now?” House Republicans and Tea Party protesters rallied on the steps of the Capitol Thursday to blast the Democratic healthcare bill they dub “Pelosi-Care.”
But GOP leaders are also aware that it’s risky to just say no. As Democrats shift into overdrive to pass a historic healthcare reform bill this weekend, Republicans are ramping up their own bid to convince Americans that there is a “better way.”
They have for months insisted that they had an alternative plan and, this week, released it. The plan has no chance of carrying the day when Democrats bring their plan to a vote on Saturday. The aim, they say, is for Americans to have a chance to see the “common sense” provisions of their bill go head-to-head with a more complex, 1,900-page Democratic plan.
Comparing the two plans, Republicans clearly come in second on the scope of proposed health coverage. The plan Democrats take to the floor will cover 36 million uninsured Americans, according to the Congressional Budget Office and the Joint Committee on Taxation, which officially score legislation. The Republican plan will add only 3 million to the ranks of the insured.
Their primary selling point is cost. The Democratic plan costs $1.05 trillion over the period 2010-2019, according to the CBO/JCT score. The Republican plan costs $61 billion over the same period and would cut the federal deficit by $68 billion.
The 1,900-page Democratic bill involves elements that are highly interrelated and required complex negotiations to try to get the balance right. By contrast, the GOP plan proposes initiatives that could be passed independently. Over time, they can produce cost savings in the entire healthcare system.
These include: banning insurance companies from canceling policies for health reasons, tort reform to curb junk lawsuits, opening the door to individuals to purchase insurance across state lines, allowing dependents to remain on their parents’ politics through age 25, and creating new incentives to save for healthcare needs.
The GOP plan has no mandate for individuals to purchase insurance or for companies to provide it. Instead, it expands high risk insurance pools, including subsidies for people with preexisting conditions that make it impossible to obtain health insurance. Democrats would ban insurance companies from discriminating on the basis of preexisting conditions.
The No. 1 claim that House Republicans make in their plan is that it can lower healthcare premiums for families and small businesses, increase access to quality care, and promote healthier lifestyles “without adding to the crushing debt Washington has placed on our children and grandchildren.”
“Our focus was controlling costs. This is a first step, and at a time when we’ve got a $1.4 trillion deficit, we need to look at a plan that lowers cost and reduces the deficit compared to a $1.3 trillion takeover that we just can’t afford,” says Michael Steel, a GOP House leadership spokesman.
In response, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says the House Republican health bill doesn’t count as reform if nothing changes. “Today, 83 percent of nonelderly Americans are insured,” she says. “Under the GOP plan 83 percent of nonelderly Americans would still be insured in 2010. No change.”
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