The GOP's Search For Affordable Health Insurance

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In an attempt to get into the debate on creating affordable health insurance, a number of GOP members have crafted a plan that takes some ideas from the plan by Democrats. Senators Tom Coburn (R-OK) and Richard Burr (R-NC) and Representatives Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Devin Nunes (R-CA) released their plan titled "The Patients' Choice Act" yesterday. A statement summary accompanying the bill declared every American should be guaranteed universal access to affordable care. Creating access to affordable health insurance has become a front-and-center issue for both parties seeking to make gains in next year's midterms.

As does the Democrat's plan, the newly released GOP plan seeks to increase access and affordability to preventive measures and preventative medicine. Many physicians and other clinical practitioners have long said that preventive care is key to creating and maintaining affordable health insurance. The Patients' Choice Act includes $50 million annually to increase vaccine supplies and access. The authors of the bill claim such measures will help rising costs as an estimated 75% of all health care expenditures are paid out towards preventable diseases.

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The GOP plan calls for states to have direct oversight to see that insurers "are playing by fair rules". Subsidies that currently go to employer-based funds will be shifted towards individuals as tax credits in another effort to create affordable health insurance. This "Medi-Choice" tax rebate would provide $2,200 for individuals and $5,700 for families. Individuals and families would still be able to keep their current insurance if they desire, they would still be eligible receive the rebate.

Preventing "cherry-picking" is another goal of the GOP plan. A goal of the legislation is to spread the risk of high-risk patients across the insurance companies. A key to this measure involves allowing states and insurance companies to work together across state lines in order to increase sizes of risk pools. Preventing interstate sales and cooperation of plans is currently a major roadblock to access to affordable health insurance.

Strengthening the health care safety net is a final step on the road to affordable health insurance, so say the sponsoring members of the bill. The GOP plan calls for Medicaid recipients be given the opportunity to the coverage and care they need from any provider. Nearly half of physicians and hospitals refuse Medicaid patients because payments are too low. With out giving details, the GOP members claim that by eliminating fraud from the system, the money saved will be used to help these patients purchase their own plans. Coburn, Burr, Ryan, and Nunes say their plan will $1.3 trillion in the next decade and needs know new federal spending.

The authors of this bill seeking to create more affordable health insurance claim this is a way to universal care through the private market. Some GOP Senators and Reps worry over the call for increased government oversight on insurance companies. Other critics claim the proposed tax rebates for individuals will be insufficient in helping to pay for individual plans. At least some in the GOP, however, accept the premise of ensuring universal health care as a necessary promise to constituents. Whether or not the right steps to create affordable health insurance are being taken remains to be seen.

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