When virus recedes, GOP plans to unleash sweeping health care reform plan

Protecting pre-existing conditions, ensuring easier generics, buying insurance across state lines and empowering doctors are key tenets.

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House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and GOP Whip Steve Scalise attend the State of the Union address.
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Last Updated:
March 23, 2020 - 7:22am

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    When the coronavirus crisis slows, congressional Republicans plan to unleash sweeping health care reform proposals that would draw a sharp contrast with Democrats’ Medicare-for-All and public option plans by empowering patients to find cheaper drugs and cheaper insurance while choosing the doctor and treatments they want.

    House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., gave Just the News a broad preview of the emerging GOP plan, promising it would protect patients with pre-existing conditions, remove barriers to cheaper generic drugs and leave doctors and patients, instead of insurers or bureaucrats, in charge of treatment decisions.

    “We've been working on a number of things that focus on two main issues: one, lowering costs, and two, putting patients in charge of the decisions, not government bureaucrats,” Scalise said during a wide-ranging interview with the John Solomon Reports podcast.

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    Republicans are still smarting from the 2018 election, when Democrats seized control of the House mostly on the strength of a health care pitch that appealed to key swing voters like suburban moms and working professionals.

    They are banking on the assumption that Democrats lost some of that advantage the last year through a relentless focus on impeaching President Trump and pitching a Medicare-for-All plan that proved unpopular with union workers.

    With Joe Biden emerging as the likely Democratic presidential nominee, the Medicare-for-All plan championed by Bernie Sanders is likely to take a back seat to Biden’s Obamacare 2.0 plan, which adds a public option for a government-run insurance alternative in the private market.

    Scalise said Republicans plan to attack the government option – whether Medicare for All or the public option – as taking away medical freedom while positioning their plan as the best for preserving the patient-doctor relationship.

    “Washington is taking those decisions out of your hand, literally eliminating the private insurance market,” he said, sounding a likely fall attack line. “...Do you really think healthcare is one size fits all?”

    House Republicans have posited some of their ideas in a series of bills that the Democratic leadership has not moved to the floor. But they plan to expand on those ideas as soon as the pandemic eases while packaging their entire plan under the banner of “healthcare freedom.”

    According to Scalise, key elements of the plan will include:

    • Protecting patients with pre-existing conditions.
    • Allowing Americans to shop across state lines for cheaper insurance.
    • Ending the practice of drug companies paying generic manufacturers to make cheaper versions of popular but expensive medicines
    • Ending hidden/surprise hospital, testing and doctor charges that arrive later in the mail.
    • Getting rid of middlemen in the medical supply chain who drive up the costs of drugs, procedures and equipment or interfere in treatment decisions.
    • Scalise said Republicans are also ready to battle over the issue of pre-existing conditions, which Democrats used effectively in their 2018 election efforts by touting
    • Obamacare’s protections.

    Republicans plan to show – and hammer home -- that Obamacare’s tradeoff for protecting pre-existing conditions was higher insurance premiums and deductibles that rendered many treatments unaffordable.

    “You know, with Obamacare, they say they protect people with pre-existing conditions. But part of what they do is you're seeing deductibles skyrocket. So you might have a $5,000 to $10,000 deductible in your plan. That's not really health care if you can't afford it,” Scalise said. “Sure, they say you're protected, but if you can't afford it, it's like giving you the keys to a car that's got no engine.”

    The minority whip said one part of the Republican plan will address how to keep patient costs down while protecting pre-existing conditions through high-risk pools and buy-down premiums.

    “We can do things like high-risk pools where you're buying down those premiums," he explained. "So that when you go to buy insurance, you're getting a market rate like everybody else, and it lowers the premium base for all people that are trying to buy their own plans."