House Republicans Offer Obamacare Alternative
Written by Editor   
Saturday, June 11, 2016 12:00 AM

Two congressional Republicans presented a new bill for a free marketplace alternative to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which they modestly christened the “World's Greatest Healthcare Plan Act of 2016."

Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas.), who co-authored the new bill along with Sen. Bill Cassidy, MD (R-La. ), argued their proposed plan is more sustainable than the ACA.

Their proposed plan would not repeal or replace the ACA -- people can keep their current coverage if they choose to -- but would be an alternative option. It would scrap the employer and the individual mandates, and instead provide tax benefits to every U.S. citizen of $2,500, plus a $1,500 tax benefit for every dependent minor, as long as the minors are also U.S. citizens. A family of four would received a total of $8,000.

"The tax credits are an incentive for the American people to have coverage of their choice," Sessions said. These credits could be directed into health savings account, using pre-tax dollars, or assigned to an employer. Lower-income employees who don't get coverage through their employer could use the credits toward buying a basic health insurance plan.

Another element of the plan is that it automatically enrolls individuals in states that subscribe to it. "Everyone is enrolled unless you choose otherwise," Cassidy said. The health tax credits would be granted as soon as an individual files his or her tax return, noted a joint press release from the congressmen's offices.

The new plan would also take Medicaid dollars and provide a block-grant to states based on the number of beneficiaries, Sessions explained.

And it would address many of the core problems of Obamacare, Cassidy said, such as forcing patients to buy insurance plans they can’t afford or plans that don't fit their needs.  High deductibles are a continuing challenge for patients. Cassidy said that at the safety net hospital where he sometimes works, telling workers paid on an hourly basis, "'You have to come up with $6,000 before you receive a benefit from your policy.' It just does not work."

The new plan would also eliminate the issue of patients paying for benefits they don't need. Cassidy said a constituent he spoke with had no children and had undergone a hysterectomy, but was still required to pay $500 more each year for obstetric services.

The proposed plan removes those non-essential consumer protections, while keeping those considered essential, such as the right of guaranteed issue and guaranteed renewability. It would not exclude patients with preexisting conditions, according to the press release.

It would also increase price transparency, allowing patients to know the price of their procedures and shop around. This would create what Cassidy calls "activated patients."