Republican Study Committee’s Health Care Proposal Emphasizes Patient Choice, Control

October 23, 2019 Updated: October 24, 2019

WASHINGTON—A reform proposal to “empower Americans with greater control over their health care decisions and dollars,” while preserving protections for pre-existing conditions, will fix the “broken system” that is Obamacare, according to members of the Republican Study Committee (RSC).

“The RSC has put forward a plan that will protect individuals with pre-existing conditions; empower Americans with greater control over their health care decisions and dollars; and personalize health care to meet individual needs,” RSC Chairman Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.) said in an Oct. 22 statement releasing the proposal.

“Congress ought to use it as a blueprint to increase affordability, quality, and choice in the U.S. health care system,” Johnson said.

“Conservatives will not stand by as millions of Americans suffer under a system in which they can no longer afford to use their insurance due to skyrocketing premiums, egregious deductibles, and outrageous out-of-pocket costs.”

The RSC was founded in 1973 as an alternative to the liberal Democratic Study Group (DSG). Edwin Feulner was RSC’s executive director before founding the Heritage Foundation.

The new RSC health care reform proposal was under development for a year, according to committee officials, and is intended to replace the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (ACA or “Obamacare”).

“The ACA has made the situation worse by dramatically increasing costs and reducing both the quality of care and the number of available choices in the health care market,” according to the proposal.

“This is a crisis for many Americans that grows with each passing day, as more and more patients lose their preferred doctors or are forced to forgo coverage entirely due to its enormous costs. The current trajectory is simply unsustainable. Congress has an obligation to fix this mess.”

The RSC proposal comes as most of the nearly two dozen Democrats vying to become their party’s nominee against President Donald Trump in 2020 are supporting variations of “Medicare for All.”

Under Medicare for All, the federal government would become either the single-payer funding source for all health care in a system that abolishes all private insurance or the main payer, supplemented by some degree of private coverage.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is the chief advocate in the Democratic field for an explicitly government-only system. Sens. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) were among the co-sponsors when Sanders introduced his plan in the Senate earlier this year.

Former Vice President Joe Biden and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg want to keep private health insurance, while making improvements in the ACA.

The RSC is critical of both approaches.

“Medicare for All would ensure an unprecedented expansion of the federal government instead of personalized, affordable options. It would also cost American taxpayers an estimated $32 trillion in new taxes to artificially control premium increases and would inevitably lead to long wait times and a reduced quality of care,” according to the RSC proposal.

The major provisions of the RSC proposal include reforms in three major areas. First, to protect Americans with pre-existing conditions, the RSC proposal would extend the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability (HIPAA) portability and pre-existing condition protections that have assisted individuals and families going from employer-sponsored insurance plans to coverage provided through the private insurance marketplace.

It would establish federally funded, guaranteed coverage pools that would be managed by state governments to ensure affordable quality care for individuals with high-cost illnesses and conditions; convert existing ACA premium subsidies and Medicaid expansion funding to flex-grants via state governments to subsidize health insurance for low-income individuals; and reduce regulatory barriers to give Americans access to quality care.

Second, the RSC proposal would make changes in the federal tax code to give Americans significantly more control over how and where their health care dollars are spent:

Employer and individual health insurance markets would be treated equally under the revised tax code; coverage under Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) would be expanded by allowing Americans to direct tax-free dollars to cover a wider range of health care costs, including insurance premiums, primary care service fees, and health-sharing ministry dues; and allowable pre-tax contributions to HSAs would be increased to $9,000 from $3,500 for individuals and to $18,000 from $7,000 for families.

Third, greater emphasis would be placed on making it easier to personalize health care to specific individual needs:

Mandates under ACA that increase health care costs through required benefit coverages would be eliminated; it ensures that HSAs are owned by individuals and can be transferred across jobs; and regulatory changes needed to encourage innovations such as telemedicine, direct primary care, association health plans, and health-sharing ministries would be encouraged.

Rep. Roger Marshall (R-Kan.), who is chairman of the RSC’s health care task force, said in the statement that “the ACA does not adequately protect those living with pre-existing conditions, all the while premiums and deductibles continue to skyrocket for families. … We will work with our colleagues to define legislation that will deliver the choice and control Americans want, the affordability they need, the ease they desire, and the quality everyone deserves.”

Contact Mark Tapscott at mark.tapscott@epochtimes.nyc

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