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GOP congressman pushes for ‘patient-centered’ health law

- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 5, 2013

A Georgia congressman said Wednesday that House Republicans will redouble efforts to replace President Obama's health care law with a "patient-centered" alternative that uses tax breaks to make insurance affordable without imposing mandates on Americans.

Rep. Tom Price, a Republican and a doctor, said he will introduce the "third iteration" of his bill to replace the Affordable Care Act as soon as this week.

Besides using the tax code to put health coverage within reach for poorer citizens, he said his legislation would let people roll over their health insurance from employer to employer, allow people with high-risk diagnoses to pool together for more price leverage and continuity in their coverage, and reduce unnecessary medical services by reforming malpractice litigation.

"You can do all of those things without putting the government in charge of a doggone thing," he said during a wide-ranging breakfast hosted by The Christian Science Monitor in downtown Washington.

He outlined the legislation in an attempt to prove that Republicans can outline specific health care goals and not just lambast Mr. Obama's overhaul.

Mr. Price's alternative bill, like every attempt to repeal or replace "Obamacare," could gain traction in the Republican-led House but will face an uphill battle as long as Democrats control the Senate and White House.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and other top Democrats have needled House Republicans over their repeated efforts to scrap the law. The chamber's majority party has called more than 30 votes to repeal all or parts of the law, including one last month that is sure to die on the legislative vine.

"As Speaker [John A.] Boehner has said, the Affordable Care Act is the law of the land," Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill said Wednesday. "The American people want solutions from their representatives in Congress, not more silliness. It's time to drop the partisan games and focus on economic growth and jobs for the middle class."

But Mr. Price, echoing a now-famous comment from Senate Finance Committee Max Baucus, Montana Democrat and key author of the health care law, said Mr. Obama's reforms are heading for a "train wreck."

"I think what we need to do is pull the emergency brake before the wreck occurs," he told reporters.

Mr. Price said Congress also is equipped to effectively take on two of the most pressing issues on Capitol Hill — deficit reduction and immigration reform.

On the latter, he said he prefers the piecemeal, or "sequential" approach that is favored by House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte, Virginia Republican, as opposed to comprehensive efforts underway in the Senate.

He said Congress, despite its partisan rancor, can craft meaningful tax reform and reach a deal on how to reduce the federal deficit, now that both chambers have passed budget plans.

"The mechanism in place allows us to move to the next step, which we haven't been able to do in the last four years," he said, noting Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, Wisconsin Republican, and Senate Budget Chairwoman Patty Murray, Washington Democrat, are meeting with "great regularity" to set parameters around a budget conference between the parties so it's "not just a free-for-all."

In Mr. Price's view, a "maturing and coalescing" of the GOP conference has allowed its members to get passed their perceived low-point around New Year's Day, when fractures among the party's establishment and a young, conservative wing threatened to derail negotiations on the "fiscal cliff."

He said he would prefer to settle the nation's budget issues before they reach the debt ceiling once again. That way, he said they would not be not in a crisis mode, "which tends to be the time when Washington makes the least-responsible decisions."

"I'm an eternal optimist," Mr. Price said, "so I always believe things are possible, even in this town."

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