- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Republican Study Committee on Wednesday unveiled a 181-page alternative to the massive federal health care law passed in 2010, touting their “market-focused” reforms as a viable way to fix the nation’s broken health care system without imposing mandates and taxes on Americans.

Seven House Republicans said they are ready to push the American Health Care Reform Act through committee and accept ideas from Democrats during the legislative process, noting they were shut out from debate over the Affordable Care Act.

The timing of the bill’s roll-out is conspicuous, since key aspects of the president’s law are set to take effect in less than two weeks, and Republican critics of the law are mounting a last-ditch effort to delay or defund the law as part of fiscal fights on Capitol Hill.

“First of all, we start by repealing Obamacare,” RSC Chairman Steve Scalise, Louisiana Republican, said of the new bill.

Among other reforms, the GOP-sponsored bill would allow consumers to shop for insurance across state lines, let individuals and families deduct health care costs for tax purposes the way employers do and inject billions of dollars into state high-risk pools so people with preexisting medical conditions can gain coverage.

Republican critics of President Obama’s health care law argue his overhaul requires younger, healthier people without employer-based insurance to subsidize sicker patients’ health care by joining the same risk pool on state-based insurance exchanges.

Republican sponsors said they’ve notified House leadership of their plans but have not secured any commitments for a quick vote on the bill.

They said the existing health care law puts many more Americans into the queue for health care services, but does nothing to reduce costs or improve access to care.

Their legislation would repeal, and not amend, Mr. Obama’s law because the country needs a “clean slate,” Mr. Scalise said.

Republican Rep. John Fleming, also of Louisiana, said Mr. Obama’s law is like a skyscraper built on a poor foundation.

“You can’t fix it,” he said. “You have to tear it down and start over again.”

Mr. Obama and Democrats, however, have signaled they will not negotiate over the president’s signature law in an upcoming spending showdown and negotiations over lifting the government’s debt limit.

They said the law is already reducing premiums in a number of states and allowing young adults to stay on their parents’ plans, among other benefits.

In January, about half the states will leverage federal dollars from the law to expand Medicaid enrollment within their borders.

• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at thowell@washingtontimes.com.

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