- The Washington Times - Monday, May 23, 2016

A pair of Republican lawmakers touted a health care plan Monday that would let states opt out of Obamacare, rather than repealing it outright, and deploy a program that uses a uniform tax credit to help Americans get insured.

Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and Rep. Pete Sessions of Texas said their “World’s Greatest Health Plan” would replace the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate and sliding-scale tax subsidies with a new promise of a $2,500 tax credit for each U.S. citizen and $1,500 per child.

Consumers could use the money to help pay for their own insurance, or use it for out-of-pocket costs covered by a health savings account.

But the plan breaks with conventional GOP orthodoxy by offering an alternative, but not a replacement, for Obamacare.

“A state can choose. They can stay in Obamacare if they want, or they can join the World Greatest Health Care Plan,” Mr. Cassidy said.

The bill would also fund Medicaid through block grants to the states based on their number of enrollees, a GOP principle designed to give states more flexibility in how they run the federal-state insurance program for the poor.

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And it would force emergency rooms to disclose how much services costs, a transparency measure designed to help patients understand what they’ll owe instead of being shocked by a bill later on.

The proposal is unlikely to get very far, coming late in an election year when Congress already has a crowded schedule and relatively little time in session.

House Republicans are also already working on a broader proposal, as part of Speaker Paul D. Ryan’s effort to put together an overall agenda to take to voters in November.

Mr. Cassidy and Mr. Sessions said their efforts are designed to complement, and not overtake, that effort.

“It’s one thing to speak in principles, it is another to have legislative language,” Mr. Cassidy said. “And even if folks don’t adopt our language [entirely], the fact that we’ve written that language will move their product that much further.”

Mr. Ryan’s spokeswoman didn’t return a request for comment, while a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the leader hasn’t taken a position on the Cassidy-Sessions plan.

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The measure also seems to flout conservative orthodoxy by allowing people to remain in Obamacare plans, though its authors said it was important to kick-start the legislative process while Democrats hold the White House and enough Senate seats to filibuster the GOP’s larger ambitions on health care.

Earlier this year, Republicans were able to flex twin majorities in Congress and use a fast-track budget tool known as “reconciliation” to send an Obamacare repeal to Mr. Obama’s desk — though it was promptly vetoed.

“The only way we’re going to be able to totally repeal and replace now, is we keep the House, have 60 Republican senators or enough Democrats who will come with us and a Republican president,” Mr. Cassidy said. “If we get that, we will go the whole way. But we can’t, kind of, not do anything, waiting for those stars to align. So what we do here is we allow a repeal and replace, but on a state level.”

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

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