- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Sen. Rand Paul said Wednesday he filed legislation that would replace Obamacare with a plan that lets Americans shop for insurance across state lines and use tax credits to save for care and prescription drugs.

The Kentucky Republican says people should also be allowed to purchase plans with a narrow buffet of benefits if they want to, rather than comply with the Affordable Care Act’s mandate to get coverage that meets robust standards.

Mr. Paul was the earliest critic of GOP leaders’ plans to swiftly repeal Obamacare through fast-track budget rules and use a transition period to replace the law later on, saying it would sow confusion in the individual insurance market.

In recent weeks, President Trump and leading Republicans have said they will instead try to repel and replace the 2010 overhaul simultaneously.

Mr. Paul’s plan would provide up to $5,000 per taxpayer to contribute toward a Health Savings Account — a tax-advantaged fund that encourages savings for future medical expenses.

His plan would not interfere with employer-based plans, though it would allow people to purchase health coverage apart from their jobs if they want and deduct the cost from their taxes.

“Getting government out of the American people’s way and putting them back in charge of their own health care decisions will deliver a strong, efficient system that doesn’t force them to empty out their pockets to cover their medical bills,” Mr. Paul said. “There is no excuse for waiting to craft an alternative until after we repeal Obamacare, and the Obamacare Replacement Act charts a new path forward that will insure the most people possible at the lowest price.”

His bill would also let insurers who are licensed to sell policies in one state to offer them to residents of any other state — a key part of Mr. Trump’s health plan during the campaign.

Republicans this week are trying to pin down the details of a plan to scrap Obamacare and replace it with GOP-preferred reforms during a party retreat in Philadelphia. They say voters have tasked them with saving them from soaring premiums and dwindling plan choices on the law’s web-based exchanges are collapsing under the weight of soaring premiums and dwindling plans choice.

Though Republicans haven’t coalesced around a single plan, the party has chafed at Democratic claims it doesn’t have any health ideas of its own.

Besides Mr. Paul, a pair of Senate Republicans offered an alternative plan that would empower states to keep Obamacare, forge their own reforms with 95 percent of the federal funding they would have received under Obamacare or strike out on their own with no federal assistance.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday suggested those plans will skimp on benefits and have little impact until Mr. Trump signals what kind of replacement he’d sign.

“I don’t know who’s speaking for what, but even the chairman of [the Senate Health] committee has said that they want to see something from the president,” the California Democrat said.

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

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