WASHINGTON – Small businesses would have an easier time banding together to offer insurance to employees. Consumers could cross state lines to buy coverage. There’d be no big government expansion.
Those are among the ideas that Republicans in the House of Representatives plan to push later this week, as lawmakers expect to begin debating how to overhaul the nation’s health care system.
One longtime favorite Republican proposal apparently will be absent: The Republican plan will contain no tax incentives for consumers who buy insurance individually, said House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio.
“Cost,” he said, was the reason for the omission.
Chances are that little or none of the Republican plan will become law, since the House has 177 Republicans and 256 Democrats and Democrats control 60 of the Senate’s 100 seats.
The Republican strategy has two missions: Illustrate what the party stands for, and try to demonize and defeat Democratic initiatives.
House Democrats have proposed a 1,990-page bill that includes a government-run insurance plan, or “public option,” that would compete with private insurers. Savings in Medicare and a tax on the wealthy largely would pay for the legislation, which has been estimated to cost a net $894 billion over 10 years. The tax surcharge would apply to adjusted gross incomes of more than $500,000 for individuals and $1 million for joint filers.
Debate on that plan could begin late this week, with final votes late this week or early next week. The Republican plan would be offered as an alternative.
In the House, Republican leaders began mounting an offensive last week built around four key principles, as Boehner outlined Monday:
•Giving states more flexibility to “create their own innovative reforms.”
Republicans wouldn’t bar insurers from denying coverage for pre-existing conditions, as Democratic legislation would, but they’d provide financial incentives for the private marketplace to create high-risk pools.
•Revamping medical malpractice laws to make it harder to bring what Boehner called “junk lawsuits.”
•Permitting families and businesses to buy health insurance across state lines.
•Making it easier for employers, individuals and small businesses to set up risk pools.
Under one scenario, a small business that operates in different states could draw customers – and thus pool risks – from all states where it conducts business. Currently, such pools are subject to the rules and regulations of each state, which critics see as burdensome.