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House Republicans to Offer Alternate Health Plan

BY Lea Winerman  November 3, 2009 at 5:48 PM EST

House Minority Leader John Boehner; Getty Images

Minority Leader John Boehner described key aspects of the bill on the House floor Tuesday. “Given all that’s at stake, the American people deserve to see the Republicans’ smart, fiscally responsible plans debated here on the House floor side-by-side with the Speaker’s 1,990-page bill,” he said.

The Republican bill focuses more on controlling health care costs than on expanding coverage.

Boehner said that the legislation would not prohibit insurers from denying coverage based on preexisting conditions — a key feature of Democratic legislation under consideration in both the House and Senate. It also contains no individual mandate that would require Americans to carry insurance.

“[The Democrats'] focus is to get as close, presumably, to universal coverage as possible,” Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence of Indiana told the Washington Post. “Republicans, listening to the American people back home, believe the real issue here is cost … The Republican plan is intended to focus on the kind of reforms that are going to drive the cost of insurance and the cost of health care down.”

The Republican bill would cap damages for pain and suffering in medical malpractice cases and would increase incentives for people to open health savings accounts. It would free insurance companies to sell insurance across state lines, and it would also create high-risk insurance pools for individuals who have difficulty obtaining health coverage, an idea that has been tried in many states.

Democrats had immediate criticism for the GOP proposal.

“They’re not even attempting to cover most Americans — the cornerstone of how we lower costs for all and have the leverage to reform the insurance industry,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s spokesman Nadeam Elshami told the Post.

And House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said the proposal to allow insurance companies to sell accross state lines would “gut consumer protections and encourage a race to the bottom,” according to Reuters.