Libertarian Hawk


32 GOP Bills on the Wall

September 23, 2009 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Health Care

In the event that the imminent failure of Democrats’ socialized medicine bill leads them to some soul-searching—perhaps listening to what their constituents have been telling them all summer, or taking GOP advice to start from scratch—it’s worth noting that House Republicans have introduced 32 health care reform bills since the spring, all languishing in the referral stage.

Many of these lonely bills deal with just one or several aspects of health care reform, rather than offering grand, sweeping Ten-Year Plans that will change Health Care As We Know It.  Not all the bills are knockouts; a couple are downright stinkers.  But virtually all contain some good ideas, and some of them contain nothing but good ideas—which means that no Democrat will ever for a moment consider any of them.

For those desiring ammunition to counterattack the liberal slander that conservatives criticize everything on health care they hear from Democrats but have no ideas of their own, here’s a primer on the legislation prepared by our devoted GOP servants in the House:

•    Several bills are flat-out winners, including Clifford Stearns’ Health Care Tax Deduction Act, Michele Bachmann’s Health Care Freedom of Choice Act, and Rodney Alexander’s Sunset of Life Protection Act.  These laws provide for income tax deductions of health insurance premiums and prescription drugs; medical expenses; and long-term care premiums, respectively.  That’s it.  All three bills are so short they could fit on a cocktail napkin together and still have room for a list of Obama’s failed Cabinet nominations.  This is not surprising: bills covering what individuals are allowed to do for themselves require less verbiage than bills mandating what individuals are required to do for their government.

•    Marsha Blackburn’s Health Care Choices for Seniors Act and Louis Gohmert’s Patient-Controlled Healthcare Protection Act allow seniors to opt out of Medicare and receive vouchers for health savings accounts, an arrangement analogous to school vouchers (another excellent idea liberals oppose).  Edward Royce’s Flexible Health Savings Act allows individuals to carry over unused health savings account funds from year to year.

•    John Shadegg’s Health Care Choice Act eliminates restrictions on interstate governing of health insurance, the primary cause of the limited within-state competition among private insurance companies that President Obama keeps bleating about.

•    Two bills—John Gingrey’s HEALTH Act and Michael Burgess’ Medical Justice Act—enact malpractice tort reform by regulating lawsuits for health care injuries or deaths.  William Thornberry’s Medical Liability Procedural Reform Act sets up state “health care tribunals” or medical courts to adjudicate claims.

•    Several unobjectionable but minor bills extend benefits for veterans, reserve members, and their dependents.

•    A few bills would amend the State Children’s Health Insurance Program to supposedly make it more accountable; however, these bills give the costly, bloated SCHIP so much legitimacy that I’m automatically suspicious of their authors’ credibility.

•    Other bills have good intentions but will lead to more bureaucracy and regulation than they aim to prevent; for example, Thornberry’s Health Care Paperwork Reduction and Fraud Prevention Act, which proposes a “Commission on Health Care Billing Codes and Forms Simplification” to standardize billing paperwork.  No doubt the government will first need to establish a separate commission just to simplify the Commission’s name.

•    Thornberry has proposed two more bad bills (why do public officials who want to meddle in our affairs always invent so many devious ways to do it?).  One is the Partnership to Improve Seniors’ Access to Medicare Act, which subsidizes student loan repayment for doctors who accept Medicare patients; not specified in the bill is how much of our bountiful federal surplus we’ll have to dip into to cover this provision.  Another is the Patient Fairness and Indigent Care Promotion Act, which allows doctors to deduct for tax purposes any unrecouped costs from “patient bad debt”—because nothing increases accountability like providing incentives for doctors not to check beforehand whether patients can pay their bills!

Other GOP bills contain additional provisions, and many of the bills are a mixed bag; but the point is that they’re all better than HR 3200, which is putrid right down to its last period.  Considering even a few key GOP bills over the next couple of years would be a sound way to address individual components of health care reform, in a piecemeal fashion, rather than upending our economy right this minute just because Democrats insist on artificial deadlines to maximize their political gain.

In the meantime, the proper response to any liberal who claims conservatives have no ideas of their own on health care reform should be a resounding, “You lie!”

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