This undated file photo shows Congressman Phil Roe speaking at a community event.
U.S. Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., submitted to Congress today an alternative health-care plan in direct opposition to President Barack Obama’s Affordable Health Care Act, which he says includes sensible coverage at lower costs without mandates and tax increases.
The former Johnson City Mayor heads the Republican Study Committee Health Care Working Group, a committee charged with coming up with a health care plan to replace what is commonly known as Obamacare, which was passed in March 2010 and will require that Americans have health insurance plans by Jan. 1.
Roe, and his conservative cohorts, have dubbed their alternative the Healthcare Flexibility and Choices for Families Act. The bill is 200 pages compared to the Affordable Care Act’s 2,700 pages.
Speaking from a studio within the Capitol today, Roe ran down a summary of the bill which includes six main points.
1. The outright repeal of Obamacare.
The legislation fully repeals the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and health care-related provisions in the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010.
2. Increased access to portable, affordable health insurance, thus the level playing field.
“It does so by replacing the current uncapped tax benefit for employer-sponsored health insurance (SDHI) and the self-employed tax deduction with an above-the-line standard deduction for health insurance,” he said. “Those with a qualifying health plan will receive an SDHI of $7,500 (individuals) or $20,000 (families) which will apply to income and payroll taxes, and will increase at CPI-U.”
The SDHI eliminates the current incentive to choose increasingly expensive plans by providing the full value of the deduction regardless of how expensive the plan is. For example, a family with a $15,000 plan would receive an additional $5,000 tax deduction. Based upon Kaiser Family Foundation data, 80 percent of Americans would receive a tax cut under this plan.
This tax benefit will be portable, will provide payroll tax relief to the working poor, and will give families the flexibility to choose a plan that best fits their needs, according to Roe. In addition, the will expand access to and allowable expenses for health savings accounts (HSAs), increase the maximum allowable contribution into HSAs, and allow employers to offer a larger benefit for successful completion of a wellness program than is currently permitted.
3. Improved access to insurance for vulnerable Americans.
“This legislation will expand federal support for state high risk pools to $25 billion over 10 years, providing a federalist solution to address a segment of the population that has been unable to obtain affordable insurance,” he said. Premiums in these state high risk pools will be capped at 200% of the average premium in the state.”
The bill also guarantees that individuals with pre-existing conditions can move between the large group, small group, and individual health insurance markets, so long as they maintain continuous coverage. Under current law, individuals purchasing insurance in the individual market are protected from pre-existing condition exclusions only if they have not had a substantial break in coverage, their previous coverage was through an employer, and they fully exhaust COBRA coverage.
This provision would allow individuals to receive those same protections regardless of the source of their prior coverage and without requiring them to exhaust COBRA coverage.
4. Encourages a more competitive health-care market.
“Our bill would take steps toward creating a competitive health care marketplace. This legislation would take steps to address this problem by, most notably, allowing Americans to purchase health insurance products across state lines and by permitting small businesses to pool together to negotiate better rates,” Roe added.
Other pro-patient reforms include amending the McCarran-Ferguson Act to ensure that federal anti-trust law applies to health insurance, making Medicare claims and payment data publicly available so that patients and taxpayers alike can better understand what they are being charged, helping states develop transparency portals with useful information on insurance plans, and stopping the federal government from denying coverage for health care services based upon comparative effectiveness data, according to the plan.
5. Reform of medical liability law.
Roe said the bill attempts to address the medical liability crisis that has played a role in the escalating cost of health care by implementing meaningful legal reforms that include caps on non-economic damages and limits to attorneys’ fees. These provisions set no caps on economic damages, which are often the largest component of liability awards, thus patients will continue to have their rights to economic damages protected.
6. Respect of human life.
Nothing in this act requires health plans to provide coverage of abortion services, or permits any government official to require coverage of abortion. It also prohibits federal funds authorized or appropriated by this act from covering abortion, except in the case of rape, incest, or when the life of the mother is jeopardized.
Prior to serving in Congress, Roe was Johnson City mayor from 2007 to 2009 and vice mayor from 2003 to 2007. The long-time physician represents Tennessee’s First Congressional District.
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Roe also is the lone sponsor of a House bill that would require people using federal food stamps to buy only healthy food.
The Healthy Food Choices Act, HR 3073, is the result of continued dissatisfaction over the government’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and the fact that it has allowed Americans to purchase billions of dollars worth of food that includes little or no nutrition.
The bill would amend the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008 to require that supplemental nutrition assistance benefits be used to purchase only supplemental foods that are eligible for purchase under section 17 of the Child Nutrition Act of 1966, commonly known as the WIC program.