Republican Health Bills Bloom in Washington

pretty pink azalea bush

Capitol Hill blooms with bills aussiegal/Flickr hide caption

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Finally, along with the azaleas, health care overhaul bills are starting to sprout on Capitol Hill.

But they're not the bills most people have been waiting for — the ones from Senators Ted Kennedy (D-MA)or Max Baucus (D-MT), chairs of the committees that will make or break the president's top priority.

Still, the new bills are notable because they're coming from some of the naysayers in the process — Republicans who have been complaining that the proposals being espoused by President Obama and his followers are too expensive and too bureaucratic.

The big bill of the day comes from Sens. Tom Coburn (OK), and Richard Burr (NC), and Reps. Paul Ryan (WI) and Devin Nunes (CA). The "Patients' Choice Act" raises no new taxes, creates no new government-run health program, and, in fact, would turn back much of the Medicaid program for the poor to the states.

They are billing it as an alternative to "Obamacare."

"We are showing that America can have a system of universal health care access without the government running it," said Ryan.

And the measure would be revenue-neutral, meaning it would not add to the federal deficit.

"I don't believe we need to tax one penny more to fix health care in this country," Coburn said.

Like most of the Democrats' proposals, the GOP bill would create a menu of private health plans from which people could choose, and give people incentives to choose preventive and cost-effective care. But it would also give states and individuals more responsibility for their coverage.

Meanwhile, across the Capitol, a group of centrist Republicans led by Reps. Mark Kirk (IL) and Charlie Dent (PA) introduced a bill they say would prevent rationing by guaranteeing the ability of doctors and patients to make medical decisions.

"Government-run health care programs in Canada and the United Kingdom show us the dangers of taking away personal choice," said Kirk.

That bill, however, appears to be a solution in search of a problem — no one on Capitol Hill is seriously proposing a system like that of the UK or Canada. Reports of long waits and rationing in those countries are debatable, but the comparisons make for good talking points.



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