Over the summer and fall, Republicans in the House and Senate have introduced six — yes, six — health care reform proposals. You didn’t hear? Well, those plans didn’t produce much of a ripple because Democrats dominate the Congress.
We don’t agree with everything in these bills. But the GOP proposals contain smart ideas to increase choice and competition in the health insurance market — a powerful Republican counterpoint to the Democrats’ expensive plans. The ideas include:
–Let insurers sell policies across state lines. That would loosen the strangling state-by-state regulations and unleash competition to drive premium prices down.
–Give people who buy insurance in the private market the same tax breaks as those who get it through employers. Now, employers that offer coverage get a tax break on the premiums they pay for employees. And employees don’t pay taxes on the value of the coverage they receive. People who want to buy insurance in the individual market should get the same tax breaks. That would help millions of people acquire coverage.
–Expand the ability of small businesses, trade associations and other groups to set up insurance pools to offer coverage at more attractive rates.
–Control health costs in part by reining in the medical malpractice system that raises insurance premiums and forces doctors to order tests to protect themselves from lawsuits. Limiting certain kinds of damage awards would reduce spending on health care by about $11 billion in 2009, or about one-half of 1 percent, the Congressional Budget Office estimates. Think about that in human terms: Reform would save millions of patients the expense and trauma of unnecessary tests and procedures.
These excellent ideas could expand coverage for the uninsured without cratering the federal budget or curbing the competition and innovation that drive the U.S. health care system. Republicans should keep pushing them — and ruling Democrats need to give them a full and fair hearing.
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