Senators Coburn, Burr and Representatives Ryan, Nunes Offer A Better Path Forward on Health Care Reform

Senator Tom Coburn, M.D.
May 20, 2009

Earlier today, U.S. Senators Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK) and Richard Burr (R-NC) and U.S. Representatives Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Devin Nunes (R-CA) introduced health care reform legislation that delivers on the shared principles of promoting universal access to quality, affordable health care, and does so without adding billions of dollars in new debt or taxes.

“The Patients’ Choice Act of 2009,” transforms health care in America by strengthening the relationship between the patient and the doctor; using choice and competition rather than rationing and restrictions to contain costs; and ensuring universal, affordable health care for all Americans. “The Patients’ Choice Act” promotes innovative, State-based solutions, along with fundamental reforms in the tax code, to give every American, regardless of employment status, age, or health condition, the ability and the resources to purchase health insurance. The comprehensive legislation includes concrete prevention and transparency initiatives, long overdue reforms to Medicare and Medicaid, investments in wellness programs and health IT, and more.


The Patients’ Choice Act

May 2009

The Patients’ Choice Act transforms health care in America: strengthening the relationship between the patient and the doctor; using the forces of choice and competition rather than rationing and restrictions to contain costs; and ensuring universal, affordable health care for all Americans.

The Patient’s Choice Act of 2009 would encourage states to establish rational and reasonable consumer protections, including the following:

* Creates State Health Insurance Exchanges to give Americans a one-stop marketplace to compare different health insurance policies and select the one that meets their unique needs

* Gives Americans the same standard health benefits as Members of Congress, so all Americans have a wide range of choices

* Protects the most vulnerable Americans to ensure that no individual would be turned down by a participating Exchange insurers based on age or health

* Creates a non-profit, independent board to risk adjust among participating insurance companies to penalize companies that “cherry pick” health patients and reward insurers that encourage prevention/wellness and cover patients with pre-existing conditions

* Expands coverage through auto-enrollment at state and medical points of service, for individuals who do not select a plan at the beginning of the year

* Gives states the ability to band together in regional pooling arrangements, as well as the creation of robust high risk pools, reinsurance markets, or risk adjustment mechanisms to cover those deemed ‘uninsurable’

The Patients’ Choice Act of 2009 would restore fairness in the tax code and give every American, regardless of employment status, the ability to purchase health insurance by:

* Providing an advanceable and refundable tax credit of $2,300 per individual or $5,700 per family

Brief summary:

“Comprehensive” summary:

“The Patients’ Choice Act of 2009” is one of two Republican proposals for health care reform being released today and is considered to be the more conservative version. (The other, “The Medical Rights Act,” is being introduced by the “Tuesday Group” of centrist Republicans in the House, though their report has not been released as of this moment.)

So what do the conservative Republicans propose? They recommend state health insurance exchanges that offer the same benefits as members of Congress receive, with guaranteed issue, with risk adjustment between participating insurance companies, and with auto-enrollment but with the ability to opt out (not unlike an individual mandate with a process to opt out because of a lack of affordability).

There is something more than just vaguely familiar here. Of course! It’s the Democrats’ plan!

In the ultimate of ironies, the Democrats abandoned any consideration of the golden standard for reform, a single payer national health program, and sat down to begin negotiations right in the middle of the conservative wing of the Republican members of Congress. That might provide us with a piece of legislation, but it will never provide us with the health care reform that we desperately need.

(But tread lightly. According to Roll Call this morning, “Top aides to Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus ( D-Mont.) held a private meeting on Monday with a bloc of prominent Democratic lobbyists, warning them to hold their fire or be left out of negotiations on President Barack Obama’s No. 1 legislative priority.”)

Update: The centrist “Medical Rights Act” has now been released. Rather than being a centrist reform proposal, it is merely worthless libertarian rhetoric: