Obama Supports Parts of GOP Congressman's Health Reform Plan

Janice Simmons, for HealthLeaders Media , February 2, 2010

While the move for healthcare reform legislation continues to be under quiet discussion in the House and Senate, one Republican congressman has moved forward with a revamped bill that calls for Congress to think somewhat outside the box when it comes to healthcare reform.

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), a ranking member of the House Banking Committee, has reintroduced his bill, which he calls "A Roadmap to America's Future, Version 2.0."

Last Friday, when the President met with Republican congressional leaders at a retreat in Baltimore, the President—while differing with several items in Ryan's measure—did acknowledge that Ryan "has made a serious proposal" and that it has "some ideas in there that I would agree with."

With this "roadmap," Ryan suggests ways to keep Medicare and Social Security solvent. He also calls for promoting universal access to health insurance by restructuring the tax code and shifting the ownership of health coverage. This would be done by:

  • Providing a refundable tax credit—$2,300 for individuals and $5,700 for families—that would be made available to help individuals purchase coverage in any state; this coverage would be kept in the event a move or new job enters the picture.
  • Establishing transparency in healthcare price and quality data, and making this data readily available before an individual needs health services.
  • Reforming high risk pools by giving states flexibility to tailor Medicaid programs to the specific needs of their populations.
  • Allowing Medicaid recipients to take part in the same variety of options by using tax credits to purchase high quality care.
  • Establishing state based high-risk pools as a way of making affordable care available to those with pre existing conditions.
  • Providing supplemental payments to low income recipients, in addition to the tax credit, so individuals can obtain health coverage of their choice.
  • Preserving the existing Medicare program for Americans currently 55 or older so they can receive the benefits they planned for throughout their working lives.
  • Creating for individuals under 55—as they become Medicare-eligible—a Medicare payment, initially averaging $11,000, to be used to purchase a Medicare-certified plan.
  • Funding Medical Savings Accounts (MSAs) for low income beneficiaries, while continuing to allow all beneficiaries, regardless of income, to set up tax free MSAs.

While the plan has provisions that are likely to run counter to current healthcare reform efforts, it has captured the attention of others in the White House, such as Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag.

Orszag, speaking on Monday during the unveiling of the fiscal 2011 budget, commented that Ryan's proposal "succeeds in addressing our long-term fiscal problems—which is a significant accomplishment." Orszag said, though, that he thought the proposal shifted too much risk and costs on individuals. However, he added, "He has put forth an interesting plan."

Janice Simmons is a senior editor and Washington, DC, correspondent for HealthLeaders Media Online. She can be reached at jsimmons@healthleadersmedia.com.

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