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GOP Lawmakers Offer Health Care Alternative

A group of House and Senate Republicans unveiled a comprehensive health care reform package on Wednesday, hoping to go head-to-head with Democrats on their forthcoming industry overhaul.

Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), a co-sponsor of the Patients’ Choice Act along with Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and Reps. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) and Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), said the group made a strategic decision to bypass the bipartisan negotiations on health care reform. Instead, the group of GOP lawmakers is taking their bill straight to the American people via a media blitz.

On the House side, Ryan said the group is talking with other Republicans interested in pushing a counter-reform proposal to the blueprint being drawn up by Democrats.

As for the Senate, Burr said he plans to offer the group’s legislation as an alternative amendment on the Senate floor to whatever emerges from the Finance and Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committees. Burr said he has kept his Republican colleagues involved in that process informed, but has no intention of participating in their efforts.

“We decided to construct what we decided was the best policy for health care. And then, hopefully, it’s obvious,— Burr said. “We’re going to introduce it to the American people and let them voice an opinion on whether they want real health care reform. … If the American people want it, we’re in the game.—

The Patients’ Choice Act includes one government mandate — that all individuals acquire health insurance. But it creates no new government programs and was described as “budget neutral.— It is not an official proposal of either GOP conference.

The act calls for the creation of state health care exchanges that would allow consumers to pick the private insurer of their choice, would generate tax credits to try to make coverage more affordable regardless of an individual’s income, and would change the rules governing Medicare’s coverage of the uninsured.

“This is not a conservative plan, this is not a liberal plan, but I believe it’s a credible plan,— Nunes said.

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