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House Republicans Tease Health Alternative

The public got a glimpse of a House Republican health care reform bill Friday at a press conference, although Members carted the legislative blueprint away afterward without giving copies to the press.

“So much for all of this bull about how Republicans have no plan,— said Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.), speaking next to two boxes of Republican amendments they hope to offer if the Energy and Commerce Committee ever resumes its markup of a package. The amendments included what Republicans called a comprehensive substitute for the Democratic bill.

Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), the ranking member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, said the amendments would be released when they go to markup.

Barton said the Republican alternative, which he hopes to offer in committee, would probably cost about $500 billion over 10 years when it is scored by the Congressional Budget Office, far less than the Democratic plan.

But Barton said the GOP alternative did not include offsetting cost cuts or tax hikes to pay for it.

“We’re not in the majority, we don’t have to do that,— he said.

Barton said they could find savings within the system to pay for the proposal without raising taxes, however.

The Democrat’s $1.6 trillion plan is partly paid for with more than $800 billion in tax hikes and more than $550 billion in spending cuts in Medicare and Medicaid, according to a Roll Call analysis of Congressional Budget Office estimates.

Barton also said he supports the idea of taxing high-cost health insurance plans, but he noted that that idea has not been endorsed by Republican leadership and it is not in the alternative he plans to offer.

The Republican health care plan also includes tax cuts and vouchers for individuals to buy insurance and new insurance pools, which they said would help cut the cost of insurance without new mandates. It also includes language preventing a cut in doctors’ pay under Medicare, just like the Democratic plan, Barton said. And Republicans are considering supporting a co-op proposal authored by Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.).

Other Republicans have offered various bills of their own, including Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), the ranking member of the Budget Committee; Rep. John Shadegg (R-Ariz.), a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee; and others.

But House Republicans have delayed releasing their bill, saying earlier this week that they are waiting for scoring from the CBO and continuing to put the finishing touches on it.