McCain's tax not in GOP health plan

House GOP leaders who unveiled their “vision” for healthcare reform made clear that a major provision endorsed by 2008 GOP presidential nominee Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) was not included.

Rep. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), chairman of the Health Care Solutions Group that spent months writing a "comprehensive" reform plan, said that McCain's proposal to tax employer-based benefits was "certainly not part of our plan."

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But Blunt couldn't say how the GOP leadership-backed measure would be paid for, in part because they don't know how much it will cost.

A White House-endorsed plan offered by Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) was priced by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to cost at least $1 trillion over the next 10 years.

Republicans do not have the legislative text of their measure, but aides say that it will be ready before the House starts to mark up Democratic legislation.

“As we move forward and actually have legislative language that we can get the scores back, we'll certainly be making those public,” Ways and Means Committee ranking member Dave Camp (R-Mich.) said.

He couldn’t pin down the number of individuals who would be insured under the plan; nor could Republicans predict how much the plan would cost.

Under their plan, employees and individuals would be encouraged to take advantage of “incentives” that would make coverage more affordable. Also, they want to make sure that the millions of people who currently qualify for Medicaid and the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) take advantage of those options.

“We believe we can come up with a plan where every person in the uninsured has access to insurance," Blunt, the former GOP whip, said.

But Democrats wonder where the reform is in the House GOP plan.

According to a House Democratic leadership aide, the plan "appears to be yet another sequel of the same tired ideas that protect profits over patients and fail to offer a comprehensive solution to America’s healthcare crisis."

Republicans argue that government-run healthcare is not the answer to lowering the cost of medical care and say that Democratic claims that Americans will be able to keep their current insurance if they like what they have are not true.

Blunt challenged the Democratic notion that a govenment-run option would provide more competition in the marketplace; he said it would do just the opposite.

“If there is a government competitor, you will not be able to keep what you have — the government will never compete fairly and before you know it there are no competitors, so what you have is no longer available to have,” Blunt told reporters gathered at the unveiling.