Bipartisan healthcare bill still possible

The odds may be slight, but I believe there is still a chance for President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaRivals and consumers will rein in Facebook, not regulation Obamas send handwritten note to Parkland students: 'We will be there for you' Water has experienced a decade of bipartisan success MORE to pass a bipartisan healthcare reform bill, even if it represents a small, incremental step that will improve access to healthcare and opportunities to reduce costs.

 Of course, there is some evidence that congressional Republicans are not interested in passing any bill at all. But I believe a new approach by the president might work. Start first with a group of thoughtful Republican conservative and moderate senators — those who have demonstrated the willingness and ability to work with Democrats on important issues. I would suggest, for starters, Sens. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainZuckerberg: Maybe tech should face some regulations Schiff mocks Trump: Obama, Bush didn't need staff warning 'do not congratulate' Putin GOP senator tears into Trump for congratulating Putin MORE (Ariz.), Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamDems aim to turn ObamaCare hikes into election weapon Steyer brings his push to impeach Trump to town halls across the nation Trump formally sends Pompeo nomination to Senate MORE (S.C.), Utah’s Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchOmnibus includes search-and-seize provision New kid on the tech block Senate GOP: Legislation to protect Mueller not needed MORE and Bob Bennett, Tennessee’s Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerNearly 70 percent say Trump is a bad role model for children: poll PPP poll: Dem leads by 5 points in Tennessee Senate race Dem Iraq War vets renew AUMF push on 15th anniversary of war MORE and Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderOvernight Health Care: What to expect in omnibus | HIV expert to head CDC | Sessions issues memo on death penalty for drug cases HIV expert named CDC director GOP lawmakers blast Dems for opposing ObamaCare fix MORE and the two Maine senators, Olympia Snowe and Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsCollins: 'Extremely disappointing' ObamaCare fix left out of spending deal Overnight Cybersecurity: Zuckerberg breaks silence on Cambridge Analytica | Senators grill DHS chief on election security | Omnibus to include election cyber funds | Bill would create 'bug bounty' for State GOP lawmakers blast Dems for opposing ObamaCare fix MORE.

The president should invite these Republican senators to the White House and ask them a single, simple question: What bill would you support to reform healthcare this year?

Based on what they have previously stated and stood for, I believe these and other Republican senators would support healthcare reform legislation based on four principles: (1) increased competition; (2) increased transparency; (3) serious efforts to reduce healthcare costs; and (4) increased access of lower- and middle-income people to quality healthcare — funded by actual, realized budget reductions and cash savings to ensure no increase in the deficit.

Here are some ideas that would apply to each of these four principles:

1. Increased competition:

• Pre-empt state laws and allow all to purchase insurance across state lines, not just insurance companies regulated within the state of residence;

• Create national public insurance exchanges accessible to all on the Internet, requiring all companies to compete against each other on the exchange for a national customer base.

2. Increased transparency:

• Require all companies on the national exchange to itemize all policy coverage options on standardized forms, permitting apples-to-apples comparisons (and also giving insurance carriers the advantage of a level playing field on which to compete);

• Similarly, require all physicians, hospitals and providers to disclose all fees and costs on the standardized disclosure forms, including providing patients the most current national and local data available to allow them to compare costs of procedures, tests, services, etc.

3. Reduction of costs:

• Offer tax incentives to physicians who provide flat fees for all services, such as monthly fees for particular patients, rather than fees for particular services, which too often leads to over-testing and -billing;

• Establish a Bipartisan Medicare Commission, similar to the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission (BRAC): i.e., a bipartisan body, including key stakeholders such as representatives from the AARP, business, labor, insurance carriers, physicians, and hospitals, which would make recommendations every several years to reduce Medicare spending and waste, and, like the BRAC, all its recommendations for reductions could only be voted down by Congress in their entirety within a fixed time period, or the cuts would become effective automatically;

• Begin the process of tort reform by at least giving physicians or patients involved in a malpractice case the option to choose expedited arbitration by panels composed of medical experts; and establish a bipartisan blue-ribbon commission to propose reasonable limits on damages except in the case of proven recklessness and gross negligence.

4. Increased access to healthcare — with costs fully funded from actual savings and cuts:

• Extend Medicaid to more lower-income people and fund subsidies to middle-income people to allow them to purchase private insurance on the national exchange — but only if these extensions of access can be paid for by realized cash savings from budget cuts and from Medicare and other;

• Give individuals the same tax deductions for insurance premiums as employees covered by employer-provided insurance currently have — again, only if paid for by budget cuts and realized cash savings.

Does this approach satisfy a liberal such as myself who supported comprehensive Democratic proposals guaranteeing virtually universal coverage?
Absolutely not.

But to me, it does achieve some important reforms in the system that increase opportunities for increasing access and reducing costs.

It may not be all the reforms we need. But to me, it is certainly better than none at all.

And most important, it shows the country that it is possible for Democrats and Republicans to work together to make progress on healthcare reform — something all the polls show the large majorities favor — consistent with the president’s campaign theme.

It may not be possible; it probably isn’t. But isn’t it worth a try?

Davis, a Washington lawyer and former special counsel to President Clinton from 1996-98, served as a member of President George W. Bush’s Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board in 2005-06. He is the author of Scandal: How ‘Gotcha’ Politics is Destroying America.