A key GOP senator introduced an Obamacare replacement bill Tuesday, the second such plan put forth in the Senate this week as lawmakers scramble to put their stamp on the nation’s health care system.
Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul introduced the Obamacare Replacement Act, which he says would create more affordable insurance plans, eliminate the gap between private and employer-sponsored care, and allow consumers to save unlimited amounts of money in health savings accounts.
Paul sits on the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, which is expected to play a key role in writing legislation to replace the Affordable Care Act.
While Republicans may agree on the need to repeal the ACA, they still haven’t coalesced around a single replacement plan. Many have said they’re waiting to see what President Donald Trump proposes. The president said he’ll share his own plans after his nominee to lead the Department of Health and Human Services, Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), is confirmed and in office.
Paul was one of the first GOP lawmakers to call for simultaneously repealing and replacing Obamacare, speaking with Trump on the issue earlier this month. The President and House Speaker Paul Ryan have shifted to embrace that suggestion, Paul said.
“There is no excuse for waiting to craft an alternative until after we repeal Obamacare, and the Obamacare Replacement Act charts a new path forward that will insure the most people possible at the lowest price,” Paul added.
Under Paul’s proposal, many key ACA provisions would be repealed, including the individual and employer mandates and the essential health benefits that insurers must cover. The plan would also change the rules for patients with pre-existing conditions, offering them a two-year open enrollment period to obtain coverage once the law is enacted.
Like other GOP proposals, the replacement plan would expand the use of HSAs, which are meant to give people more flexibility over their health care spending. The proposal would give people tax credits for contributing to the accounts and waive contribution limits. Consumers would be able to use the funds to buy health insurance and prescription and over-the-counter drugs.
Paul’s bill also seeks to “equalize” the tax treatment of health insurance; he wants to replace the tax exclusions now given to employer-sponsored insurance with a universal deduction on income and payroll taxes that would offer the same level of benefit, no matter the insurance type.
His legislation would also give new flexibility to states designing Medicaid plans, no longer requiring federal approval for any waivers.
“Getting government out of the American people’s way and putting them back in charge of their own health care decisions will deliver a strong, efficient system that doesn’t force them to empty out their pockets to cover their medical bills,” Paul said in a statement.
No other senators have signed on to Paul’s plan as co-sponsors.
Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) introduced their own health care reform legislation Monday, backed by a handful of senators, most recently Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). That measure would give states a choice to continue their Obamacare exchanges or enact a new system, based largely around health savings accounts.