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Viewer’s Guide To GOP Ideas At The Health Care Summit

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"Viewer’s Guide To GOP Ideas At The Health Care Summit"

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Today’s Bipartisan Health Care Summit may be the end of the beginning for health care reform. While the President has tried to unite the Democratic party behind a single proposal, Republicans have proudly pronounced that they would not bring new ideas to the table. They’ve promised to reiterate their criticism of the existing Democratic legislation and speak in generalities about how the private market place can lower health care costs and achieve “universal access.”

And while their poll-tested talking points may sound convincing, the GOP solutions actually shift the costs and risks of insurance onto individuals and divides the market into low-cost plans for the healthy and high-cost insurance for the sick. This morning, the Wonk Room is releasing a Viewers Guide to the Bipartisan Health Care Summit. Here is what the GOP will say and why they’re wrong:

GOP CLAIM 1: Tort reform will significantly lower health care spending.

FACT: According to the Congressional Budget Office, malpractice costs are not the main driver of health care spending and the GOP’s prescription of capping non-economic damages has failed to reduce premiums on the state level. Indeed, states that have adopted reward caps have failed to significantly lower health care costs. When Texas capped non economic medical malpractice damages to $250,000 in 2003, most conservatives argued that the reform would free doctors from having to prescribe unnecessary treatment. It didn’t happen. According to the Dartmouth research on disparities in health care spending, many Texan doctors are still prescribing aggressive treatments that don’t improve outcomes and premiums continue to increase. In fact, as of 2006, Texas was still at the top of the list of high-spending states.

GOP CLAIM 2: Selling insurance across state lines will promote competition among insurance companies and lower premiums.

FACT: Selling policies across state lines would allow an insurer to choose a single ‘primary state’ “whose covered laws shall govern the health insurance issuer” and sell its policies nationwide. This will encourage companies to choose a state with scarce regulations and sell policies that don’t provide mental health parity, cancer screenings, or abide by regulations that limit the rates that can be charged to higher-cost consumers. In fact, the GOP house health bill requires a “health insurance issuer” to issue a “notice” informing consumers that policies sold from other states are “not subject to all of the consumer protection laws or restrictions on rate changes” of the state where the beneficiary lives. The Republican proposal also expands the definition of ‘state’ to not only include the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, but the Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, and the Northern Mariana Islands. This would allow the governments of the Virgin Islands or the Northern Mariana Islands to be the sole regulators. Given the record of corruption and general willingness of these countries to allow themselves to be used for off-shore banking and tax shelter entities, it is unlikely that these governments would provide effective oversight for market conduct, trade practices.

GOP CLAIM 3: Everyone will have “universal access” to insurance. Individuals who cannot purchase insurance in the individual market can be covered by high risk pools that states will be required to establish.

FACT: Nationwide, high-risk pools cover fewer than 200,000 people. Often, enrollees face high premiums and are denied benefits for treatments related to their preexisting conditions. Covering all high-risk Americans through these pools is likely to be prohibitively expensive. According to a 2008 report from the Tax Policy Center, using high-risk pools “to prevent large losses in insurance coverage among the sick and needy could be extremely expensive—on the order of $1 trillion over ten years given projected health care costs.”

Download the entire guide here.

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