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Obama Includes GOP Ideas In Health Proposal

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WASHINGTON–President Obama today reached out to Republicans by proposing to include 4 of their ideas in healthcare reform legislation.

In a letter to the Republican congressional leadership, he also defended his decision to reduce the cost of the Medicare Advantage compared to Medicare fee-for-service programs.

The Republican proposals he would accept include beefing up programs to combat fraud, waste and abuse in government-sponsored healthcare plans; expand health savings accounts; provide more funds for demonstration projects in the states on alternative means of dealing with medical liability lawsuits; and looking at ways of increase reimbursement for serving Medicaid patients.

The ideas he agreed to include in his compromise legislation would:

–Seek to combat fraud, waste, and abuse in healthcare delivery by agreeing to hire medical professionals to conduct random undercover investigations of health care providers that receive reimbursements from Medicare, Medicaid, and other Federal programs.

–Increase funding to states by $50 million for demonstrations of alternatives to resolving medical malpractice disputes, including health courts.

–Agreed to consider increasing Medicaid reimbursements to doctors. “I’m open to exploring ways to address this issue in a fiscally responsible manner,” he said.

–Expand health savings accounts.

“I know many Republicans believe that HSAs, when used in conjunction with high-deductible health plans, are a good vehicle to encourage more cost-consciousness in consumers’ use of health care services,” he said.

“I believe that high-deductible health plans could be offered in the exchange under my proposal, and I’m open to including language to ensure that is clear,” Obama said in his letter. “This could help to encourage more people to take advantage of HSAs,” he added.

At the same time, Obama disagreed with Republicans on piecemeal reform and insisted that provisions must be included in the bill holding the insurance industry “to clear rules” and barring arbitrary increases in rates and reducing or eliminating coverage.

The insurance rules must be included as “part of any serious reform to make it work for the many Americans who have insurance coverage today, as well as those who don’t.”

He said he is against piecemeal reform, as proposed by Republicans at the healthcare care symposium last Thursday.

Piecemeal reform “is not the best way to effectively reduce premiums, end the exclusion of people with preexisting conditions or offer Americans the security of knowing that they will never lose coverage, even if they lose or change jobs,” he said.