WASHINGTON (AP) — A large group of House conservatives intends to unveil legislation providing an expanded tax break for consumers who purchase their own health coverage and increasing the government funding for high-risk pools, according to lawmakers who said the plan marked the Republicans’ first comprehensive alternative to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA).
Under the proposal endorsed by the Republican Study Committee, individuals who purchase coverage approved for sale in their state could claim a deduction of $7,500 against their income and payroll taxes, regardless of the cost of the insurance. Families could deduct $20,000.
The RSC claims a membership of 175 members, about three-quarters of the House Republican rank and file. The bill’s introduction, expected Wednesday, comes at a time when the leadership has yet to advance any comprehensive alternative to the law Obama signed in 2010, even though lawmakers have voted more than 40 times on repealing part or all of it. The GOP vowed three years ago to “repeal and replace” the existing law.
Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., the RSC chairman, said the group wanted an alternative “that actually lowered cost and increased access, and did it in a way that doesn’t have the mandates and the taxes” that are part of what’s come to be known as “Obamacare.”
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“We’re going to be pushing to have a vote on the House floor” after going through regular legislative procedures, he said of the measure, which includes a full repeal of the law that Republicans have opposed from the start.
Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., who led a small group that drafted the measure, said the tax deduction would ensure that individuals and families enjoy “the same buying power” as employers who are permitted to deduct the cost of coverage they provide to their workers.
He also said the commitment of $25 billion over 10 years to defray the cost of coverage for high-risk patients would ease a problem caused when funding provided under Obama’s plan ran out. Premiums in the high-risk pools would be capped at twice the average cost of insurance sold in the state.
Individuals with pre-existing conditions who already have coverage would generally be permitted to shift existing insurance without fear of losing it.
The legislation also includes expanded access to health savings accounts, which are tax-preferred accounts used to pay medical expenses by consumers enrolled in high-deductible coverage plans.