A spokesman for Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Marietta), Chris Jackson, said Gingrey’s pre-political professional life as an obstetrics-gynecology doctor gives him the knowledge and passion necessary to initiate true reform.
“It’s an exciting time to work for a physician in Congress because he feels so passionately about this,” Jackson said. “He is so committed to how health care reform needs to happen.”
Gingrey will not be alone. Jackson said there are 13 doctors serving as Republican congress members in this session. Their knowledge of the healthcare system could make them extremely influential in the discussion, he said.
Currently, the Republicans introduced their first effort at reform in a bill this week. The Democrats have talked publicly about their ideas but haven’t drafted a bill yet.
Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT), who is heading the Democratic effort, has talked to the media about mandatory requirements for all employers to provide medical insurance, taxing health benefits as part of a person’s income, and eliminating “Cadillac plans” where people get individualized medical attention for an additional yearly fee.
Gingrey, who also served on the health subcommittee of the Health and Concerns Committee, has not signed on to the current Republican bill, but Jackson said he is looking to sponsor another bill with other Republicans.
“There will likely be some carry over to our plan, but that’s not our bill,” he said.
The Republican bill being considered would allow a tax credit of around $5,700 per family. The money for the tax credit would come from subsidies currently going to employers who provide health insurance, in essence shifting the responsibility and the tax benefit to individuals.
It would be required to use the money from the tax credit for medical needs.
The argument is that individuals could then shop around, increasing competition among carriers and health care providers and end up with more money in their pocket.
Democrats have expressed concern about the elimination of the tax exclusion for businesses and have said the amount given back to individuals and families for health care wouldn’t cover the entire cost of premiums for a year.
The main point in Gingrey’s proposal will be getting bureaucracy out of making health care decisions, according to Jackson.
“A lot of the problems are about the way the system is set up. We argue that reform needs to happen,” Jackson said.
“We want to express our message but we also want to make people aware of what the issues are and what is being talked about by the Democrats.”
Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-
GA) has signed onto the current Republican bill. A statement from his office explained how he, and others, theorizes the plan called “The Patient’s Choice Act” would work to improve both healthcare and people’s pocketbooks.
The idea, they say, is to equalize the way wages and health coverage is treated under the tax code.
Chambliss’ press assistant Ashley Nelson said a leading health care economist testified this month at a Senate Finance Committee meeting that health insurance costs have fully shifted to wages, meaning corporations are not fully funding insurance but are deducting most of the cost from paychecks.
However, corporations are still getting the tax breaks while individuals are not.
The tax credit for working Americans isn’t meant to cover the total cost of premiums, according to Nelson. It is meant to cover one-third of the average total premium cost, which individuals are estimated to currently pay through their paychecks.
Businesses would still have to pick up the rest of the tab, as they do now. However, they would get a reduced tax break because that benefit has partially shifted to the taxpayer, according to the press statement.
“Individuals and families will be able to use any overages (from money left over from the tax credit) to pay for preventive care, which can be rolled over at the end of the year,” the statement said.
Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga), who is on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, said he hasn’t committed to any one plan or idea.
Press assistant Sheridan Watson issued his statement.
“I have not committed support to any specific plan, but I believe the key to health care reform is stimulating competition in a market-based system that will encourage private health insurers to compete for business and make health insurance more affordable for consumers,” Isakson said in his statement.
“I also believe we must look into policies that will increase coverage of preventive care, which will help control the cost of managing chronic disease and drive down the cost of treating largely preventable conditions.”