Published June 24, 2009
As President Obama presses for swift passage of a health care reform bill, one Republican senator is pushing for an alternative proposal he claims will insure more Americans at half the time and cost.
South Carolina Sen. JimDeMint is expected to discuss his "Health Care Freedom Plan" on Capitol Hill Wednesday as a counteroffensive to the president's measure -- a plan DeMint claims will limit Americans' choices and ration their care.
Under DeMint's measure, Americans without employer-based health insurance can receive vouchers from the federal government to purchase coverage -- $2,000 for individuals and $5,000 for families. Americans who have an employer-based plan will have the right to keep it if they so choose, the senator has proposed.
DeMint claims his plan will create a "national market for health insurance by allowing individuals to purchase health insurance plans in any state" without "adding a single dime to the deficit."
"What we need to do is take what's working in health care and make sure every American has access to an affordable plan that they can keep and take from job to job if they have to," DeMint told FOX News Wednesday. "Health care is very personal and private. Americans don't want more government in health care."
But questions linger over how, exactly, the federal government can dole out $5,000 vouchers to every uninsured family without increasing the national deficit.
DeMint says it will come from TARP money -- the $700 billion in bailout money the federal government gave to troubled banks, which DeMint claims will be paid back in five years.
DeMint said his plan will allow American to buy health insurance in any state, "just like other products and services."
"That will create more competition. We give money to states to create high-risk pools for people who have preexisting conditions and are uninsurable," he said.
In touting his alternative proposal, DeMint also questioned the Obama administration's approximate figure for the number of uninsured Americans -- 46 million. DeMint said Wednesday that 10 million of the 46 million are non-U.S. citizens and illegal immigrants. He said he estimates the number of uninsured Americans to be about 20 million.
U.S. officials estimate the number of uninsured illegal immigrants at more than 7 million. And some 12 to 13 million -- about a fourth of the total uninsured -- already qualify for government health care under Medicaid or SCHIP for children but choose not to sign up.
Obama was selling his health care proposal as well on Wednesday, holding a town hall meeting at the White House and giving ABC News unprecedented access as he promotes his government option for uninsured that the president says he'd like to pay for through reductions in tax deductions for wealthy taxpayers.
FOX News' Jim Angle contributed to this report.