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Republicans Shrug at Obama's Offer to Add Some GOP Ideas to Health Care Plan

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Tuesday: President Obama talks rebates as he promotes energy efficient purchases by homeowners during a speech in Savannah, Ga. (AP)

Republicans were not impressed with President Obama's announcement that he would  incorporate four new Republican ideas and strip out legislative dealmaking from his health care proposal in an effort aimed at winning the smallest margin needed for passing a pared-down bill.

"I don't know if we should be insulted or humored at the president's feeble attempts to incorporate Republican ideas into his latest health care proposal," Rep. Paul Broun, R-Ga., said in a written statement.

"Snooki, from the Jersey Shore, has more substance than President Obama's offer," he said.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell wrote the president, asking him to "consider a new approach to reform, one that does not cut Medicare to fund a trillion dollar takeover of the health care system or impose job-killing taxes in the middle of a recession."

Obama wrote congressional leaders Tuesday to say he was open to GOP proposals.

The proposals are unlikely to win over liberal Democrats who want the president to expand his plan to include a public option or Republicans whose unyielding opposition has forced Democratic leaders to consider passing the legislation through an unusual budget move that bypasses a filibuster. 

The GOP proposals Obama has embraced reform the way states handle medical malpractice suits, reduce waste and abuse in the health care system, increase Medicaid reimbursements to doctors and expands health savings accounts.

The letter reads that the president will exclude the Medicare Advantage provision, which provided transitional extra benefits for certain states, and replace what critics have called the "cornhusker kickback" that benefited Nebraska with greater federal financing of Medicaid going to all states.

"Both parties agree that the health care status quo is unsustainable," he wrote in the letter to the House and Senate's four Republican and Democratic leaders. "And both agree that's just not an option to walk away from the millions of American families and business owners counting on reform."

In the letter, Obama echoed his comments from the summit, rejecting Republicans' wish for Democrats to start from scratch and instead focus on the areas of agreement between them.

"Admittedly, there are areas on which Republicans and Democrats don't agree. While we all believe that reform must be built around our existing private health insurance system, I believe that we must hold the insurance industry to clear rules, so they can't arbitrarily raise rates or reduce or eliminate coverage. ... I also believe that piecemeal reform is not the best way to effectively reduce premiums, end the exclusion of people with pre-existing conditions or offer Americans the security of knowing that they will never lose coverage, even if they lose or change jobs."

Click here to read the letter.

But the letter, which is to be accompanied by an announcement by the president on Wednesday, is not likely to win him any votes from Republicans, who want Obama to tear up the existing bills and start over. 

Nearly immediately, Republicans said they aren't buying the bill Obama is selling.

"I haven't seen the letter yet but from what I understand, there's a certain lack of symmetry there. In other words, a suggestion that we might have a few items inadequately addressed in a 2,700 page bill," said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, one of the leaders to whom Obama sent the letter. 

"I know you've all heard this before but what we need to do is put the 2,700-page bill on the shelf, start over with a blank piece of paper and go step-by-step to fix the cost problem and this would not do that," McConnell said.

Tinkering around the edges with some of these Republican ideas "may be a good thing in that respect but it doesn't take away from the fact you've got a God-awful bill here," said Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah. "Instead of reforming the current system, they're going to add another whole layer of bureaucracy, a whole layer of spending and then say that they've fixed the problem. Well, no."

The proposal could give wavering Democrats political cover, however, by showing the party has been willing to compromise after last week's televised bipartisan health care summit. At least nine of the 39 Democrats who voted "nay" when the House passed sweeping overhaul legislation 220-215 in November are now undecided or withholding judgment until they see Obama's final product, according to an Associated Press survey.