House Republicans release plan in bid to fulfill Trump promise as 'party of health care'

The Republican Study Committee released a healthcare plan Tuesday to replace the Affordable Care Act, also known as ObamaCare, two years after the GOP was unable to agree on a health care plan during the first year of President Trump's administration.

The plan also represents an effort to compete with Democrats' messaging on "Medicare-for-All" and other health care plans as the 2020 Democratic primary campaign hits its stride.

The 66-page framework seeks to "transform the individual marketplace's current regulatory structure, unwind the ACA's Washington-centric approach and largely return regulatory authority to individual states."

This includes provisions to increase the portability of health insurance within the individual marketplace, provide federal funding for state-designed "guaranteed coverage pools" which would help cover individuals with pre-existing conditions -- though it does not require states to run such pools -- put a moratorium on Medicaid expansions so it can be "sustainable ... for generations to come" and promotes "innovative care" such as telemedicine.

"It is a plan that: PROTECTS the vulnerable," a statement attached to the plan says, "especially those with pre-existing conditions; EMPOWERS individuals with greater control over their health care choices and dollars; and PERSONALIZES health care to meet individual needs and reduce premiums, deductibles, and the overall cost of health care."

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Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La., Rep. Roger Marshall, R-Kan., Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., Rep. Debbie Lesko, R-Ariz. Rep. Larry Buchshon, R-Ind., Rep. Mike Kelly, R-Pa. Rep. Mark Green, R-Tenn., Rep John Joyce, R-Pa., Rep. David Rouzer, R-N.C. and Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas all signed the document.

The health care portability provision, specifically, would extend similar protections to those moving from individual plan to individual plan as currently exist for those between employer-sponsored insurance plans. This, the framework's authors say, would prevent patients from being denied coverage while moving between individual plans, for example, while moving to a different state.

The RSC's document, which is not a bill but rather a list of ideas the RSC says will be hashed out through debate, also includes increased limits on health savings accounts. The RSC proposes uncoupling health savings accounts from high-deductible plans and raising the cap on such accounts to $9,000 for individuals and $18,000 for families, more than double what is allowed under current law.

The RSC framework does add one caveat to the use of health savings accounts, however.

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"Critically, while the RSC plan would unleash health savings accounts, it would ensure that these accounts are pro-life and do not inadvertently allow a back-door method of subsidizing abortion procedures," the plan reads. "Accordingly, the RSC plan would ensure these accounts cannot be linked to a plan that provides abortions, nor would abortions or abortion drugs be an eligible expense."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi dismissed the RSC's ideas, criticizing Republicans for not bringing Democrats into the fold on their plans to replace the Affordable Care Act.

"After 10 years of refusing to work with Democrats to #ProtectOurCare, the only plans offered by Republicans don’t cover & protect preexisting conditions," she tweeted Tuesday. "They say their plan is an alternative to the Affordable Care Act but it’s really just an alternative to health care, period."

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The conservative organization Freedomworks, on the other hand, released a statement in support of the RSC's proposal, saying it would improve health care for consumers while also sticking to small-government principles.

“We’re thrilled to see a coalition in Congress with a health care plan that is based around individual choice and ownership of health insurance," Jason Pye, FreedomWorks Vice President of Legislative Affairs, said. "The RSC plan also respects federalism by allowing states to decide how best to extend affordable coverage for their residents.

“From the large expansion of health savings accounts to the elimination of many provisions of current law that have made health insurance coverage so unaffordable, Americans across the country will benefit from the choice afforded to them by this plan."