Petri says GOP healthcare proposal likely ahead of fall election - KTTC Rochester, Austin, Mason City News, Weather and Sports

Petri says GOP healthcare proposal likely ahead of fall elections

Posted: Updated: Apr 20, 2014 05:31 PM
MADISON (WKOW) -- Republican congressman Tom Petri says his party is likely to propose an overhaul of the U.S. healthcare system ahead of this November's elections.

There has been much speculation on Capitol Hill that Republicans are crafting a healthcare plan to present to voters as an alternative to the Affordable Care Act. Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Virginia) said in January that his GOP caucus would put forth a plan before the year is up.

The Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, took effect earlier this year.

President Barack Obama has praised his signature piece of legislation. The President said Thursday that after preliminary numbers indicated more than 8-million people signed up for healthcare coverage through the law's online, insurance exchanges.

But Petri (R-Fond du Lac) says many Republicans still oppose the law. Since its passage in 2010, Republicans in the House have voted more than 50 times to repeal or alter the law.

"I believe there are problems in the healthcare system that need to be addressed," Petri says. "(Republicans) should have a positive answer on how to improve the system."

Petri says it's likely a GOP healthcare proposal will be on the table before November. He says he hopes such a proposal would mandate more transparency of healthcare prices and procedures.

Petri also says he would like to give small businesses more flexibility to buy health insurance according to their employees' needs. He says the current law mandates a one-size-fits-all approach in which some small businesses are being forced to buy unnecessary coverage.

Other Republican proposals mentioned on Capitol Hill have included the promoting of Health Savings Accounts, or HSAs, to pay for coverage, and allowing consumers to buy health insurance across state lines.

But Petri's House colleague, Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Madison), says his party remains united behind the Affordable Care Act.

Although Pocan added Democrats would be willing to work with Republicans on a healthcare alternative provided the latter party is not trying to repeal the law altogether.

"The Affordable Care Act has largely delivered on exactly what it said it would do," Pocan says. "For them to find a substitute, it would have to be a credible substitute that extends healthcare to millions of people."

Pocan also says he's skeptical that a Republican plan is coming. 

"I don't think the Republicans will put out any type of serious proposal," he said. "I think they're feeling the heat from continually having us vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act and then having no substitute whatsoever."

Dr. Donald Downs, a professor of political science at the UW-Madison, says he expects Republicans will put forth a healthcare proposal.
Although he says the party must think carefully about any policies it proposes -- especially as Republicans fight to take control of the US Senate this November.

"If Republicans win the Senate, then they're going to be somewhat bound by what they might come up with," Downs says.

Downs also says a Republican healthcare plan also might take attention away from the party's criticisms of Obamacare. He says any type of healthcare proposal will draw criticism.

"Any kind of change in a national health plan is going to have parts people like and parts that people don't like," Downs says.

Any Republican healthcare plan that passes the House would need to clear the Senate before it has a chance of becoming law. Petri says he does not believe the Democratic-led Senate would consider a bill before November's elections.

Pocan says Democrats remain open to amending the law, and that a good-faith Republican proposal could be taken up by the Senate.

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