President Obama regularly asserts that Republicans oppose his health-care law but won't offer a plan of their own – but one GOP congressman who has been pushing his alternative for several years accuses the president of lying to the public about it and demands that his own leaders allow a vote on a market-based alternative.
Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., a longtime physician, is now advocating for his Empowering Patients First Act for a third consecutive Congress.
His legislation calls for allowing Americans to shop for health insurance across state lines to drive up competition and drive down costs. He also advocates tax credits that make buying health insurance affordable for everyone and improving insurance portability for those who change or lose their jobs.
In recent days, Price received a fiscal shot in the arm for his bill. Former Congressional Budget Office Director Douglas Holtz-Eakin completed a study showing Price's bill would save taxpayers $2.34 trillion over the next decade. He told WND that would happen because of four simple reasons.
"One is the repeal of Obamacare and all of its taxes and costs that it has. Two is the significant increase in choices for patients. Once you give greater choices for patients, then you actually decrease the cost of health care because people select what is right for them, not what the government forces them to buy," Price said.
"Third is some significant lawsuit abuse reform, which we think will save much more than the estimates, but it's estimated to save billions of dollars. Fourth, and finally, is a limitation on the deductibility of health coverage for those at the upper end of the economic spectrum," he said.
Is President Obama simply unaware that this plan and at least one other formal GOP bill are in the pipeline, or he simply keeping the truth from the public?
"It's so sad, and I get so frustrated with it, because he continues to put forth this tripe about Republicans not having a plan. It's absolutely deceitful for the chief executive officer of this country to tell the American people something that patently is not true," Price said. "He's done it over and over and over, and in this instance it just increases the cynicism of the American people."
Just last week, Price used a committee hearing to point out that Republicans do have a bill and even gave his phone number out on television for President Obama to call for further discussion about the plan. Thus far, Price has not heard from the White House.
Price's bill was largely ignored by the Democratic majority in 2009-2010, but GOP leaders have also failed to bring his a conservative plan to the floor over the past three years. Why not?
"It's a great question," he said. "It hasn't come to a vote. It's one that we've been pushing for. It doesn't necessarily have to be my plan. We've been pushing for a vote on a plan from our our side of the aisle for a long, long time. I think you've got to have positive solutions, and you've got to stand up with principle for what you believe in."
The relentless push seems to be yielding some movement toward a vote. Price said House GOP leaders have asked him and others to work with them on bringing an official GOP reform bill to the floor in the first few months of 2014.
In addition to his work on health care, Rep. Price is also one of the negotiators tasked with hammering out a budget agreement before the next possible government shutdown in January. House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan and Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray are reportedly close to an agreement. Price is cautiously bullish that a deal can be struck, but he said there are some very prominent people who want the effort to fail for political reasons.
"I am hopefully optimistic about the possibility of having an agreement before the end of the week. If it doesn't happen, I promise you it's because of either House Democrats or Harry Reid or the president don't want an agreement," said Price, who noted that he wants a deal, but he has some important priorities that need to be part of the final package.
"We've talked endlessly with the Senate Democrat colleagues to try to fashion an agreement that would allow us to make sure that there's greater certainty out there for budgeting needs and that we continue to have the savings that were gained during the Budget Control Act sequester agreement," he said.