Bloomberg News

Sick Should Stay Insured After Ruling, Republicans Say

June 06, 2012

Republican lawmakers with medical backgrounds will try to ensure that sick people who gained insurance under the 2010 U.S. health-care overhaul won’t lose coverage in the event the Supreme Court strikes down the law.

The Republicans are preparing for a ruling that says it’s unconstitutional to require Americans to carry insurance while letting the rest of the law stand, said Representative Phil Gingrey, an obstetrician-gynecologist from Georgia who co-chairs a group of 21 lawmakers with health-care backgrounds.

Gingrey and his group met yesterday with Kevin McCarthy, the majority whip, in the first such session Republican leaders plan to hold with the rank-and-file to shape a response to the court’s decision, expected by the end of June. President Barack Obama’s almost $1 trillion, 10-year plan to overhaul the health system passed Congress in 2010 without Republican votes. Any response will need to keep coverage for the sick, Gingrey said.

“We have to make sure that we have a program -- and we will, I can assure you we will -- to take care of these folks,” Gingrey said during the meeting, held in Washington.

If the Republicans maintain control of the House in November’s elections, they plan to pass individual bills aimed at reducing health costs and improving access to medical services, Gingrey said. The measures may include legislation letting people purchase plans from states where the industry is less regulated and policies are cheaper, or allowing them to buy insurance on their own using pretax dollars, he said.

“We don’t plan on coming out with an omnibus bill,” Gingrey said. “The American people don’t like that. We certainly don’t want to try to cram something down their throats; the Democrats are paying dearly for that mistake.”

Formed in 2009

Gingrey’s group formed in 2009 to protest the health-care overhaul and House Republicans have been trying to repeal the law since, while seeking to produce a replacement policy that will expand insurance coverage. Gingrey said his GOP Doctors Caucus will be asked to advise party leadership on a policy response to the court’s decision.

“Why repeat the mistakes of what the Democrats did?” McCarthy said in an interview. “One of the first mistakes I heard from everybody was they rushed; they never listened to the American public.”

There are 20 medical doctors in the House and Senate, two of whom are Democrats, according to the American Medical Association. Other members of the GOP caucus include Representatives Michael Burgess and Ron Paul of Texas, Scott DesJarlais of Tennessee and Tim Murphy of Pennsylvania.

In addition to physicians, the group includes three nurses, two dentists and a child psychologist.

Key to the Republican response will be the fact that insurers probably won’t be able to cover people with pre- existing conditions at current rates if the court throws out the requirement to buy insurance, Gingrey said in an interview.

One aspect of the overhaul that would be maintained, Gingrey said, is a provision that allows people under the age of 26 to remain on their parents’ insurance policies. The Obama administration estimates the policy has covered about 2.5 million young adults who would otherwise be uninsured.

“I think that’s a good policy,” Gingrey said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Alex Wayne in Washington at awayne3@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Reg Gale at rgale5@bloomberg.net


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