Rep. Price Peddles Mistruths About GOP Alternative

November 06, 2009 4:22 pm ET — Walid Zafar

Appearing last night with Greta Van Susteren, Rep. Tom Price (R-GA), who yesterday called the Democratic health reform bill "legislative malpractice," discussed the recently scored GOP alternative bill. Price, a physician and a member of the GOP Doctors Caucus, has been one of the most vocal opponents of true health care reform, and strongly advocates for alternatives that would do little in the way of insuring the uninsured.  Asked about the GOP alternative, Price glossed over some inconvenient parts of the alternative bill.

Van Susteren: This bill that the Republicans have proposed, will it cover -- how many people will it cover?  Do you any idea?

Price: Well what it does is address the cost issue and we believe that if you bring down cost significantly, then you can increase the number of folks that are covered.  We also increase competition so that you also bring down cost and we allow for folks to pool together, with the purchasing power of millions so that you cover those folks with preexisting illnesses or injuries.  Those are the things that the American people care about.

Scoring the Republican alternative, the CBO estimates that in ten years, "the number of nonelderly people without health insurance would be reduced by about 3 million relative to current law, leaving about 52 million nonelderly residents uninsured."  The 3 million reductions, notes the CBO, would still leave 17% of Americans without health insurance, roughly the same amount that currently go uninsured.

Later, when asked how the bill would deal with preexisting conditions, Price noted that those with preexisting conditions would have access to health insurance by participating in high risk pools.

Van Susteren: As a practicing doctor, what were the problems you had...that we sort of need to remedy with this.

Price: Preexisting, I mentioned. You ought not lose your insurance if you change your job or lose your job.

Van Susteren: Is that fixed of in you bill, the Republican bill?

Price:  We believe it is, by decreasing the costs and also the pooling mechanism so that if you have an awful diagnosis or an injury that runs up the cost, that you don't get priced the out of the market and be thrown into the individual market.

What Price does not mention, however, is that people with preexisting conditions are routinely denied health insurance in the individual market and high risk pools would do little to expand coverage to those that insurers deem too risky to cover.  The GOP plan would do absolutely nothing to prevent health insurers from denying those with preexisting conditions and worse, as The New Republic's Jonathan Cohn notes, under the Republican alternative, "many people in poor health will see their premiums go up."  Alternatively, the Democratic bill explicitly notes:

[Q]ualified health benefits plan may not impose any preexisting condition exclusion or otherwise impose any limit or condition on the coverage under the plan