By Phil Attinger
It doesn't matter that the U.S. Supreme Court said the Affordable Health Care Act is constitutional, said U.S. Rep. Tom Price of Georgia.
"It does not matter if it is the wrong policy for the country," Price said Friday at the Polk County Republicans' Lincoln Day Dinner.
Price, fifth-ranking Republican in Congress and chairman of the House Republican Policy Committee, said the basic principles of any health care should be that the care is affordable, accessible and high quality.
"I add three to that: Responsive, innovative -- and a system that encourages that -- and is full of choices," said Price, a 20-year orthopedic surgeon and an assistant professor of surgery at Emory University.
Price, a third-generation physician, said the system passed under President Barack Obama violates all of those principles by raising costs, lowering accessibility and quality, and putting the federal government in charge of making it responsive and innovative.
Most of all, Price said, he opposes the individual mandate, that says each person must have health insurance.
"The government has no doggone business telling you what you must have," Price said.
He also said that the fees of fines against people who don't have insurance would be a tax "on what you don't do." "That's an incredible, very, very dangerous road we're on," Price said.
For that same reason, he opposes the Affordable Health Care Act, or any other form of government-run health care, including President Clinton's health care plan in the 1990s.
Price said Friday that he got involved in politics when members of the Georgia Legislature were preventing him from properly treating his patients, yet didn't understand him when he tried to explain what it took for him to treat his patients.
After getting involved, Price was elected to the Georgia Senate in 1996 and served four terms before being elected to the U.S. House in 2004.
Price has his own plan: House Bill 3000, titled "Empowering Patients First Act."
Instead of putting health care in the hands of the government, Price said, he prefers to make it more feasible for people to buy health insurance than not have it by using tax incentives.
It would use a graduated scale so that families could have tax refunds or credits depending on their economic level.
Starting from the top, those with the most means would have tax deductions. Those with less would have tax credits, followed by people who would get refundable tax credits and then people at the lowest level could get an advance on refundable tax credits.
Price described the advance on refundable tax credits as a spending account that individuals could use to purchase the plans they want.
He said his bill would make insurance portable, since it would follow the patient, not the job.
Job-based health insurance benefits would still exist to cover pre-existing illnesses and injuries, Price said.
However, for people who don't have insurance because of a pre-existing condition, Price said he would allow the nearly 18 million people without health insurance to buy as a group -- across state lines.
Price said much of the high cost of medical care comes not from the $2.4 billion spent to treat patients, but the nearly $600 billion in "defensive medicine."
Some treatment is unnecessary, Price said, because doctors are doing it only so they can say they tried everything if they are sued for medical malpractice.
Price suggests resetting the medical treatment standards based on the types of illness or injury, so doctors are less fearful of liability.
Freshmen Representatives Dennis Ross (R-Lakeland) and Daniel Webster (R-Winter Park) support Price's plan.
Webster, who served 28 years in the Florida Legislature, said that the bill seems to be waiting for the U.S. Senate to take a stance, and few seem to want to take a position on how to replace the Affordable Care Act until after the Nov. 6 elections.
The problem with that, Webster said, is that Congress must pass an appropriations bill for the 2012-13 fiscal year by Oct. 1.
If Congress doesn't, it would need to pass a continuing resolution to keep spending where it is right now until an appropriations bill is passed, Webster said.
Typically, that's a three month-extension, although he's heard talk of extending it to six months.