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Republicans On Health: Is There An Echo In Here?

Pardon me if you’ve heard this before. That’s not just the opening line of an old joke, it’s a fairly apt description of the Republican health plan included in their new “Pledge to America.”

That’s the document House Republicans just issued as a blueprint for governing should they take over the chamber in this fall’s mid-term elections.

Of course, there’s one big difference – the presence of the new federal health law, whose requirements are starting to kick in.

But Republicans want to make the overhaul law go away entirely. “Because the new health care law kills jobs, raises taxes, and increases the cost of health care, we will immediately take action to repeal this law,” the document says.

What then? Well, mostly back to the future.

First, sayeth the GOP, medical liability reform. They don’t spell it out, but we assume they mean caps on damages for pain and suffering in medical malpractice lawsuits. This is something that passed the House repeatedly in the 1990s and early 2000s, but never made it out of the Senate. And, as has been pointed out nearly as often by researchers, it may save some money for the health care system, but not much.

Then there’s purchasing coverage across state lines. Again, a bill that’s been around for a while, since 1995 in fact. But so controversial that it never even made it to the House floor for a vote.

One thing that’s not so controversial, at least not for most Republicans, is a vow to write into permanent law a ban on federal funding for abortion. You mean that’s not already there, you say? Nope. The so-called “Hyde amendment,” named for the late abortion foe Rep. Henry Hyde (R-IL), still must be renewed each and every year.

Finally, there’s a vague vow to ensure that people who are sick will still be able to get insurance – the centerpiece of the law Republicans want to repeal. “We will make it illegal for an insurance company to deny coverage to someone with prior coverage on the basis of a pre-existing condition, eliminate annual and lifetime spending caps, and prevent insurers from dropping your coverage just because you get sick,” the Republicans say.

Only there’s a couple of problems with that. First, it’s those very provisions that are just now taking effect in the current health law that they claim are causing premiums to rise. Second, the insurance industry continues to insist that it can only make changes like those if everyone is ultimately required to have coverage. Otherwise, they say, people will wait until they are sick to sign up.

But will any of this matter for the midterm elections? Only the voters know for sure.

This is one of KHN’s “Short Takes” – brief items in the news. For the latest from KHN, check out our News Section.