MANAGED CARE: Gingrich Wants Better Plan From GOP Task Force
Just a week after the chair of a GOP health care task force predicted that his group would produce a tentative proposal by Memorial Day, House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) sent the panel's members "back to the drawing board," CongressDaily/A.M. reports (Norton/Rovner, 5/21). The panel spent almost four months hammering out a plan to "protect consumers against health insurance abuses" and group members said Gingrich's directive puts them back at "ground zero." Gingrich told task force members he was not satisfied with the way the plan was shaping up, citing concerns that it was merely a "reaction to political pressures more than any Republican vision for health care," the AP/Baltimore Sun reports (5/21).
Specifically, Gingrich was concerned that "the proposal was shaping up to be too inclusive of portions" of Rep. Charlie Norwood's (R-GA) Patient Access to Responsible Care Act (PARCA). CongressDaily/A.M. reports that "[w]hat Gingrich apparently wants is a more far-reaching and cohesive restructuring of the health care system." He said, "I believe in empowering citizens, not bureaucrats" (5/21). It was unclear which of the PARCA proposals the task force was, to Gingrich, erroneously including in its package, and exactly which conservative ideas Gingrich was pushing for, but the Wall Street Journal reports that possibilities include "proposals ... to reduce reliance on employer-provided health insurance by giving individuals, rather than employers, tax deductions" (McGinley, 5/21).
A Real Challenge
One task force member said the variety of views represented on the panel present a challenge in the quest for a "bolder vision" of health care reform. "There's two, three, four people in there with very definite ideas," said Rep. Bill Goodling (R-PA), chair of the House Education and Workforce Committee. "One of our problems is we've been trying to take all of these ideas and create one entity, and they just don't fit," he said (CongressDaily/A.M., 5/21). The Journal reports that Gingrich's new marching orders reveal the split within the GOP on managed care reform, and raise "questions about when -- and how -- Republicans will come up with legislation to regulate the industry." So far, Republican lawmakers have backed their traditional allies, the insurance industry and employers, avoiding plans that would "impose red tape and increased costs" on those groups (5/21). The AP/Sun reports that the task force's newest setback leaves "Republicans heading home for Memorial Day with little ammunition to use against Democrats who want to make so-called patient-rights legislation an election year issue" (5/21).