Last week, I looked at U.S. Rep. Tom Price’s bill to repeal and replace Obamacare. His bill includes a section on tort reform authored by Congressman Phil Gingrey, who, like Price, was a physician before entering politics.
Well, Gingrey and Price aren’t the only doctors-turned-congressmen from Georgia. Paul Broun, who represents much of northeast Georgia in Congress, has submitted his own repeal-and-replace bill, the OPTION Act. It caught the attention of Avik Roy, a health-policy blogger for Forbes, who gave it a fairly positive review as “The Tea Party’s Plan for Replacing Obamacare.”
Some of the OPTION (Offering Patients True Individualized Options Now) Act’s provisions are similar to Price’s Empowering Patients First Act. Both provide for repealing the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare; both change the tax treatment of health care to put those buying coverage in the individual market on equal tax footing with people in employer-sponsored plans; and both allow for interstate insurance purchases and ways to let small businesses band together to form larger risk pools.
But whereas Price’s bill includes Gingrey’s tort reform measures and goes farther in establishing risk pools and addressing Medicaid, Broun would leave reforms of malpractice laws and Medicaid to other bills (he has proposed a separate bill to block-grant Medicaid funds to the states). Instead, he focuses on a premium-support model for Medicare, a la the Paul Ryan plan, and would change the law mandating emergency-room care, known as EMTALA. Roy summarizes those changes:
The OPTION Act includes two significant reforms to our charity care system. First, it gives physicians a tax credit (i.e., a subsidy) of between $2,000 and $8,000 a year for engaging in charity care, depending upon the amount of charity care they offer. “Today, I could be put in jail for giving charity care to a Medicare patient for free,” explains Broun. “What we’re doing is we’re taking all of those regulations out of the system.”
Second, it would allow emergency rooms to turn away patients, under EMTALA, that don’t have actual emergencies. “I had the experience of what every ER physician sees in this country,” says Broun, “which is people who aren’t having emergencies using the ER. They should be seeing their regular doctors.” This simple reform could do a lot to ensure that uninsured people with actual emergencies would get treated faster, with better outcomes, than they do today.
One thing is clear: This trio of congressmen with medical backgrounds stand to put Georgia front and center in the health policy debate whether or not the Supreme Court overturns part or all of Obamacare.
– By Kyle Wingfield