WASHINGTON — Sen. Tom Coburn and other Republican lawmakers unveiled a health care reform plan Wednesday aimed at getting everyone but the elderly into a private insurance plan. Coburn, R-Muskogee, said the government doesn’t "have a good track record” on most of the health care programs it runs, including Medicaid, the Indian Health Service and care for veterans. The complex proposal made by Coburn and his GOP colleagues would include a major change in the way employer-provided health insurance is treated under the tax code. It would eliminate the tax "exclusion” workers now get on their employer-provided insurance, meaning the value of the benefit would be subject to income taxes. But Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said everyone would get a tax credit that would more than make up for the loss of the exclusion. And he said eliminating it would make the tax code more fair to the self-employed and others who purchase health insurance. The plan would set up state "exchanges” in which private insurance companies would offer a variety of plans for sale. Even those currently on Medicaid, which provides health care for low-income people, would purchase plans through the exchanges, relieving states of rapidly rising Medicaid costs. Coburn, R-Muskogee, said people on Medicaid would have a much larger selection of doctors and better care if they bought private insurance plans. Under the plan, people now on Medicaid would get nearly $11,000 a year to buy a family plan and pay out-of-pocket expenses. Congress is expected to take up health care reform this summer. There has been widespread speculation that the White House will push for a government-sponsored plan that would compete with private insurance companies. Coburn said Wednesday a lower-cost public plan would lead tens of millions of people to drop their private insurance. The government plan would ultimately collapse from the weight of the health care costs, he said. In response to a reporter who suggested the GOP plan would take a long time to launch, Coburn said, "Setting up a government plan and showing how incompetent it’s going to be takes time, too.” He and other lawmakers said the proposal would not cost the government any more than it’s now spending on health care programs. In fact, he said, giving young, healthy people tax incentives to join a private plan would drive overall costs down. Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., said the GOP proposal also would put the emphasis on prevention, wellness and disease management.
Supreme court rumors swirlAn official says President Barack Obama has started meeting potential Supreme Court nominees. One of them is believed to be federal appeals court Judge Diane Wood. Obama is drawing closer to choosing a nominee to succeed retiring Justice David Souter. An announcement is expected this month. An official familiar with Obama’s deliberations said he has started meeting with candidates but did not say with whom. The official spoke on condition of anonymity. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS