Republicans hammer away at HELP plan, introduce reform measure

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McCain spokesman denies Obama's Medicare claims
McCain spokesman denies Obama's Medicare claims
Republicans have offered their own version of healthcare reform as they continue to criticize legislation from the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee (HELP).

A number of middle-of-the-road Republicans have unveiled a more market-based healthcare reform strategy that they hope will reduce costs and increase coverage through increased competition among private insurers. The bill would also lessen the burden of malpractice suits through creation of special healthcare courts and alternatives to litigation. One Republican responsible for the package acknowledged the final cost of the proposal is still unknown, but offered that it is "overwhelmingly likely" it will be less expensive than other plans, reports the Bureau of National Affairs.

The HELP bill, known as the Affordable Health Choices Act, has been the subject of severe rebuke from Republicans since the Congressional Budget Office presented its cost projections for the bill. The CBO estimated that the bill would cost more than $1 trillion for the next 10 years. It also found that between 36 million and 37 million people could still be left uninsured under the plan.

In defense of the plan, Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT), a leader on the HELP committee, told attendees at a press conference Tuesday that the CBO report is incomplete in its assessment because the bill itself hasn't been finished yet. According to Dodd, the CBO did not fully take into account major and as yet ill-defined provisions of the HELP bill, including a public insurance plan, employer mandates for healthcare insurance and a significant expansion of the Medicaid program. As Dodd and his committeemen finalize details of their plan, Dodd hopes the CBO will "step up" with further figures, he told reporters. The American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging backs a section in the bill that would establish a disability insurance program.