After months spent criticizing Democrats' health overhaul plans, House Republicans have produced a draft proposal of their own. It's much shorter and focuses on bringing down costs rather than extending coverage to nearly all Americans.
A 230-page draft was obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press. A spokeswoman for Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, said changes were still being made before the bill would be finalized in time to offer as an alternative when Democrats begin floor debate on their bill, possibly at the end of this week.
The bill leaves out a number of the key features of the Democrats' 1,990-page legislation, such as new requirements for employers to insure their employees and for nearly all Americans to purchase insurance. It also doesn't block insurers from denying coverage to people with pre-existing health conditions, as Democrats would do.
Instead, the Republican plan increases incentives for people to use health savings accounts, caps non-economic jury awards in medical malpractice cases at $250,000, provides various incentives to states with the aim of driving down premium costs and allows health insurance to be sold across state lines.
"As Leader Boehner has made clear, our proposal will focus on the No. 1 concern of the American people - reducing health care costs, and we do it at a price tag our nation can afford," said spokeswoman Antonia Ferrier, though Republicans have not said how much their bill would cost.
"Our proposal will help struggling middle-class families and small businesses by increasing access to affordable, high-quality health care," Ferrier said. Special Report: Health Care Reform
Democrats immediately dismissed the Republican plan as insubstantial.
The GOP alternative "does little to provide security and stability to all Americans, doesn't provide insurance availability for all Americans, does little to expand access to coverage," House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., told reporters.
"Ours is vastly superior and we think the American public will think that," Hoyer said.
The GOP draft bill obtained by The AP was dated Monday.
House Democrats, meanwhile, were working overtime to put the finishing touches on their 10-year, $1.2 trillion bill, which they released last week. Leaders were trying to resolve lingering concerns over language to bar federal funding of abortions and ensure that illegal immigrants don't receive government health benefits.
The Republican bill includes a permanent ban on any federal funding for abortions except in cases of rape, incest or threat to the life of the mother, stronger language than the Democratic bill.
Republicans have been using the Internet to offer a united front against the Democrats' bill
The Republican caucus is using the social networking site Amplify to highlight portions of the bill with which they take issue. On their page healthcaretruth.amplify.com
, Republican users share the actual text of the bill up for discussion and leave a comment. Other users can leave their own comments or share the content using Twitter, Facebook, Digg and other social networking tools.
Hoyer predicted Tuesday that Democrats would vote within the week to pass a historic health care remake.
"I'm confident of prevailing and I'm confident of prevailing before Veterans Day" - next Wednesday, Nov. 11, Hoyer told reporters. "I am confident that we are going to pass this bill."
Across the Capitol, senators are waiting to see the final language and price tag on a health bill that Majority Leader Harry Reid and a few other top officials wrote in secret. It's not clear when those details will be available and Reid, D-Nev., may not be able to begin debate on the issue until the week before Thanksgiving.