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GOP weekly address picks on health strategy

Democrats missed opportunities to improve the health care bill that passed the House of Representatives, a Republican lawmaker says Saturday in his party's weekly address.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Democrats missed opportunities to improve the health care bill that passed the House of Representatives when they rejected Republican ideas to limit lawsuits and give states more flexibility to enact innovative changes, a Republican lawmaker said Saturday.

Delivering the Republicans' weekly radio and Internet address, Rep. Mark Kirk said health care costs could be lowered by "reining in lawsuits" and allowing consumers to buy coverage from across state lines. Kirk promoted several provisions in the Republicans' House health care bill, which was rejected a week ago when the House passed the Democratic plan, part of President Barack Obama's drive for universal health care.

"Unfortunately, all of these common-sense Republican reforms were rejected by Speaker (Nancy) Pelosi," Kirk said in the address. "The Pelosi health care bill has no significant lawsuit reforms and does not guarantee your medical rights from government waiting lines or restrictions."

Kirk, who is in his fifth House term representing the suburbs north of Chicago, is a candidate for the Republican nomination to run for the Senate seat that was held by Obama. He called the House Democrats' health plan "a new massive spending program, supported by heavy taxes and cuts to senior health care."

"In sum, the bill opens a new trillion-dollar entitlement just as our national debt tops $12 trillion," Kirk said.

The House Democrats' bill would cost $1.2 trillion over 10 years and expand coverage to an additional 36 million people. The Republican plan would reduce federal deficits by $68 billion over the 10-year period and push down premiums for privately insured people but would reduce the number of uninsured by just 3 million, according to an analysis by the Congressional Budget Office.

The House Democrats' bill would raise $460 billion over the next decade from new income taxes on single people making more than $500,000 a year and couples making more than $1 million. There are also more than $400 billion in cuts to Medicare and Medicaid and a new $20 billion fee on medical device makers.

The House Republican bill had no new taxes. Republicans would get savings by capping medical liability awards, stepping up efforts to fight Medicare and Medicaid fraud, and setting up an approval process for generic versions of high-tech drugs.