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Paul Ryan: Obamacare alternative plan in the works

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February 24, 2015 | comments

By Frank Schultz, Janesville Gazette

Rep. Paul Ryan is working on a plan to ensure that Wisconsinites now on Obamacare will have health coverage if the Supreme Court strikes down portions of the federal health-insurance law in June.

The longtime Republican congressman from the 1st District and head of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee made his comments in a meeting with The Gazette's editorial board Monday.

The Supreme Court could make the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, disappear in Wisconsin and 33 other states. Millions would be affected.

Preliminary data from the federal Department of Health and Human Services show 205,839 people in Wisconsin are signed up for Obamacare, up from a reported 130,000 last July.

Wisconsin officials have not said what they would do if Wisconsin loses Obamacare.

Ryan said he is negotiating the details of “an alternative system” with others in Congress and wants to announce it by March 4, when oral arguments in the Supreme Court case begin.

The alternative would fill the gap if the ruling ends Obamacare in those states.

Long-term, Ryan remains committed to creating a plan to replace Obamacare.

“It's making people buy coverage they don't need or want, it's raising the cost of coverage, and then it's just subsidizing that cost,” Ryan said, calling Obamacare “a long-term fiscal train wreck.”

Ryan said his solution would mean better prices, affordable coverage and a competitive marketplace.

Part of the plan would allow patients to be able to compare prices and shop around, he said. They would be motivated to do so because they have “skin in the game,” Ryan said.

The Affordable Care Act does not reward people for taking care of their health, Ryan said, “and you want to encourage good behavior, like being healthy.”

Ryan said his goal is to produce an alternative to Obamacare by 2016. That would be in time for the plan to be debated as the presidential election plays out.

In other comments, Ryan:

-- Discussed the vacant Janesville GM plant. He said the city and county need to get possession of the plant so they can market it to medium-sized manufacturers or wholesalers.

“GM has made it clear to me over the years that they're not going to turn it back on. They'd have to build a whole new factory. They're not going to do that,” Ryan said.

To make it work, the state must take over any liability from ground pollution at the site so any new tenant wouldn't have to shoulder the liability, Ryan said.

-- Faulted President Barack Obama for revealing timetables for action in dealing with ISIS.

Ryan said he does not want a major military response, but he said it makes sense to send “special operators, some targeters, some logistics people.”

“We've always failed to appreciate the nature of this enemy,” Ryan said, referring to American Middle East policy going back decades and to the president's approach. “We always think they think like us, and they don't,” Ryan said. “So we have to have a better appreciation for what they are like and how they think and we have to have a comprehensive strategy to deal with that, and we have anything but that.”

-- Said he is working to get congressional approval up front for a trade deal with Canada and 10 countries in the Asian-Pacific region that he said would benefit farmers and manufacturers, including those in the 1st District.

Ryan recently visited Singapore, Malaysia and Japan with a congressional delegation to discuss the pending deal.

If the U.S. doesn't work to set the rules of trade, China will do it, Ryan warned.

And if the U.S. doesn't get trade barriers to these countries lowered, other countries will do it and capture those markets.

“And this where I agree with the president. I'm glad he's finally—you know, Year 6—stepping it up and opening up some of these markets. It's very important if we're going to have a good manufacturing sector,” Ryan said.

Ryan said he wants to assure overseas partners Congress will approve the agreement if they sign it after the administration negotiates it.

Ryan dismissed criticism that trade deals could result in more American jobs being sent overseas.

“We already have that. The question is, can we open up markets so we can make things here and sell them there. Right now if you want to penetrate markets, you have to make things overseas in those markets,” Ryan said.

-- Said he hopes to strike a deal with Obama for tax reform for small businesses, to help grow the economy. Reform of taxes on individuals would come in 2017.

“You know, get some now and the rest later,” he said.

-- Said he does not regret his decision not to run for president in 2016. He said he can be home on weekends for his family and still do important work.

“I'm the chairman of the committee that writes all the tax laws, all the health care laws, most of the retirement laws, all the welfare laws and all the trade laws, and so if we're going to balance the budget and get our entitlements under control, prevent a debt crisis, make a healthier economy, get faster economic growth, rewrite the tax code, get people from welfare to work and focus on getting people out of poverty. It all runs through this committee. So I can make an enormous difference,” he said.