Price says ‘I told you so’ on health care, but will party leadership say ‘I do’ to his plan?

Rep. Tom Price just had his I-told-you-so moment.

In August 2009 the Roswell Republican appeared in a weekly GOP address, a typically overlooked rebuttal to President Barack Obama’s lightly viewed weekend remarks.

“On the stump the president regularly tells Americans, ‘If you like your plan, you can keep your plan,’ but if you read the bill, that just isn’t so,” Price said months before the Affordable Care Act passed over universal Republican opposition.

“For starters, within five years every health care plan will have to meet a new federal definition for coverage — one that your current plan might not match even if you like it.”

Last week the direct contradiction to Obama’s famous pledge arrived, as insurance companies informed millions of people on the individual market that they must change plans.

Those people will in some cases have to purchase more expensive plans, but many will be eligible for new federal subsidies and have better options on the state-based health care exchanges. Still, it was a clean political hit for Republicans seeking to undermine the law, and they whacked away.

“It’s bittersweet,” Price said in an interview Thursday of Republicans’ vindication, “because all of these occurrences have been predictable and there are more to come.”

The GOP is united on the attack – and on their various failed votes to repeal the law – but less so on an affirmative health care vision of their own.

In that 2009 address, Price talks of Republican alternatives, but in the ensuing four-plus years none has gotten a floor vote. Price would love GOP leaders to embrace his own bill, but he’s careful not to criticize them for holding back.

“There hadn’t been the sense that there’s any receptivity on the part of the administration or Senate Democrats to welcome any new positive solution, and so there is a reluctance on the part of the folks to rally around a vote on an issue that would also fundamentally reform, strengthen and change many of the aspects of our health care system,” Price said. “So I understand it. I’m not surprised by it.”

The political downside is that Democrats could pick apart Republicans’ counter-proposal. They’d probably start by pointing out that fewer people would likely end up with health insurance.

The Price bill includes a tax credit for people to buy insurance on the individual market. It would give a $2,000 annual credit to individuals and up to $5,000 for families with incomes double the poverty line or less, with smaller credits for those with incomes up to three times the poverty line.

Affordable Care Act subsidies go to families with incomes up to four times the poverty level, and the law expands Medicaid, unlike the Price plan.

Price’s bill funds state-based insurance pools for the people who are the most expensive to insure or who have been rejected by insurers.

Employers could offer defined contributions to employees to join the company plan or another one they purchase on their own, which would allow people to keep their plan as they change jobs.

There is no mandate that everyone buy insurance, which many health policy experts argue is essential to keep costs down by getting more healthy people into the system. Price contends it merely “forces people to buy insurance they don’t want.”

Price, an orthopedic surgeon, also includes a major reform of the medical liability system intended to reduce doctors’ huge liability insurance costs and their tendency toward “defensive medicine” — performing too many tests and procedures for fear of being sued if they don’t.

Price said his vision is not comparable with “Obamacare,” except for one aspect.

“The similarities are in the goal,” he said. “The goal is to get folks covered and have the highest quality care.”

The question remains whether his party will promote that goal with specifics attached or merely root for the current law’s failure.