A top Republican has proposed legislation that would allow all Americans to enroll in the health plan used by federal employees and members of Congress.

House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), who introduced the bill, said the measure would address some of the nation’s key healthcare challenges.

“This is a free-market approach to healthcare with government playing the very limited role of helping small businesses and individuals come together to get a better price for healthcare — much like larger businesses can already negotiate on their own,” Issa said in a statement Thursday.

Nurse Rebecca Moak poses for a photo at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, Miss. (Reuters/Jonathan Bachman). Nurse Rebecca Moak poses for a photo at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, Miss. (Jonathan Bachman/Reuters)

Reps. William Lacy Clay (D-Mo.) and Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) have co-sponsored the legislation, giving the bill support from both ends of the political spectrum.

The National Journal listed Clay as tied for first among the most-liberal House members in its 2012 vote ratings. Issa and Mulvaney rank among the top one-third for most-conservative lawmakers.

Federal worker labor groups criticized the health measure on Thursday. American Federation of Government Employees president J. David Cox suggested that the bill is unnecessary, saying the federal-worker plan is similar to the insurance exchange established under President Obama’s signature health-care legislation.

“If Rep. Issa wants a health-care system where consumers are able to choose among many different plans and no one is turned away or charged more for pre-existing conditions, he should take a look at the exchanges established through Obamacare,” Cox said in a statement.

National Treasury Employees Union president Colleen M. Kelley flat-out opposed the Issa bill, saying that “federal employees and retirees should not be put in the position of subsidizing non-employee health care costs.”

Kelley added: “No one is asking General Motors, the State of California CalPERS program or any other large employer-sponsored health insurance plan to be open to non-employees.”

The federal-worker health program allows enrollees to choose from more than 230 plans, with the government paying about 70 percent of their premiums as their employer. Under Issa’s bill, the government would not provide premium support, but employers could contribute funding as a benefit to their personnel.

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