Where Health Care Goes from Here

Mar 10, 2017 Issues: Health Care, Ways & Means

After nearly 18 hours of debate in the Ways and Means Committee, we passed the American Health Care Act on Thursday to begin the repeal and replacement of Obamacare. This was the first step in a longer process to unravel Obamacare's taxes and mandates, and reset our health care system.

Compared to the 10.3 million Americans paying for plans on the Obamacare exchanges, many of whom had coverage prior to the law, 19.2 million have chosen instead to pay the penalty or seek an exemption. When nearly two times the number of Americans are opting out of Obamacare as opting in, it is a clear indication the system is not providing what people want and need.  

It makes little sense for the IRS to punish taxpayers for choosing not to purchase a product which does not work for them. The American Health Care Act repeals Obamacare's individual mandate, allowing people to decide how best to care for themselves without facing threats from the IRS. At the same time, it keeps important patient protections in place, such as prohibiting insurance companies from denying coverage to those with preexisting conditions.

Options for quality care have dwindled under Obamacare. Nebraskans only have two insurers to choose from on the exchange. Elsewhere, some rural areas are down to only one or even zero providers on their exchanges. Many Nebraskans have had to leave their doctors, faced deductibles in the tens of thousands of dollars, and for those impacted by the CoOportunity Health debacle, been forced to find new plans multiple times.  

The American Health Care Act changes the tax treatment of health care to provide more flexibility through policies which have been touted for years by conservative organizations including the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute. It also ensures those who do not receive health care coverage through their employer can receive the same tax benefits as those who do. Overall, the bill establishes a market-based system, driving down costs and increasing quality through competition. Under Obamacare, the heavy hand of the federal government dictating Americans' care has killed competition, evidenced by insurers leaving the exchanges and premiums continuing to rise.

Because the American Health Care Act is a reconciliation bill, it cannot be filibustered and only requires a simple majority in the Senate. This is why we must seize this opportunity to repeal and replace Obamacare through this process. While we held our nearly 18-hour markup in the Ways and Means Committee, the Energy and Commerce Committee held a simultaneous 27-hour session on their portions of the bill. Following consideration by the Budget Committee, expected next week, the bill will proceed to the Rules Committee and then to a vote by the full House and eventually the Senate.

This reconciliation bill is only the first step. Secondly, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price will make changes at the agency level to stabilize the marketplace. There are more than 1,400 instances where Obamacare gives discretionary authority to the HHS Secretary. With his background as an orthopedic surgeon and Budget Committee chairman, Secretary Price can carefully untangle the red tape. The third step is to pass additional bills in Congress to lock in patient-centered solutions, such as the ability to purchase insurance across state lines.

Doing nothing about Obamacare's failures is not an option. There is going to be disagreement over any solution, but this is why the American Health Care Act is moving openly through regular order in four committees before it even comes to the House floor. Unlike with Obamacare, when Nancy Pelosi said we would have to pass the bill to find out what's in it, the American Health Care Act is posted online for all to read at ReadTheBill.gop.

Americans sent a clear message in November, and they do not want partisan bickering in Washington to delay this effort any longer. The Trump administration has endorsed the American Health Care Act, and we are working together to finally bring relief.