Six and a half years after becoming law, Obamacare may not be the headline-grabber that it once was. As Politico reported, “Even people who say they are still committed to [Obamacare] repeal just aren't talking about it as much.”
Count me as an exception. While the healthcare law may have faded from glossy campaign mailers and television ads, its harmful effects are still deeply felt in my home state of Tennessee. As a registered nurse, healthcare is what I know. It is clear to me that the need to not only repeal the law, but also offer a meaningful replacement, is greater than ever.
Just this week, the commissioner of my state’s Department of Commerce and Insurance described the Obamacare market in Tennessee as “very near collapse,” with rates under our exchange’s largest insurer, Blue Cross Blue Shield, set to rise by as much as 62 percent. This comes after President Obama repeatedly promised Americans that his healthcare law would save the average family up to $2,500 on their premiums per year – the latest in a series of Obamacare’s broken promises.
Tennesseans will also remember that last year, our state’s Obamacare co-op – one of 23 nonprofit, consumer operated insurance companies established under the law – shut its doors after a failed attempt at propping up enrollment with a gimmicky, taxpayer-funded smartphone giveaway.
My constituents know this isn’t working, but it is not enough to just highlight the law’s failures. Good governance demands that we offer something better in its place. Republicans have authored alternatives to Obamacare all along, but I have been as frustrated as anyone that my party has not coalesced around a comprehensive, unified policy solution. Until now, that is.
Earlier this year, Congressional Republicans put pen to paper and released a detailed blueprint of what we are calling a “Better Way” for health reform. It is not a bill, because we are prepared to be honest enough to admit that a substantive replacement to Obamacare won’t become law in the remaining weeks of its author’s Presidency – but it is a real plan; 37 pages chock full of details that we have released publicly for examination and debate by the American people.
Our plan begins with a blank slate. I am not content to simply repeal Obamacare and call it a day, but we have to start there in order to advance the reforms needed to wrench control of our healthcare system away from Washington bureaucrats and put it back in the hands of the consumer.
From there, we will work to promote choice by expanding access to health savings accounts (HSAs) and allowing the purchase of health insurance across state lines. Our plan would also make health care coverage more portable by offering a refundable tax credit for individuals who do not have the option of employer-based health insurance or plans like Medicare and Medicaid, so they can buy a health care plan that best suits their need.
Our blueprint for health reform addresses the glaring omission of Obamacare: medical malpractice reform. It is estimated that the failure to enact real medical liability reform costs our nation’s healthcare system up to $300 billion each year. That is why this plan would enact needed changes to address frivolous lawsuits that drive up the cost of care.
Importantly, our plan also acknowledges what works. Obamacare is bad policy, but coverage for those with preexisting conditions and allowing young 20-somethings to stay on their parents’ plans while they get on their feet are ideas that we can all agree on. So we maintain those policies under our proposed reforms.
I know that when results don’t come quickly, it’s easy to believe the battle is lost for good. But my state has defied that notion more than once before.
It took Tennessee more than a decade to scrap the massive TennCare experiment and wind it down to a traditional Medicaid program, but we made it happen – and just in time. Similarly, we spent nearly 15 years working to pass Amendment 1, the law I authored to overturn our state Supreme court’s radical, leftist decision on abortion. It was a long time coming, but it was worth the fight.
Tennessee – and the rest of the country – can win the battle over Obamacare too, and usher in real reforms that will make health care more affordable and accessible for those who need it most. It won’t happen overnight but I’m in this fight for the long haul. Read more about House Republicans’ plans for health reform at www.better.gop.