Nearly a decade since a Democrat-controlled Congress and President Obama passed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, it is evident that Obamacare failed to live up to its many promises, particularly those related to affordability of and access to care.
In Oklahoma, premiums have increased 227 percent since 2014, and the lowest cost plan option in the Obamacare exchanges has increased 159 percent. Additionally, the number of insurers participating in the exchanges has dropped by two-thirds in that time. Clearly, Obamacare has done little to restrain the growth of health care costs and to provide consumers with choices in their health care. Unfortunately, some in Congress now believe we should abolish private, employer-sponsored insurance entirely and implement a single-payer system – in which the government manages health care costs and delivery – at a projected 10-year cost of at least $32 trillion over 10 years and with exorbitant new taxes.
The Need for Real Solutions
I believe Congress should work to implement a market-based system that gives consumers more choice and states the freedom to tailor health care options to meet the needs of their citizens. Some aspects of the current system enjoy bipartisan support, such as preserving the ability for young Americans to remain on their parents’ plans until age 26 as well as protections for pre-existing conditions and lifting bans on annual and lifetime limits.
However, Congress must move away from Obamacare’s one-size-fits-all approach and repeal its more onerous provisions like the health insurance and Cadillac taxes, which make premiums and health care more expensive, and cuts to Medicare providers, which endanger hospitals and Oklahoma’s rural health care facilities.
Solutions at the federal level should focus on:
- Lowering prescription drug costs: While it is important to preserve incentives for manufacturers to innovate and create new and better drugs, affordability of prescription drugs remains a real problem for many Americans. That is why I support solutions to prevent the “evergreening” of patents, a practice when brand-name manufacturers file dubious patents on their drugs to extend their monopoly, and to encourage the quick entry of generic drugs into the market once patent and exclusivity periods expire. Competition in the drug space is a proven tool to reducing costs. The Government Accountability Office estimates that the market entry of generic drugs lowers brand-name prices over 50 percent within their first year on the market.
- Encouraging medical research: As a former Chairman and now the Ranking Member of the House Appropriations subcommittee that funds the Department of Health and Human Services, I have been a strong supporter of increasing funding for the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Federal support for medical research at our nation’s universities and laboratories quickens the pace of research and offers the chance to bring to market new and innovate therapies based on discoveries made by American researchers.
- Increasing competition in the health care industry: Americans deserve access to health care options that fit the needs of their family, and Congress should broaden the types of plans from which to choose from and permit the sale of insurance across state lines to encourage competition. In 2018, the House passed Republican legislation removing restrictions that barred most Obamacare exchange enrollees from accessing available lower cost plans options. Additionally, the Trump Administration has issued regulations to expand access to association health plans and short-term insurance that are estimated to result in 1.1 million newly insured. The Trump Administration is also working on guidance to facilitate the formation of inter-state pacts for the sale of health insurance across state borders between participating states.
- Preventing waste, fraud and abuse: The non-partisan Government Accountability Office estimated waste, fraud and abuse within Medicare cost taxpayers $52 billion in fiscal year 2017. Estimates for Medicaid fraud are also in the tens of billions of dollars. By providing the resources necessary to combat waste, fraud and abuse, we can lower the cost of health care for everyone.
- Expanding opportunities for consumer-directed care: Congress should pass legislation expanding access to Health Savings Accounts (HSAs), savings accounts that permit Americans to set aside pre-tax dollars for their health care costs. The median income of an HSA-holder is roughly $57,000, meaning these accounts directly benefit middle class Americans by making their health care dollars stretch further. In 2018, the Republican-led House passed a series of reforms to expand the number of health care plans that could be paired with an HSA, raise the maximum contribution amount and expand the number of services and products an HSA can cover.
More on Healthcare
Over the last several months, the coronavirus pandemic has wreaked unprecedented havoc on the world. Indeed, no country has been spared from the ugly wrath inflicted by this mysterious and deadly invisible enemy. In response to this common adversary, the world’s best scientists and researchers, for the first time in decades, are all laser focused on solving the same problem: finding a cure and discovering a vaccine for COVID-19. Amid this race, the United States is rapidly covering ground and running lengths ahead of the rest of the world.
The month of August marks National Immunization Awareness Month, which is a very timely subject considering the unprecedented circumstances we are facing in the world right now. For decades, communities around the globe have relied on vaccinations and immunizations to protect us from dangerous, deadly diseases. This month, it is important to remember that vaccines not only protect you, they also protect at-risk individuals around you and ultimately save lives.
After local and national economies were effectively forced to close in response to coronavirus this spring, communities across the nation are continuing to slowly and cautiously reopen. While it is encouraging to see businesses opening back up and Americans returning to work, it’s important to keep in mind that life as we know it is not yet back to normal. Until there are effective treatments, therapeutics and ultimately a vaccine to control COVID-19, we must continue to take precautions, including adapting our workplace operations.
June marks Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month, which serves as a reminder of the need to slow down, prevent and ultimately cure terrible diseases like Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, more than five million Americans are suffering with some form of dementia, and it is estimated that one in every three seniors die as a result. Throughout this month, we recognize the need for disease research to find clues and answers, but we also think of those we know – or have known – afflicted with the slow-killing disease.
Americans tend to think that we’re either the best or the worst at everything. And while I agree that the United States hasn’t been the absolute best in the world in terms of coronavirus response, our nation has certainly fared better than most advanced countries and remains far from the worst in terms of dealing with COVID-19.
The United States recently surpassed more than 100,000 precious lives lost to COVID-19. As we sadly know all too well, along with the staggering human cost, this pandemic has disrupted every corner of American society and life as we know it – wrecking thriving economies, shuttering businesses, killing jobs and threatening livelihoods. While these hard and fast hits seemingly came out of nowhere, the wrath of this invisible enemy could have been quelled and lives protected worldwide had the Communist Chinese Party issued warnings upfront and told the truth about early evidence.
Unlike the traditional enemies our nation has faced throughout history, COVID-19 is one that can dangerously hide in plain sight and threaten the health and wellbeing of any American community. Indeed, winning this war requires not only special weapons but our collective effort and commitment. As the federal government continues to actively respond, arm communities nationwide and determine the best steps forward in terms of resources and relief for the American people, I am encouraged by the whole-of-government approach that’s been deployed to fight this invisible enemy.