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
The Affordable Care Act remains vastly unpopular across the country, and problems with the program continue to be revealed. These realities could actually prevent the president’s healthcare law from going into effect at the start of this year. On January 1, those enrolled for coverage under Obamacare became eligible to receive it. But the days ahead are likely to uncover more insurmountable problems for patients, doctors, employers and insurers.
Washington, D.C. – Congressman Tom Cole (OK-04) released the following statement after the House passed H.R. 3350, the Keep Your Health Plan Act. Since HealthCare.gov was launched on October 1, millions of people on the individual market have received cancellation notices even though the president promised, “If you like your healthcare plan, you can keep it.” This legislation allows plans available on the individual market today to be offered in 2014 without penalty under the individual mandate.
Even before passage of his healthcare law, President Obama promised numerous times, “If you like your healthcare plan, you can keep it.” But as millions of Americans have realized since the roll-out of Obamacare and its failed website, that is far from the truth. Now we’re watching the president back up and try to find cover for misleading the country and selling something that never existed as it was presented.
Norman, OK - Congressman Tom Cole (OK-04) released the following statement after President Obama appeared on NBC News with Chuck Todd. During the Thursday night interview, the president discussed the roll-out of the Affordable Care Act and responded to the millions of Americans whose healthcare plans have been cancelled even though he had previously claimed numerous times before and after the law was passed that "if you like your healthcare plan, you can keep it."
As described, established and intended in the United States Constitution, our nation’s government is broken into three separate branches. Like the people that make up our country, each branch provides a unique perspective and represents differing points of view. When one party controls both chambers of Congress and the White House, America tends to look more unified and productive. But even in divided government, we can find ways to function, achieve common ground and make all voices heard and considered.