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Congressman Tom Cole

Representing the 4th District of Oklahoma

Healthcare

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

May 9, 2017 Weekly Columns
In your editorial “Not Draining the Swamp” (May 3) you suggest that the $2 billion increase in funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) was a political victory for the Democrats. While I’m pleased that we had strong bipartisan support for our bill, to label it a Democratic victory is simply not accurate.
May 4, 2017 Press Release
Washington, D.C. – Congressman Tom Cole (OK-04) released the following statement after the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 1628, the American Health Care Act (AHCA), by a vote of 217-213.
 
March 28, 2017 Speech
Washington, D.C. - Congressman Tom Cole (OK-04) provided strong remarks on the House Floor during the debate on the American Health Care Act, where he emphasized that Obamacare is a failed system and that the AHCA is an incredible opportunity to provide relief for Oklahomans.
March 27, 2017 Weekly Columns
Last week, Congress came very close to delivering on our promise to repeal and replace Obama Care. For the past seven years, Americans have been burdened by this so-called Affordable Care Act, which caused premiums and deductibles to increase, while choices and providers dwindled. I, along with many of my colleagues in the House, have made repealing this law and replacing it with something that genuinely works, amongst our highest priorities.
 
March 24, 2017 Press Release
Washington, D.C. – Congressman Tom Cole (OK-04) released the following statement after the House decided to delay the vote on H.R. 1628, the American Health Care Act (AHCA).
March 21, 2017 Press Release
Washington, D.C. – Congressman Tom Cole (OK-04) released the following statement after he attended President Trump’s meeting with House Republicans on Tuesday morning.
March 13, 2017 Weekly Columns
In the past seven years, Congress has voted to repeal Obamacare more than 60 times. However, repeal was never successful due to obstructionists in the U.S. Senate and a certain veto by President Obama. With a new President and conservative leadership in Congress, repeal of Obamacare is now well within our reach.
 
March 6, 2017 Weekly Columns
President Trump was elected in no small degree based on the economic and national security anxieties facing millions of working class Americans. He correctly identified with, and gave voice to, their anger and their frustration. Consequently, the tone of his campaign and the early days of his presidency were not exactly upbeat in tone. However, his Joint Address to Congress last week was a sharp and welcome change.
January 10, 2017 Press Release
Washington, D.C. – Congressman Tom Cole (OK-04) released the following statement after he was named Chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies.
January 9, 2017 Weekly Columns
Of all the policy disagreements between President Obama and Congressional Republicans, none have been as persistent or contentious as the debate over health care reform, and Obamacare specifically. So it comes as no surprise that the very first item on President-elect Trump’s agenda is the repeal of President Obama’s signature legislative “accomplishment.”

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