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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

April 13, 2016 News Stories
The Na­tion­al In­sti­tutes of Health has some lofty goals: at­tempt­ing to cure can­cer and in­di­vidu­al­ize dis­ease treat­ments, es­tab­lish­ing a one mil­lion-plus re­search co­hort, and re­vo­lu­tion­iz­ing how sci­ent­ists un­der­stand the hu­man brain.
April 13, 2016 News Stories
Senior U.S. House of Representatives Republican Tom Cole said on Wednesday more funds will be needed to fight the Zika virus in the United States, signaling a shift from insistence by many Republicans that the Obama administration should use existing funds for the effort to combat the growing threat.
April 13, 2016 News Stories
House GOP leaders are working on a bill to approve more funding for the fight against the Zika virus by the end of the year as they face mounting pressure from the White House.
April 12, 2016 News Stories
Two months ago, the Obama administration asked for roughly $1.9 billion in emergency funding to combat the Zika virus. Public-health officials were eager to get money for vaccine research and more. “We are hopeful that Congress will recognize the urgency of this request and act quickly on it,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said at a February briefing, accompanied by health-agency officials. “This sort of falls in the category of things that shouldn’t break down along party lines.
April 6, 2016 News Stories
The Obama administration will take $589 million in existing federal funds — most of which were intended to combat the Ebola virus — and spend the money instead on fighting the spread of the Zika virus.
April 5, 2016 News Stories
The Obama administration plans to spend unused Ebola funds to fight the Zika virus, a breakthrough that could ease the standoff with Congress over the administration’s request for emergency money for the crisis.
March 28, 2016 Weekly Columns

Last week marked the sixth anniversary of the president’s so-called Affordable Care Act, which served as yet another reminder that the law is not only unaffordable, it’s unfair and unworkable. But even more, Obamacare is marred by broken promises and dangerously threatens our constitutional freedoms.

March 23, 2016 News Stories
Lawmakers left town Wednesday for their spring recess without voting on an emergency funding request for the Zika virus, as the Obama administration and congressional Republicans failed to resolve their disagreement over whether federal health agencies need more money to support research and preparedness.
February 29, 2016 News Stories
Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his aides are leading the White House push to cure cancer, but it’s officials in federal agencies who will dole out research dollars.
February 22, 2016 Weekly Columns

Like most rhetoric coming from President Barack Obama, his latest budget was filled with initiatives that sound good until you get into the details, especially the details regarding how to pay for these initiatives. This couldn’t have been more clear than in the method he proposed to deal with health threats to society posed by diseases like cancer and conditions like opioid abuse. While the president saw the value of enlisting biomedical and scientific researchers to deal with these problems, his proposed plan to pay for these policies is extremely irresponsible.

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