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Congressman Tom Cole

Representing the 4th District of Oklahoma

American Health Care Act Protects Patients and the Economy

May 22, 2017
Weekly Columns

For nearly eight years Republicans have made repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare, one of the central tenets of their campaign. President Trump also made repealing the ACA central to his campaign. During that time, Democrats lost over 900 state legislative seats, 12 governors, 69 U.S. House seats, 13 senate seats and the White House. The recent passage of the American Health Care Act (AHCA) was the first step in making good on that promise.

Understandably, the outline of the newly proposed health care system has raised many concerns and questions. And, unfortunately, it has also given rise to distortions and misinformation intended to cause fear and apprehension about what the passage of the AHCA will mean to the average Oklahoman.  

To be fair, there were several provisions in the ACA that were popular, so we kept them in place when we passed the AHCA. For example, we kept the provision regarding pre-existing conditions. Some have argued that under the AHCA insurance companies can go back to denying coverage to patients with pre-existing conditions. This is false. Allowing young people to stay on their parents’ policy until they turn 26 is widely supported by the public, so we retained it in our legislation as well.

The goal of the AHCA was not to take us back to the same health care system we had before Obamacare, it’s to move us forward to a better and improved system. One that gives patients more choices, makes premiums more affordable, and allows states to tailor their health care systems to better serve the needs of their citizens. What works well in one state won’t necessarily work well in others.

Oklahoma has been particularly impacted in a negative way under the ACA. People in rural areas have been especially hard hit. Currently, the state has only one provider participating in the ACA. If the handful of doctors in a small rural town aren’t in that particular providers’ network, the citizens of the town are forced to drive somewhere else to seek healthcare. Without making significant reforms, those doctors who practice in a town where all the patients have to look elsewhere for their health care, will eventually have to leave those communities. The AHCA attempts to reverse these trends by restoring choices for patients and by harnessing market forces to help lower premiums. 

The American Health Care Act removes the costly taxes imposed by the ACA, and it nullifies the individual and employer mandates. It creates a tax credit system for families to participate in private insurance. And those who are currently enrolled in Medicare will not see any changes. Additionally, Medicaid Expansion enrollees will be grandfathered, and Medicaid beneficiaries will see no changes in coverage through 2020. The AHCA will allow states to apply for a waiver from certain regulations, giving them the flexibility to deliver the most care at the lowest cost.

The House passed AHCA must now be taken up by the Senate. It is a certainty that what the Senate passes will be a different, and hopefully improved, version of the House bill. Health care is a very complicated public policy challenge. We are dealing with people’s livelihood and indeed, their very lives. The impact of both of those has a profound effect on every other aspect of our national interests. That’s why it’s so important that we get it right.

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