COLUMN: The Future of Health Care
Over the past few weeks, my team and I have been working to address concerns and answer questions about the future of health care across the United States. We have heard from individuals and families who have had a broad range of experiences since Obamacare went into effect, but the bottom line is that this law hasn’t made health care affordable or accessible for all Americans.
Obamacare has failed, and over the past few years, Republicans have offered several replacement plans. The most recent plans can be viewed on my website, www.tipton.house.gov. Because Obamacare policies impact so many different parts of the federal government, repealing and replacing the law will require several steps.
We kicked-off the first step by adopting the fiscal year 2017 budget resolution, which set the stage for Congress to begin the reconciliation process. Reconciliation allows Congress to consider changes to policies that impact federal spending and revenues. Through the reconciliation process, we will be able to repeal and replace parts of Obamacare like the individual insurance mandate, which raises federal revenues by taxing individuals who choose not to purchase insurance.
The second step will require the Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary, predicted to be Dr. Tom Price, to use the discretionary authority that is granted to the HHS Secretary in the law to determine whether certain provisions need to continue to be enforced, as well as whether to repeal and, or replace additional rules and regulations. When Obamacare was written, the authors included in many areas the phrase, “the Secretary may,” in order to grant the then-HHS Secretary discretion to carry out the law. The incoming HHS Secretary will use the same authority to complete the second step of our repeal and replace effort.
The final steps will require Congress to pull from existing replacement proposals to develop a bill that addresses the components of Obamacare that will remain following reconciliation and the actions taken by the HHS Secretary.
Repealing and replacing Obamacare will be a process, and I want to address some of the misinformation that has been floating around.
First, no action that Congress takes in the next few months will impact health insurance contracts for 2017. If you have signed up for health insurance this year, as long as you continue to pay your premiums you will remain insured. I am alarmed and disappointed that some groups are spreading fear that health insurance will “disappear overnight.”
Second, the Republican replacement plan envisions expanding protections for patients with pre-existing conditions. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) prohibits insurance companies from denying insurance to any individual who transfers between group markets, which means that if you have a pre-existing condition and you change jobs, your new insurer cannot increase your rates or deny you insurance because of your pre-existing condition. The Republican plans that have been put forth expand these same protections to the individual markets, so combined with the protections that the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1984 (COBRA) provides, when Obamacare is replaced, no individual with a pre-existing condition should be denied insurance coverage or see their rates spike.
I know this issue is extremely important to many Coloradans, and ensuring that patients with pre-existing conditions have access to health insurance will continue to be one of my top priorities.
We can’t say that health care is affordable and accessible, when for some people, the cheapest plan available to them comes with an average deductible of more than $6,000. We can’t say health care is affordable and accessible, when for many families, there is only one insurer to choose from and their premium is more than their mortgage payment each month. When six million people choose to pay a fine to remain uninsured, we can’t say that health care is affordable or accessible. The status quo is collapsing and needs to be repealed and replaced.
I remain committed to working towards a health care system that will ensure every Coloradan, and all Americans, have access to affordable, patient-centered health care services.