By Congressman Tom Cole
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.
Last week, two key House committees passed the first draft of the American Health Care Act, setting the stage for the ultimate repeal and replacement of Obamacare. Like any complex public policy initiative, this initial foundation for repeal and replace was met with many questions and apprehensions. But through regular order, this legislation will be refined and improved as it moves through the committee process. Unlike Obamacare – of which Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi famously said, “We have to pass the bill to see what is in it” – this legislation will be crafted and improved in a transparent way that will allow the American people and their elected representatives to give their input every step of the way. Repealing and replacing Obamacare will not be an event, it will be a process.
While the details are still evolving, I believe the final product will achieve several key objectives. First among them is providing quality, affordable health insurance to the maximum number of people possible. Congress should acknowledge that there are a few provisions within Obamacare that are popular and good public policy. For example, insurance companies could previously deny coverage for people with pre-existing conditions. Under the current law, that is no longer permissible, and it should remain impermissible. Also, children are allowed to stay on their parents insurance until they are twenty-six years old. We should keep that policy in place.
Broadly speaking, replacement legislation should provide basic coverage at an affordable cost. And we should allow states the maximum flexibility in their ability to tailor health care policy in a way that best suits their population. Individuals should have maximum flexibility in their options to purchase insurance as well. This includes allowing them to purchase insurance across state lines, and their ability to join together with other consumers to leverage their purchasing power.
Obamacare was doomed from its very inception. Crafted in secret behind closed doors, it failed miserably in its goals of giving access to affordable, quality care. It’s true that it gave health insurance to some people who previously didn’t have access, but at a tremendous cost to tens of millions of Americans. We were told that if we liked our current insurance we could keep it. That proved to be untrue. Under Obamacare, Americans have fewer choices, and we pay significantly more than we did previously.
In the next week, I’ll have the chance to evaluate and consider this legislation when it will be heard by the Budget Committee on which I serve. Later, it will seek parliamentary approval from the Rules Committee, on which I also serve. I am sure that as it moves through the committee process this replacement will be refined and improved. But even in its beginning stages, this legislation is an improvement over Obamacare. Almost anything would be.