Weekly Columns

Repeal and Replace: Phase 3 Begins

f t # e
Washington, June 28, 2017 | Lani Short (202-225-6356) | comments

As a physician, I continue to believe we can do better with our nation’s health care system. Repealing the failed Obamacare system and replacing it with patient-centered reforms is one of my top priorities in Congress. This year, we’ve seen more and more areas of the country that have either no insurers offering coverage or a single insurer offering coverage. With no competition, we’ve seen massive cost increases – some East Tennesseans saw their premiums increase 62 percent!

Since the House passed its legislation, the American Health Care Act, the Senate has now been working on their version of a replacement package. Getting it right is so important, because we need to ensure continued access to health insurance while slowing the explosive growth in costs people have experienced under Obamacare. I’m confident the Senate will keep working through this issue, just as the House did, and find a solution that puts patients back in charge of their health care.

While there is much work to be done on this legislation, it’s important to remember this is only Phase 1 of our three-pronged approach to reforming health care. Phase 2 is the regulatory reform we can expect to see from Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, and I expect further changes that will lower the cost of health insurance for consumers and increase the choices available.

The House is now well underway on Phase 3 of the plan, which involves other legislative changes that can even further improve health care options but that will require bipartisan support. Earlier this year, we passed my legislation with a strong bipartisan vote that protects self-insurance, a popular form of insurance that many employers have utilized to ensure their employees are covered. We also passed legislation that takes away insurance companies’ exemption from antitrust law to foster competition and ensure insurers from different states can’t collude to set prices. We passed legislation allowing small businesses to band together to purchase insurance through Association Health Plans. I hope these important pieces of legislation will receive bipartisan support in the Senate.

Two weeks ago, the House passed H.R. 2579, the Broader Options for Americans Act, which would allow individuals who have recently lost their job to use their tax credit to pay for COBRA premiums, which will make COBRA more affordable. Another commonsense bill we passed is H.R. 2581, the Verify First Act, which protects taxpayer dollars by ensuring a person’s eligibility is verified before they can receive financial support to purchase insurance, which will help prevent fraud and abuse, protect working Americans, and safeguard taxpayer money. Thirdly, we passed H.R. 2372, the VETERAN Act, which will codify existing regulations ensuring veterans who don’t use the VA health care system will be eligible for tax credits.

Today, the House passed H.R. 1215, the Protecting Access to Care Act, which will reform our medical malpractice laws to cut back on frivolous lawsuits, reduce the practice of defensive medicine and ensure patients are compensated in a timely manner. What many people don’t realize is doctors are often forced to order unnecessary tests on the off chance a patient has a more serious problem. This bill continues to ensure patients who suffer injuries due to physician error or malpractice will get the settlements they deserve, and includes provisions to ensure state laws are not preempted by this bill.

In July, I am hopeful the House will also act on my legislation to repeal one of the worst parts of Obamacare, the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB). The IPAB, if triggered, would be made up of 15 unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats who are granted sweeping powers to cut Medicare spending if actual spending exceeds projected spending. Worse, Congress has little recourse with IPAB cuts to prevent them from going into effect – they can only alter what gets not, not how much is cut. The time to act is now, before the IPAB is triggered and seniors suffer irreparable harm from unnecessary cuts.

The Trump administration and Congress are making great strides to keep our promises to the American people. There’s a lot of work to be done, but I am confident in our ability to deliver the results Americans deserve.

As always, feel free to contact my office if I can be of assistance to you or your family. 

f t # e