Weekly Columns

Health Insurance Costs are Dropping Under Republican Leadership

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Johnson City, October 3, 2018 | comments

As a physician with more than 30 years of experience and co-chair of the House GOP Doctors Caucus, I am working to ensure every American has access to the health care they need and coverage they can afford. It’s not just a priority for me – it’s been my life’s work. That’s why I’ve stayed committed to repealing Obamacare and replacing it with free-market, patient-centered care. The goal of Obamacare was to provide affordable health care to every American, a goal we all support. Although access to health insurance increased, the law resulted in less choice and higher costs – with too many Tennesseans unable to afford coverage at all. In Tennessee alone, the average premiums on the exchange have risen 176 percent over 10 years, a staggering amount. I have helped lead the fight to bring back affordable health care to Americans, and while we still have a lot of work to do, we are starting to see some positive results.

Since President Trump took office, Democrats have made claims that our proposed reforms will cut off access and result in even higher costs. House Democrat Leader Nancy Pelosi stated, “Republicans will force tens of millions of families to pay more for worse coverage -and push millions of Americans off of health coverage entirely,” and Senate Democrat Leader Chuck Schumer stated, “The Republican plan to cut health care wouldn’t make America great again, it would make America sick again and lead to chaos instead of affordable care.” Well, I’m pleased to report their doomsday predictions were wrong. Just last week U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar announced at a speech in Tennessee that for the first time since Obamacare was enacted, average premiums are expected to drop nationwide. In Tennessee, rates will drop an average of 26 percent. This is great news. 

What were some of the changes we’ve made? As part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, signed into law last year, we repealed the penalty associated with the individual mandate, which required everyone to purchase government-approved health insurance or pay a penalty. To me, this was the most troubling aspect of Obamacare because for first time in our country’s history the government was forcing you to buy a product. Now that we repealed this unfair mandate, Americans can shop for the coverage based on their needs and what they can afford. Free market reforms are designed to spur competition, lower costs and improve quality of care; because of this fundamental idea we are now seeing progress. 

Additionally, I led the effort to repeal arguably the worst part of Obamacare, the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) – an unelected, unaccountable board of bureaucrats that would have been given the authority to propose immediate cuts to Medicare to meet a budget. Those cuts could have resulted in seniors having been denied access to health care services, so I was thrilled when the IPAB was fully repealed in H.R. 1892, the Bipartisan Budget Act 2018, and signed into law on February 9, 2018. 

President Trump has also implemented several Executive Orders to help reduce the regulatory burden and to promote the competition and quality in our health care system. Most recently, his administration put out an executive order to encourage association health plans, which – if done correctly – would allow small businesses to band together to purchase health insurance just like large corporations do. Actions like this will help spur competition and reduce health care costs, and as part of that effort, we will continue to protect those with pre-existing conditions. In each of the past three Congresses I have introduced the American Health Care Reform Act, which fully repeals Obamacare and replaces it with expanded access to Health Savings Accounts; includes tax code reforms that encourage choice and competition in health insurance; and promotes greater transparency on cost. There’s no question further reforms are necessary, but I’m hopeful my bill can serve as a platform for future reforms that we consider.

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