This week in Washington, the House of Representatives considered the ‘American Health Care Act’ (AHCA). In the end this legislation, intended to repeal and replace the ‘Affordable Care Act’ (ACA) was pulled and never received a vote. The result is that the ACA remains, for now, the law of the land. Personally, I am disappointed in this outcome. I truly believe the ACA is a terribly flawed piece of legislation and that we can do better. In this weeks’ message, I want to focus on the past week’s developments and explain why I hope that we will regroup and make another attempt, with a better bill than the AHCA to repeal and replace the ACA.
Taking a step back and reflecting on the weeks developments, the fact of the matter is that we still have to face the music when it comes to where Colorado and the nation stands on healthcare and its future under the ACA.
With the ACA in place, it is no secret that health insurance premiums are going up, both locally and nationwide. Colorado residents this year alone who buy their health insurance as individuals through the exchange will see a projected 20% average increase of their premiums. Nationally, this number ticks upwards closer to 25%. These price increases occur because at these high costs only people who are sick or likely to get sick buy health insurance. Younger healthier people choose to pay the annual tax penalty (the individual mandate) rather than buy an expensive policy with high deductibles and that means private insurance carriers are either having to dramatically raise premiums or simply continue pulling out of regional markets—ours included. As of this writing, 15 counties in Colorado are down to just one insurance carrier on their exchange, and once these insurers leave, residents in these areas will be left without options for coverage. Clearly this model is unsustainable as it does not serve our residents or their health care needs in the long term.
In short, under the ACA, Americans are left with fewer healthcare choices, higher premiums, and an insurance exchange market spiraling out of control—and this is in areas where coverage is still available.
When the AHCA was introduced, I presumed it would come to a vote so I examined its provisions to see if it was the right vehicle to replace the ACA. My "must have" minimums were clear. I would only support a bill that included key consumer protections such as coverage for pre- existing conditions and allowing young people to remain on their parents’ health insurance up until age 26. Having served in state government, I strongly believe that more authority over the program must be given to the states to not only achieve better outcomes but also to control the skyrocketing cost. I also considered it essential to actually provide incentives rather than penalties for the purchase of health insurance. The AHCA largely met these standards but it also has a number of other provisions that I felt were questionable but I knew the legislation would be substantially amended in the Senate and I would have an opportunity to review it again before a final vote.
Yes, I along with many my colleagues ran on the pledge of not just to repeal the ACA but also to replace it. While we in Congress have legitimate differences of opinion on how this should get done, we must come together and get this job done. As my record as a soldier, Marine, small business owner, state legislator and as your elected U.S. Representative shows, I am one for results and someone who never quits. It is my continued objective and intent to repeal and replace the ACA.
When I return to D.C. next week, rest assure I will continue work in solving the challenges facing our healthcare system.