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Party's health care promise falls far short
March 20, 2017
By U.S. Congressman Raul Labrador

Fresh off of an election that delivered a unified Republican government, the nation is in a position to finally see the realization of the party’s biggest campaign promise — the total repeal of Obamacare.

In its place, Republicans have been promising for years, we would enact measures to curb the ever-rising costs of healthcare and expand access throughout the country.

This is what I promised to my constituents: address the costs of healthcare to make patient-centered coverage affordable to all Americans.

Last week, House leadership produced a bill that fell far short of that commitment.

For anyone who wanted to believe that the American Health Care Act (AHCA) would truly repeal Obamacare, the first legislative words of the bill, “… the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act … is amended” are a painful reminder that House leadership has very different goals.

Instead of taking their promise seriously, Speaker Ryan and the other authors of this bill have drafted legislation that amends Obamacare to ensure perpetual federal involvement in the health insurance industry and ignores any substantive reforms.

Many things need to be improved in this bill, but these two are most important.

Lowering the true cost of care, without government picking up the check through a subsidy or tax credit, should be foremost on our minds. A fundamentally important aspect of this strategy is to lower the costs that insurance companies and healthcare providers incur by easing the needless regulatory burden imposed on them by Obamacare. This bill does nothing to address those regulations.

Obamacare forced consumers to buy insurance with the threat of a tax penalty for remaining uninsured, “the individual mandate.” For those with little or no income, the government used taxpayer dollars to provide subsidies to lower the premium’s cost and incentivize the purchase of insurance.

After fighting against this government subsidy for years, Speaker Ryan and House leadership have decided to embrace it.

Under the AHCA, individuals who don’t maintain insurance for a set period of time will incur 30% higher premiums. To help those who can’t afford coverage on their own, the government will use taxpayer dollars to provide “refundable tax credits” that an individual could use to purchase insurance. Far from working to reduce costs, this proposal mainly serves as an avenue to funnel government money into the coffers of health insurance companies.

Instead of a true repeal, House leadership has delivered us a rewording of a bill that sent healthcare AND insurance costs skyrocketing. Much like their already broken promises, leadership now promises this is only step one. Steps two and three, they claim, will give us the full repeal Americans are owed. But if it were that easy, why not go all the way now? That answer is obvious: “Steps two and three” will never fully materialize.

Talk is cheap and actions are what matter. That’s why I’m fighting for Idahoans and making sure that any bill that wins my support isn’t an Obamacare-lite measure created by House leadership behind closed doors.

I owe it to you, and Congress owes it to the American people, to put in the time and effort necessary to provide a comprehensive reform of a healthcare system concerned more with money and profit than compassion and outcome.
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