GOP needs healthcare ideas

Most Americans – regardless of their political affiliation – agree that the rollout and early implementation of Obamacare has been a disaster. The website doesn’t work well, many Americans are seeing significant premium increases, and millions more are losing the health insurance they like – all because of the president’s health care law. I’ve voted numerous times to delay, defund, and repeal this misguided and costly law. But, now is not the time for Republicans to be celebrating Obamacare’s struggles. It’s time for the Republican Party to offer specific ideas that will improve America’s health care system without picking winners and losers among the American people. It’s time for the Republican Party to lead.

Prior to Obamacare, our health care system was far from perfect. Too many of our fellow Americans were uninsured, healthcare costs were rising, and health insurance was becoming increasingly unaffordable for others. Those with pre-existing conditions were often unable to obtain affordable coverage, and recent college graduates struggling to find work in this economy couldn’t afford health insurance and weren’t able to remain on their parents’ plan. Improvements to the existing system were definitely needed, but a total government overhaul of it was not the answer.

It’s important to acknowledge that we have the best caregivers – doctors and nurses – in the world. America remains home to the most advanced medical procedures and medicine. Millions from around the world needing critical care who have the means come to America. We must ensure that we continue to have the best medical providers in the world, that we continue to lead the world in new medical cures and innovation, and we must work to ensure that this world class care is available to all Americans.

In my view, one of Obamacare’s biggest flaws is that it simply does nothing to address the rising costs of healthcare. In fact, it did the opposite. While the law increased access by mandate, by opening the gates to millions of uninsured, it did so at the expense, in many cases, of those who had insurance they liked. Still worse, Obamacare sets minimum standards of insurance, interfering with consumer choice and the marketplace – which stifles competition and increases costs even further.

One of the most concerning elements of Obamacare to me is that the law picks winners and losers. The winners are clear – they are the friends and allies of the President and his supporters of the law and the Washington insiders who feel they should not have to live by the same rules hardworking Americans do. But, let’s look at the losers, some of whom are now referred to in the media as the “unintended consequences” of the law. For example, seniors enrolled in Medicare Advantage (MA) lose – the law cuts the program by $200 billion which results in price hikes, reduced provider networks, and less choice for millions of seniors on MA. America’s young people lose – the law serves as a tax on young people, who must purchase insurance, or be fined, whether they want insurance or not. And, as we’ve seen, millions of Americans with insurance plans they like lose – they have had the plans they like and have invested in for years cancelled because they don’t meet Obamacare’s coverage requirements. And, some of these Americans losing the healthcare plans they like are those with pre-existing conditions – some of the very people the law supposedly tried to help. It’s simply not fair that these millions of Americans lose under the intended and unintended consequences of the federal government’s takeover of our healthcare system.

I’ll continue working with Republican leadership in our efforts to unify behind common principles that would bring true patient-centered reform to America’s health care system that will reduce costs, increase access, give Americans choices, and empower Americans to take control of their healthcare. And make no mistake, several pieces of good legislation have already been introduced in the House that I support. For example, I believe part of the solution is an expansion of Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) in order to give the American people the ability, and incentive, to take greater ownership over their care. Also, insurers should not be allowed to deny coverage based on preexisting conditions, and young people should be allowed to remain on their parents’ health insurance policy until age 26. And, as study after study shows, we need tort reform to put an end to the fears that so many health care providers have of being hit with junk lawsuits. This fear leads to additional, defensive, and oftentimes, unnecessary tests that drive up the cost of care by tens of billions of dollars every year. Finally, I believe strongly that we need to encourage competition in our healthcare system in order to increase quality and reduce costs – by making healthcare portable from state to state and job to job, and by allowing the market to determine the makeup of policies rather than the federal government.

Obamacare should be replaced. It’s bad policy, it’s bad medicine, and it’s hurting Americans. But, it’s not enough for opponents of the policy to simply criticize it. We’ve got to roll up our sleeves and develop a common sense framework to replace it. And, unlike Obamacare, such a plan must put fairness and choice back in the formula for all Americans, it needs buy in from both sides, and Washington cannot use it to choose winners and losers among the American people.

And, on that note, Merry Christmas to you and your family, and may you have a prosperous and Happy New Year!

U.S. House of Representative Bill Johnson represents Ohio’s 6th Congressional District.