Lowering the cost of care and increasing coverage options for East Tennesseans

Published 8:52 am Monday, August 27, 2018

Since its passage, we’ve seen promise after promise broken when it comes to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the care it was supposed to provide all Americans. The ACA, or Obamacare, has been an abysmal failure. Under Obamacare, Tennesseans were promised more coverage options, lower costs and an easier-to-navigate health care market. What we got was the opposite: higher premiums, fewer plans and a more restrictive system that makes it difficult for patients and their families to shop for a plan that meets their needs. Ignoring warnings that Obamacare would fail, Democrats pressed on to push Obamacare through, despite the fact the only thing bipartisan about the law was its opposition. Make no mistake: Democrats in Congress who supported Obamacare have full ownership of its failures.
Now, many of those same Democrats are calling for even more radical “reforms” we can’t afford when we know they won’t work, even going so far as to claim a single-payer system would save trillions of dollars. We know that’s false — in fact, some estimates have projected this proposal would actually cost more than $30 trillion in the first ten years and $218 trillion over 30 years. Even if current tax rates were doubled, we would not have the revenue to pay for a health care system like this. A recent Washington Post fact check rated the claim that such a system would save money with three Pinocchios, which means there are “significant factual errors and/or obvious contradictions — the statement is in the realm of ‘mostly false.’” While some Democrats continue to double down on systems we’ve seen fail around the world, Republicans in Congress are working with President Trump to provide Americans relief from Obamacare while taking action to increase options for coverage and lower costs.
As you may know, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act eliminated the penalty for the individual mandate, meaning families who cannot afford insurance are not taxed for going without coverage. Still, we know that simply providing relief from the burdensome penalties of Obamacare isn’t enough, which is why earlier this month, the Trump administration announced an expansion of short-term, limited duration insurance (STLDI) plans. This expansion will provide coverage options for the Americans left behind by the high costs and slim offerings of the ACA, and the administration estimates these plans will cost between 50 to 80 percent less than Obamacare plans. STLDI plans were rolled back to three-month durations under the Obama administration, which is not workable for the many Americans faced with life transitions like changing jobs or taking a year off from school, or for the middle-class families who are ineligible for subsidies but still cannot afford the high costs of Obamacare. The new rules announced by the Trump administration would allow these plans to last for twelve months. Further, under the new rules, STLDI plans can be renewed for up to 36 months, ensuring no American is left without affordable coverage options no matter their life situation or income. In June, the Trump administration also announced expanded access to Association Health Plans. This will allow small businesses and workers to band together to compete in the same way large employers can to negotiate for affordable health coverage for their employees.
Another thing I’ve long pushed for is transparency in the cost of health care. It’s never made sense to me how the same procedure can have a huge price disparity depending on where it takes place, with little to no transparency. Patients should have the option to shop for the very best care they can afford, and cost information should be readily available for patients and their families as they decide where to seek care. This was a provision I included in my legislation to repeal and replace Obamacare, the American Health Care Reform Act, and I was glad to see President Trump and CMS Administrator Seema Verma announce that hospitals will now be required to post a list of standard prices online beginning January 1, 2019. Americans are the best shoppers in the world; they’ll drive across three lanes of traffic to save five cents off a gallon of gasoline. I know empowering patients with this kind of pricing data will help families shop for care that makes most sense for them.
I’m proud President Trump is working with Republicans in Congress to provide Americans relief from Obamacare while taking action to increase options for coverage and lower costs. As a physician, I came to Congress to help shape the health care debate, and I’ve fought since the day I was sworn in for changes to our health care system that center around the needs of patients while allowing the market to work. It doesn’t mean anything if a patient has an insurance card in their wallet if they can’t afford to use it, and it’s not helpful to hardworking families when premium costs are so high they have to choose between purchasing health insurance for their families and making ends meet. There’s no question we’ve got a lot of work to do to reform our health care system, and I’m still committed to doing that work.
My door is always open to East Tennesseans. Feel free to contact my office if I can be of assistance to you or your family.

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