Approaching health care in the upcoming Congress

Published 8:45 am Monday, December 24, 2018

Just last week a federal court declared all of Obamacare unconstitutional. I know many read about the ruling and wondered what it means for them. The short answer is that nothing changes for next year. Obamacare is still in effect, except the individual mandate has been repealed so there’s no fine if you choose not to buy a government-approved plan. If you are currently covered by an Obamacare policy, this ruling won’t affect you. Long-term — if the ruling is upheld on appeal — this could be the catalyst that brings the two parties together to get a workable, bipartisan health care solution that provides affordable access to quality, patient-centered health coverage.
Why did the federal court overturn the law? When the Supreme Court upheld Obamacare in 2012, the majority argued that Obamacare’s enforcement mechanism to require people to purchase insurance —– the individual mandate — was a tax. While I disagreed with that ruling at the time, the judge in this case said that because this fine was repealed, the rest of Obamacare — which for the first time compels U.S. citizens to purchase a product — was unconstitutional. Americans will no longer be forced to buy a product they can’t afford — or don’t want — or face a tax penalty if they go without. Obamacare has resulted in taxpayers, at state and federal levels, paying more to fund government health care programs, and it needs to be replaced.
If you have a pre-existing condition, I think it’s important you know something else: both parties agree that protections are needed to ensure these folks can access affordable health coverage. I think a better alternative to Obamacare would be extending the same protections that exist for employer-sponsored health plans to the individual and small group markets, where many small businesses purchase their health insurance. Before the enactment of Obamacare, if you had a pre-existing condition and a plan through your employer, you were able to get affordable health insurance. Folks in the individual and small group markets should have that same sense of security.
Another approach we can take to make health care coverage affordable is to allow people to purchase their plans across state lines, which will spur competition, thereby lowering cost. These are just a few suggestions, and I hope the incoming Democrat majority will seriously consider these ideas to come up with alternatives that do a better job of keeping health insurance affordable.
In the upcoming Congress, we need to start with a clean slate where both parties come together to craft a bipartisan plan that works for all Americans. I hope Democrats will recognize that many Tennesseans see Obamacare as a failure because average premiums have risen by 176 percent since the law went into effect. For the past three Congresses I’ve introduced the American Health Care Reform Act, a comprehensive bill that would have replaced Obamacare with free-market competition in our health care system. I think many of the ideas included in this legislation — which included protections for people with pre-existing conditions — deserve bipartisan support. But I’ve said it before and will say it again: health care isn’t a Republican or Democrat issue, it’s a people issue. If the court ruling stands, I hope we can put partisan politics aside and fix the very real problems that exist in the health care market.
As a physician, there is nothing that I want more than for every individual to have access to affordable health care. I believe if Congress can work together we can find a path forward that works for both sides of the aisle, and every American. I will continue reaching out to Tennesseans, listening to their concerns and working across the aisle to find better health care solutions.

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