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Rescuing America’s Health Care System

Lower premiums, increased choices and improved care: these were the promises made to America by those who imposed Obamacare.

Exactly the opposite has happened.  Last year, premiums increased an average of 25 percent and this year we’re warned they’ll increase 40 percent.  Last year, only one provider remained in a third of American counties.  This year, entire regions have no providers at all.  In 2015, American life expectancies actually declined.

The American Health Care Act passed by the House on May 4th goes a long way toward replacing Obamacare’s compulsory one-size-fits-all bureaucratic mess with a consumer-friendly patient-centered system.

The AHCA repeals the employer mandate that has trapped many Americans in part-time jobs.  It repeals the individual mandate that forces Americans to buy plans they don’t want, don’t need and can’t afford.  It changes the premium structure that forced young families to subsidize premiums for those in their peak earning years.  It repeals nearly $1 trillion of taxes on the American economy.  It repeals the mandates that force an older couple to maintain pediatric coverage.  It maintains the safety net for those with pre-existing conditions and assures these plans are within the financial reach of every family.

Despite the obvious failure of Obamacare and the imperative to rescue the American health care system, opponents have gone into overdrive to frighten people and distort the facts.

The Congressional Budget Office claims that 23 million Americans who don’t get their insurance from their employer or other government programs will lose their health insurance.  This is the same office that predicted that Obamacare exchanges would cover 26 million Americans by 2017 – the actual number was 10 million.  It predicted a slight increase in premiums between 10 and 13 on Obamacare exchanges by 2016 – the actual figure was 105 percent.

So how did the CBO come up with this claim?  Much is based on assuming that people won’t buy health insurance unless we force them.  In reality, more people are already choosing not to buy Obamacare policies – and paying a steep tax penalty to boot.  The CBO completely ignores provisions that allow people to tailor plans to meet their own needs – a powerful market incentive for them to purchase plans.

Second, the CBO predicts that in future years Medicaid patients will leave due to changes that restrain the growth of this program.  The changes assure the program’s dollars are actually focused on services and not waste.

Third, it predicts that subsidized, low income older Americans in the individual market will see their out of pocket expenses soar by $12,900.  Yet it ignores the $90 billion freed up in the final House version with the express understanding that the Senate would redirect these funds to provide roughly $13,000 of tax support to those affected.

Fourth, it predicts that some people will opt for less expensive plans without all the bells and whistles required under Obamacare.  This, of course, is what choice is all about – people making their own decisions based on their own needs and wishes.  Yet the CBO classifies them as “uninsured.”

The other major – and false – claim is that people with pre-existing conditions will lose coverage.  The AHCA is explicit:  “Nothing in this Act shall be construed as permitting health insurance issuers to limit access to health coverage for individuals with pre-existing conditions.”

There is one exception.  IF you are one of the seven percent of patients in the individual market, and IF you have a pre-existing condition, and IF you live in a state that has requested and received a waiver based on having an alternative program to assure your coverage, and IF you have let your insurance lapse for more than 62 days in the past year – then and only then can you be charged a higher rate than the general population for your health plan and then, only for the first year.

This year, entire regions of the country will be unable to obtain policies on Obamacare exchanges, premiums are spiraling out of reach for families that don’t qualify for subsidies and taxpayer costs are skyrocketing.

The AHCA offers a way out of this nightmare, restoring a healthy competitive market, where patients will have the widest range of choices and the freedom to choose the plan that best meets their needs – along with a supportive tax system to assure that plans are within their financial reach.

If the Senate can come up with a better plan, let’s see it.  But one thing should be clear: inaction is not an option.