Sunday, December 17, 2017
Opinion

Column: Republicans fulfilling promise to repeal, replace Obamacare

This month marks seven long and daunting years since Obamacare was signed into the law.

Seven years of broken promises. Seven years of skyrocketing premiums and fewer options. Seven years of tax increases, mandates and penalties. Seven years of families and hardworking Americans having to make the choice between putting food on the table, buying cost-prohibitive health insurance under Obamacare, or facing federal mandates and penalties.

This is no way for Americans to live, and we cannot let it continue. We must pass the American Health Care Act so we can repeal the failures of Obamacare and replace them with a robust and vibrant health insurance market where people will have more freedom and flexibility to get the affordable plans they need and prefer.

Since its enactment, Obamacare has kicked 4.7 million Americans off of their health care plans and forced double-digit premium rate increases on families. Today, one-third of U.S. counties have only one insurance provider, and multiple insurers are pulling out of the federal exchanges because of the economic strain Obamacare has on our nation.

Even leading Democrats, like former President Bill Clinton and Sen. Chuck Schumer, have admitted Obamacare was a mistake and has left Americans with less coverage.

In Florida alone, premiums will increase by 19 percent this year, and nearly 72 percent of Florida counties have only one or two insurance providers to choose from on the exchange. This is not choice.

Instead of kicking Americans off of their plans, the AHCA will kick bureaucrats out of doctors' offices and put patients back in charge of their own health care decisions. This patient-centered legislation will lower health care premiums by 10 percent, reduce the federal deficit by $337 billion, cap Medicaid spending for the first time, and provide $883 billion in tax relief for middle-income families and small businesses.

The AHCA further eliminates the individual and employer mandates that impose burdensome requirements on small businesses and families. It also reduces federal mandates and regulations that force health care plans to be filled with services people do not want and cannot afford. The AHCA will allow for a seamless transition that provides continuous coverage for those currently enrolled in the health care exchanges, while helping Americans purchase their own plans through tax credits and Health Savings Accounts so no one has the rug pulled out from under them.

Through this legislation, we are also protecting families and the unborn by allowing children up to 26 years old to stay on their parents' health care plans, preventing health insurers from denying coverage to patients based on pre-existing conditions, and blocking abortion providers from receiving federal funds.

This a beginning, not an end. We are going through the proper regular order and transparent process with this proposal, and are open to suggestions and ideas, something President Barack Obama and Democrats were unwilling to do when they rammed Obamacare through Congress in the middle of the night. The AHCA is the first of three necessary and needed phases to fully repeal and replace Obamacare. This first phase allows us to immediately get the ball rolling by taking full advantage of the budget reconciliation process that will avoid Senate Democrats' attempt to filibuster a full repeal and replacement.

After phase one is accomplished, we will quickly move on to phase two, which includes administrative actions, notably by Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, to stabilize the health insurance market, increase choices and lower costs. The third phase will then allow Congress to introduce and pass additional legislative policies, such as allowing Americans to purchase coverage across state lines, which by Senate rules cannot be included in the reconciliation bill in phase one. Each phase has a thoughtful and strategic purpose in order to accomplish our long-awaited goal.

If we do not act, this disastrous health care law will continue in its death spiral, hurting American families and businesses, and threatening the next generation. After seven years of the American people telling us that Obamacare is not working, and after seven years of Republicans telling them we will repeal and replace it, the time for action and to fulfill our promise is now. We cannot, and will not, let this opportunity slip through our fingers. We must unite and put American patients first.

U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Lakeland, represents the 15th Congressional District that includes northeast Hillsborough County.

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