Health care bill just wasn’t right for America

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All across Idaho, families and small business owners are struggling to keep up with skyrocketing health care costs caused by the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare. If you’ve seen your health insurance premiums rise in the past few years, it’s almost certainly because of ACA regulations. Every day, I hear health care horror stories from across the state.

Anthony Miller from Kuna was notified a few months ago that his health care coverage was going to increase $12,000, forcing him to drop his insurance to the bare minimum. Lisa Allbrett in Boise is frustrated because her premium has doubled and her deductible has gone up $1,500, but she has to keep her expensive plan in order to avoid paying the Obamacare tax. David Weak in Eagle purchased a Medicare Advantage plan, but when his rate increased 127 percent in one year, he was forced to sign up for a lower level plan.

Since the implementation of Obamacare, the annual profits of the 10 largest health insurers doubled from 2008 to 2015 and Idahoans have had to pay more. From 2016 to 2017 alone, the average Idahoan experienced a 24 percent increase in their health insurance premiums.

This is not what the American people were promised when the Democrats passed Obamacare. And this is exactly why we must fully repeal the ACA and replace it with a system that lowers the cost of health care and health insurance.

Last week, the U.S. House was scheduled to vote on the American Health Care Act (AHCA), a bill that supporters claimed would repeal and replace Obamacare. There was, however, one huge problem: It didn’t actually repeal Obamacare. I opposed this bill, and I was pleased when a vote on the measure was canceled.

When I first ran for Congress in 2010, I promised my constituents that I would help lead the fight against Obamacare. I’ve kept that promise by voting to repeal President Obama’s signature health care law or significant portions of it 52 times in the past six years, and nearly all of my House Republican colleagues joined me in doing that.

Last week, I would have voted for a bill that actually repealed and replaced Obamacare. But the AHCA was not that bill. Critics of the bill called it ‘Obamacare Lite’ or ‘Obamacare 2.0 ’ and those criticisms were not unfair. In proposing a health care bill, the House Republican Leadership should have done better. A lot better.

House Leadership should have drafted a bill that kept the promises made to the American people in documents like the “Pledge to America,” signed by House Republicans in 2010, the “Better Way” drafted by House Leadership in 2016, and the “Contract with the American Voter” issued by Donald Trump as a Presidential candidate last year. When it came to the ACA, the Republican position was crystal clear: We will fully repeal the ACA and replace it with a market-based system.

To be clear: the scheduled vote last week was not our first and only chance to repeal Obamacare. Quite the opposite. We, in Congress, have more than enough time to craft a bill that matches the commitment we made to the American people. When President Obama and Congressional Democrats created and passed the ACA in 2009-2010, it took about fifteen months of work. It may take just as much work to undo the ACA. But it’s worth it.

During negotiations, conservatives in the House insisted that Congress repeal Obamacare’s prohibition on less expensive health care plans and the knot of insurance regulations and mandates that are making health coverage so unaffordable. Studies show that Americans are paying 45 to 68 percent higher premiums because of these regulations and mandates.

Many people believe that these mandates are necessary to protect the most vulnerable in our society, especially those with pre-existing conditions. However, we can provide these protections without costly mandates. In fact, I support the Republican plan to set aside over $100 billion to help those with pre-existing conditions. Those who say we must accept a government takeover of America’s health care system in order to cover the most vulnerable are creating a false choice. We can protect those who most need our help while lowering health care costs for all Americans.

To make health care more affordable for Idahoans like Anthony Miller, Lisa Allbrett, and David Weak, we need true repeal of Obamacare. When it comes to health care, it’s more important to do it right than to do it quickly. I will continue working with my colleagues to keep my promises and not to give up at the first sign of struggle.

Rep. Raul Labrador represents Idaho in the First Congressional District.

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