Opinion Pieces

Rep. Tenney: It's time for facts about American Health Care Act (Commentary)

Published in the Syracuse Post Standard May 22, 2017

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New Hartford, NY, May 22, 2017 | comments
By: Rep. Claudia Tenney

As Obamacare hangs by a thread, millions of Americans across the country continue to lose access to the affordable, high-quality care they deserve. Canceled insurance plans, lost doctors and soaring prices have left Americans frustrated. As they see the quality of their healthcare decline, they see the amount of money they're paying for that care increase substantially.

Under Obamacare, Americans are spending a larger share of their income on healthcare than ever before. High-deductible plans are now the norm, regardless of whether Americans get their health insurance through their employer or on the exchanges. High-deductible plans were once the exception for employees, covering only about 18 percent of American workers in 2008. Today, more than 50 percent of the workforce has been forced on to costlier high-deductible plans.

Options on the Obamacare exchanges are no better, even with premium tax credits. In 2017, deductibles for Obamacare plans are set to average $3,572. What good is insurance if already bootstrapped families do not have affordable access to it?

While costs have increased dramatically, access has decreased accordingly. A third of counties in the country have only one insurance company offering plans on the exchange in 2017. Any way you slice it, Americans are paying more money for less access. This is in large part why so many millions of Americans have opted to pay the individual mandate's penalty, rather than sign up for coverage that they cannot afford. This result is the opposite of what we seek to achieve.

The American Health Care Act, while not perfect, is the first step toward fixing our healthcare system. It creates a more competitive marketplace and relieves the American people of burdensome mandates that haven't worked, while maintaining many of the protections that Americans have come to expect.

First, under the bill, taxpayers in New York will receive relief from the mounting burden of ever-increasing county taxes imposed by Albany's enormous unfunded Medicaid mandate. Last year alone, Albany forced counties to fork over $7.5 billion. New York's Medicaid budget this year was $62 billion, out of a $152 billion annual budget. The State of Florida, which recently surpassed New York in population, has a state budget of just over $83 billion for 2017.

The bill would prohibit states like New York from unfairly passing this Medicaid liability on to counties and is based on a bipartisan bill I championed in the state Assembly, with strong support from local leaders. This provision will save taxpayers in the 22nd Congressional District $167 million a year - likely the largest mandate relief package to county governments in my lifetime.

Second, the bill repeals the individual and employer mandates, which have forced Americans to purchase plans they did not want and raised operating costs for small businesses throughout the 22nd Congressional District. Unlike Obamacare, this bill does not penalize individuals for failing to obtain health care, it incentivizes them to get coverage to protect themselves and their families. The bill also eliminates more than $1 trillion in onerous taxes that were imposed by Obamacare. These taxes, on everything from medical device manufacturers, health insurance companies and over-the-counter medications, have only increased costs for consumers.

Next, the bill allows individuals to stay on their parents plan until age 26, prohibits lifetime caps on coverage, and continues to provide advanceable tax credits to reduce premium costs for those making less than $75,000. The bill maintains pre-existing condition protections, which were established by Obamacare, and requires states who may choose to opt out of them to establish high-risk pools to control the cost of care for individuals. To ensure those with high-cost conditions get the care they need and deserve at a price that is affordable, the bill also establishes a $15 billion Invisible Risk Sharing Program.

Additionally, it also includes provisions I fought for to protect the most vulnerable. It includes $90 billion to help older Americans defray the cost of insurance, and another $40 billion for states to pay for Medicaid coverage for children, the disabled and chronically ill. The bill also includes $15 billion for maternity and mental health care costs as well as $100 billion for flexible State Innovation Grants. It also maintains state laws that prevent insurers in New York from charging seniors or those with pre-existing conditions more for coverage.

These are the facts. Unfortunately, what should be a bipartisan effort to improve our health care system has been hijacked by partisan liberal elites who have vowed to undermine this bill before they've even taken the time to understand it.

Well, I have read this bill, and while I don't think it's perfect, it is a step in the right direction. It opens the individual insurance market to more choice while maintaining the consumer protections Americans have come to demand. Most importantly, it keeps the promise I made to my constituents to repeal Obamacare and replace it with an alternative that increases access to quality care at a price that is truly affordable.
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Tags: Health

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