Politics & Policy

Obamacare: A Pivot Point

It must be repealed, and replaced with a patient-centered approach.

The U.S. House of Representatives recently cast two critical votes that will help create jobs and move our country toward a 21st-century health-care system. One vote was to repeal the flawed and unsustainable law Democrats in Congress and President Obama muscled through last year. The other was to redirect congressional committees — including the one I chair — to craft better solutions.

I believe history will reveal these two votes as a pivot point — a moment when we turned away from a less compassionate, fiscally unsustainable, and job-killing system toward an innovative, patient-centered model.

During the floor debate, I noted that Obamacare compels us to end something before we forge a new beginning: Its emphases and prescriptions are hopelessly misguided and even dangerous, lavishing money we don’t have on challenges that cannot be solved with government spending. It will bankrupt our states, making health care significantly more expensive for the 85 percent of Americans with insurance. It raises taxes and invests 1,968 new or expanded powers to the federal government, according to the Center for Health Transformation. And it limits options for seniors to choose a health plan that best fits their needs.

Most states agree. As of today, over half have filed or joined suits declaring the core elements of Obamacare unconstitutional. Recent Rasmussen polls found that 75 percent of registered voters want Obamacare changed, while 55 to 60 percent in the same surveys over the past year have supported repeal.

Obamacare stands on a flawed foundation of false promises, sketchy assumptions, and missed opportunities. Together, these shortcomings will cause it to crumble.

It pledged to reduce health-care costs. It won’t. Premiums are already rising across the country.

It assured us that “if you like your health-care plan, you can keep your health-care plan.” False again: Employer-based plans for workers and Medicare Advantage coverage for seniors already are changing.

It misses opportunities to lower costs by curtailing junk lawsuits or giving Americans more choices for insurance coverage.

Republicans have a better plan to move forward.

First, we will listen to the American people. Our committees will hold hearings and gauge their concerns. We will gather input from our 87 newly elected members of Congress. Only then will we move forward. Congress passed Obamacare in the House without a single hearing on the bill we adopted. Republicans will not repeat that affront to representational democracy.

Second, we will build on what we already know. Americans want lower health-care costs. They also support policies that keep this country on the cutting edge of developing life-saving treatments and medical procedures. We will make affordability and innovation our principal objectives.

Third, we believe expanding government dependence for millions more Americans by forcing them into Medicaid is the opposite of compassion. As a means to provide health services to the poor, Obamacare is both fiscally reckless and morally bankrupt. A more compassionate approach empowers individuals, helping them become self-sufficient and able to purchase their own insurance, not making them lifelong dependents in a permanent underclass.

Fourth, we commit to forging a new partnership with governors, based on equality. Why must the federal government get so involved in decisions related to eligibility, reimbursement, and program design? These decisions are best left to the states, where local officials know the needs of their citizens, rather than mandated by Washington. I have already been in close contact with several governors about the impact of Obamacare on their states. The Energy and Commerce Committee will hold hearings throughout this year, listening to the views from the states on this critical issue.

Some have criticized our approach as “incremental.” We accept that characterization — indeed, we embrace it. We apparently lack the hubris to believe every problem in the health-care system can be solved with one massive new federal law that we write. Health care is a complicated, ever-evolving set of relationships between patients, providers, payers, and technology, but Democrats in Washington believe they have the insight and foresight to fix all that ails us. They don’t.

Nor does anyone else. That’s why we believe this pivot point is so critical. From here, we will continue to build the case for repeal, showing why Obamacare is fiscally unsustainable and a cancer on job creators. But we also will demonstrate a better way — more focused on affordability, private-sector investment, and innovation: a new beginning, less dependent on Washington, and flexible enough to address the dynamic world of health care. That hard work has begun. We will not be deterred.

— Rep. Fred Upton is the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.


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