Today, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in King v. Burwell, the lawsuit that could effectively cripple Obamacare and — we are happy to say — force Washington to go back to the drawing board on health-care reform. In short, the lawsuit challenges the Internal Revenue Service’s decision to expand Obamacare’s subsidies to individuals in federally run health-insurance exchanges, despite the fact that the text of the law grants subsidies only to people in state-based exchanges. As Obamacare architect Jonathan Gruber famously admitted, the law’s authors did this as a ploy to encourage reluctant states to set up their own exchanges. When few states took the bait, however, the Obama administration did what it is now in the habit of doing: It ignored the law as written and issued a new rule to fit its ideologically driven agenda.
Five years after its passage, the president’s health-care law is deeply unpopular, irreparably flawed, and the poster child for Washington’s arrogance. With the improper IRS subsidy rule, bureaucrats decided to increase federal spending by billions of dollars, contrary to the text of the law, with no oversight or accountability. With the Supreme Court poised to check this unprecedented overreach and Democrats claiming they are out of ideas, House conservatives are stepping up to the plate with alternatives that will create economic opportunity for hardworking American families, job creators, and taxpayers.
Last year, the Republican Study Committee (RSC) led the way in the House by introducing a bill repealing Obamacare and establishing an alternative based on conservative, free-market principles. These core principles are a road map to an improved health-care sector that fosters opportunity, choice, and more economic independence for hardworking Americans. The RSC’s legislation, known as the American Health Care Reform Act, boasted 133 co-sponsors and strong support from a diverse array of conservative groups. As the Supreme Court’s decision nears, the RSC is once again hard at work developing a plan that will increase competition, level the playing field between businesses and individuals, and create new insurance options for individuals and families.
First, our health-care-reform plan will lower costs by increasing competition and choice. One of the best and fastest ways to achieve this is to allow Americans to purchase health-insurance products across state lines. The lack of portability and competition has long been a problem in America’s insurance market, yet Obamacare took no significant steps to open up the market between state lines. By lowering this barrier, we can expand the pool of competition and give people better options. Our plan would also allow small businesses and associations to pool together to negotiate better rates as a group, giving America’s entrepreneurs the support they need to provide for their employees.
Second, we need to level the playing field between large corporations and individuals, families, or small businesses. We can achieve this by correcting our tax code so families and individuals are on equal footing with big companies. Currently, employer-sponsored health-insurance benefits are excluded from taxation. The vast majority of families and individuals who purchase insurance on their own, however, do not receive any tax relief. They are buying health insurance with after-tax dollars. The RSC’s health-care-reform plan took the current tax deductions for employer-sponsored health insurance and self-employed options and replaced them with an above-the-line standard deduction. The new deduction applied to income and payroll taxes and would result in a tax cut for a majority of Americans. Standardizing tax deductions would give families and small businesses access to a tax advantage that large corporations have long utilized to provide insurance to American workers. Families and small businesses should have the necessary tools at their disposal to help facilitate purchasing plans that work best for them.
Finally, any health-care reform needs to take steps to increase transparency, so individuals have access to the information and flexibility they need to manage their money as they see fit. Medical care is one of the only sectors in which Americans are asked to make significant, long-term decisions without knowing the exact price of those decisions up front. Americans deserve to make informed decisions about their medical options. We must increase transparency so that patients have the facts about the care they receive and how much it really costs. By making this information more readily accessible, we can also increase accountability for doctors and medical facilities. The RSC plan would also focus on more options that encourage flexibility and choice, empowering individuals. For instance, expanding Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) by increasing the maximum allowable contribution would be a positive step that lets Americans use their own hard-earned money in a way that best fits their needs.
Democrats have tried their best to paint Republicans as lacking new ideas, but this just is not the case. With Obamacare’s fate in jeopardy, Democrats have no solutions to solve the mess they forced upon the American people. Republicans have the chance to prove that we are the party of positive, common-sense solutions to address our nation’s health-care shortcomings. More importantly, we can do so in a way that fosters the increased opportunity and independence that Americans deserve. We have seen what happens when federal-government bureaucrats take the reins from Americans and act unchecked and unaccountable. We get rampant spending, a bloated bureaucracy, and executive-branch overreach. Americans have rejected the president’s health-care law and are ready for a better alternative. By fostering competition, leveling the playing field, and increasing transparency, we can bring America’s health-care sector into the 21st century.
— Representative Bill Flores (Texas) is the chairman of the Republican Study Committee, the conservative caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives representing over 160 members. Representative Phil Roe (Tennessee) and Representative Austin Scott (Georgia) are the co-chairmen of the Republican Study Committee’s Health Care Task Force.