America’s medical practices and healthcare providers are constantly improving, evidenced by our nation’s steady increase in average life expectancy. As Alaskans and Americans live longer, the demand for qualified health providers will continue to grow. Likewise, as medical devices and healthcare practices become more advanced, the cost of services will increase. As a nation, we have found ourselves in a perfect storm; a rising shortage of doctors and ballooning health insurance premiums that threaten access to care for all Americans.
This was a problem we all recognized and many wanted to act upon, including President Obama. Unfortunately, the widespread, pass now-read later approach of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), otherwise known as Obamacare, was the wrong one to take.
Many of my colleagues and I supported elements of the ACA, including:
- Guaranteeing access to insurance for patients with preexisting conditions;
- Allowing children to stay on their parents’ healthcare plan until age 26;
- Allowing certain insurers to sell policies across state lines;
- Increasing funding to community health clinics.
These proposals had bipartisan support and should have been introduced individually, as smaller bills that the American people and Congress could have fully understood. Instead, the ACA was passed and signed into law without a single Republican vote in the House or Senate. Throughout the process, we feared that this massive two thousand-page federal overhaul of the American healthcare system would cause more harm than good. Tragically, we were proven right.
As a result, healthcare is one of the largest drivers of debt for American households and the nation. To combat this economic downturn, I have committed to working with my colleagues in both parties to target the ACA in its entirety, or piece by piece. I believe we must first repeal a long list of new taxes created under the law, including the individual mandate, employer mandate, medical device tax, and “Cadillac plan” tax. Next, we must consult healthcare providers and patients to identify and eliminate harmful Obamacare regulations that continue to bury doctors and nurses in red tape. Finally, we must increase funding for Graduate Medical Education, with a special emphasis on general practice and family medicine, to combat the impending physician shortage.
Supporters of the ACA often argue that doing something was better than doing nothing. They say, if opponents of the ACA want to repeal the legislation so badly, where is our plan to massively overhaul the healthcare system? Simply put, I saw what a 2,000+ page federal takeover can do to a nation. Ask the millions of Americans whose plans were canceled, small business owners forced to make difficult personnel decisions or healthcare personnel working longer and harder hours. This was the wrong approach.
For anyone that is curious to how the federal government will fare by completely controlling healthcare, simply look at the failures of the Veterans Administration, Indian Health Service, and impending bankruptcy of Medicare. We as lawmakers must strive for a limited federal role, empower states and localities to provide the right type of care for their residents at the cheapest price. We must eliminate new ACA taxes so Americans can use more of their hard-earned paycheck to purchase the care they need. I remain committed to making healthcare more affordable, accessible, and portable for all Alaskans.