The U.S. healthcare system remains the greatest in the world. Constantly evolving to meet future generation’s needs, our nation’s vast network of medical professionals and cutting edge facilities continue to improve Americans’ health and life expectancy. However, this gold standard is not without its challenges. Rising costs have made access to care difficult for many, and impossible for some. In response and without a single Republican vote in favor, the Obama Administration crafted and rammed through Congress a massive piece of legislation which only worsens the problem.
I, along with a majority of Americans, believe that putting the federal government in charge of healthcare decision making is a mistake. Since the law’s passage in 2009, there have been nearly 20,000 pages of regulations “associated” with Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), otherwise referred to as Obamacare. The Administration issued a staggering 828 pages of regulations in one single day. The proposed bureaucracy and potential elimination of free market forces will lead to widespread inefficiency and even higher costs.
The PPACA cuts more than $500 billion from Medicare and uses it to establish a new entitlement program subsidizing government-approved healthcare. Nearly one quarter of all seniors depend on Medicare Advantage, the private health care option within Medicare. According to CMS actuaries, 7.4 million seniors using the Medicare Advantage plan in 2017 will lose access to their plan due to $206 billion in cuts the ACA took from the program.
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) predicts that health insurance premiums for Americans buying private health coverage on their own will increase by $2,100 in 2016 compared to what would have happened without the healthcare reform law. In Alaska, health insurance premiums for Alaskans purchasing on the individual (small) market are expected to increase by 30%-80%.
Our current health care system is in need of reform. While two-thirds of Americans have health insurance coverage, mostly through benefits offered to them by their employer, there are nearly 44 million non-elderly uninsured. Some of these individuals work for small businesses that cannot afford to offer insurance like larger employers do; some make a conscious decision not to purchase insurance because they are young and healthy and do not want to spend the money on it; others have just fallen through the cracks. The PPACA takes the wrong approach by promising to subsidize health insurance for the millions of Americans now and work to reform healthcare costs later, seemingly ignoring our nation’s $16.7 trillion debt which rises every day.
I have voted over 40 times to repeal Obamacare. At the same time I am engaging in constant dialogue with my colleagues to find a better way forward in healthcare reform. We as lawmakers must reexamine falling Medicare/Medicaid reimbursement rates and find ways, where fiscally possible, to shift these cost cuts to areas that do not provide to irreplaceable services. We must decrease individuals’ use of health services later in life by improving our healthcare habits and preventative health outreach earlier in life. This should involve empowering states and localities, folks who know what their town needs, with innovative ways to engage youth and educate them on the importance of regular screenings and healthy lifestyle habits.
Finally, Congress should strive to improve efficiency in current medical practices by reviewing all innovative solutions which show improved patient outcomes at a lower cost. Considering how Alaskans know how to stretch a dollar better than most, I will continue to urge my colleagues and Administration officials to take notice of certain innovations underway in our State as they look for new ways to change the way primary care is delivered. I will continue working with my colleagues in Congress on health care reform legislation that would truly benefit Americans through better access, lower costs, and more flexibility and portability.