Oped: On health care, doing nothing is not an option
A recent letter writer to your newspaper suggested that I celebrated “passing a bill in the House which takes health care away from 24 million likely or even more Americans who need health care.”
The writer is referring to the U.S. House’s passage last week of the American Health Care Act (AHCA). After the vote, many House Republicans traveled to the White House for a news conference with President Trump; I did not. Immediately after that vote, I headed back to York County for previously scheduled events.
Passions are high. So are the stakes. Neither is lost on me. Health care is an incredibly personal issue for all of us. We're all well aware that many of our families are one health care crisis away from financial devastation. We all have friends and family members with preexisting conditions — diseases and ailments that threaten to shorten their lives, and leave us heartbroken; but Cuba-like socialized medicine is not the answer for America. Our 4th District residents don’t expect a federal handout — they want an affordable system with options that are fair and efficient.
The letter writer asserted that I’m “too busy pandering to the party and thinking about getting re-elected and (he) does not care about his constituents.”
Over my four years in Congress, I’ve listened to thousands of constituents and countless numbers of them have told me they can’t afford their health care costs. Premiums and deductibles have become so high that many people effectively don’t have health care, even though they’re paying astronomical rates for the coverage. And choices are dwindling: citizens in one-third of U.S. counties now have only one insurer available on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) exchanges. In fact, Iowa reports that residents in 94 of its 99 counties will have no option for buying coverage next year- an entire state whose citizens won’t have access to health insurance on the public exchanges.
The bill passed by the House last week is far from perfect — but the ACA is imploding, and doing nothing is not an option. While I don’t believe this legislation goes far enough to put a stop to the destruction of the healthcare market, the bill is an improvement over the status quo and its original draft.
The AHCA gives states more flexibility to tailor health care policies to meet the needs of its citizens and reduce costs over time. This is about empowering individuals to make the best and most affordable decisions for their families.
Let’s dispel some common myths about the bill:
Myth: the AHCA denies people with pre-existing conditions or charges based on gender.
Fact: As clearly seen in the text of the bill, the Act specifically prohibits the denial of coverage based on pre-existing conditions and prevents insurance companies from rescinding coverage to these vulnerable citizens. It prevents premium increases as long as they maintain continuous health coverage. In addition, the bill sets aside $100 billion to help states with high-risk pools and other innovations - $15 billion for maternity care, mental health care, and substance abuse treatment, and another $15 billion for a federal invisible risk-sharing program – an innovative way to ensure people can access affordable coverage. After Maine and Wisconsin adopted similar reforms, people with pre-existing conditions continued to have access to health care and prices stabilized often much lower than current rates. The bill includes other reforms and maintains popular provisions like allowing children to continue staying on their parents’ plan until they're 26 years old.
Myth: Critics rail against the AHCA saying it’ll cost 24 million people health insurance given its changes to the Medicaid program.
Fact: Medicaid was designed for the physically and mentally disabled, low-income families and pregnant women. When the ACA expanded eligibility beyond these groups, the results were exploding state and federal budgets. The federal share of Medicaid is expected to grow from $389 billion this year to $650 billion in 2027, amounting to $5.2 trillion in new spending over the coming decade. Regardless, the legislation assists Medicaid beneficiaries by honoring the enhanced state match they've been receiving, while eventually empowering able-bodied, single adults to get private health care so limited Medicaid dollars go to the citizens most in need of assistance.
Myth: The letter writer said that I would “celebrate giving a large tax cut to the top 1 percent wage earners, including Scott Perry”. The online posting of the letter was accompanied by a photo, since taken down by the York Dispatch at my office’s request, of several Republican Congressman, myself included, laughing on the House floor. This photo has been circulating on liberal/progressive sites as proof of our “celebration” following last week’s vote. The problem is: that’s a blatant lie. That photo was taken on January 3, 2017, Swearing-In Day for the 115th Congress.
Fact: The ACA raised $1 trillion in new taxes that, in one way or another, hit all of us via taxes on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, and medical devices. Simply put: we repealed these taxes for everyone. The new bill also eliminated the individual and employer mandate penalties, which forced millions of taxpayers and families to purchase health plans they could not afford that didn’t provide them choices for their own care. I’ve heard from dozens of local small businesses that these tax hikes and their companion regulations are crushing job creation and wage growth.
Myth: Congress is exempt from the Affordable Care Act and the American Health Care Act.
Fact: Congress was the only branch of the federal government that ensured it was subject to the same healthcare as the rest of America. I’ve found it ironic that the Obama Administration exempted itself from the ACA/“Obamacare.” Neither I nor my staff receives any exemption from this law and I voted last week to make sure we continue to have the same healthcare as the American people.
While much work is ahead to rebuild our health care system, lower cost, and increase choices and access, passing and implementing the AHCA is a critical first step in that effort.
For more information about the bill, visit https://housegop.leadpages.co/healthcare/. My office stands ready to assist anyone with concerns. I encourage everyone to continue to reach out as the discussion continues regarding the AHCA.
— U.S. Rep. Scott Perry is the Republican congressman from Dillsburg.
Editor's Note: The York Dispatch policy is to use accompanying art to illustrate opinion pieces on the website. When contacted by U.S. Rep. Scott Perry's office, editors agreed to switch out the photo immediately because it did not adequately illustrate the letter it accompanied.