IndyStar Op Ed by Rep. Messer: American Health Care Act will help Hoosiers

Though Obamacare helped some, it left a vast majority of folks in our state worse off

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Washington, DC, May 31, 2017 | comments

The following Op Ed ran in the Indianapolis Star on May 12, 2017.

Some facts are hard to dispute, and despite the recent outcry from some, the facts surrounding Obamacare are clear. Most Hoosiers do not like Obamacare, and they’ve been voting for six years to stop it. For three election cycles, Hoosiers have sent Republicans to the House, Senate and the White House – all on the promise to repeal this failed law.

And for good reason. Though Obamacare helped some, it left a vast majority of folks in our state worse off. Premiums soared 70 percent in Indiana. Despite promises to the contrary, tens of thousands of Hoosiers lost their plans and their doctors. Many people have less coverage and less choice today than ever before.

I’ve heard from countless Hoosiers who tell me the same story of their monthly premiums rising from $500 to $1,500, and their deductibles jumping to $10,000 or $12,000 a year. As a result, these families are spending $30,000 out-of-pocket before even reaching their insurance. For a middle-class family, that’s not insurance at all.

In Indiana, half of our original insurance providers have fled the Obamacare market, leaving portions of our state with only one or two options on the exchange. Nationwide, one in three counties has access to only one Obamacare insurance provider. With options like these, it’s no surprise more people opted to go without insurance than purchase an Obamacare plan, even in the face of a government fine.

In response to Obamacare’s many failures, the House has passed legislation to finally repeal Obamacare and replace it with something better. The American Health Care Act uses market-based principles to increase competition, drive down health costs and put people back in charge of their care.

Though it is not a finished product, the American Health Care Act represents a transformational change from Obamacare. It cuts taxes by hundreds of billions of dollars, and reduces government by hundreds of billions too. Most importantly, it unshackles American families from the mandates and penalties that are costing them thousands of dollars each year.

The biggest point of contention during this debate has been over pre-existing condition protections. Ensuring our most vulnerable can get the best care at a cost they can afford is vital, and it has been a priority every step of the way. Despite the rhetoric, the American Healthcare Act keeps these protections, but does so in a way that prevents colossal price hikes for everyone else.

Under our bill, no one can be denied coverage on the basis of a pre-existing condition, and insurers cannot raise patients’ premiums on the basis of a pre-existing condition, as long as the patient has maintained continuous health care coverage. For those who don’t maintain continuous coverage, the bill sets aside billions of dollars to help offset higher premiums. And, after one year, any new entrant in the market must receive the same rates as those who have paid through their lifetime.

Under Obamacare, many individuals waited until they got sick to sign up for insurance coverage because paying the government penalty was more palatable than settling for a costly Obamacare plan. This led to premium increases which further drove up the cost of insurance for everyone. Our bill incentivizes individuals to maintain continuous coverage to protect against this, while freeing up the market so that people can get plans they actually want.

In addition to these protections, our bill gives states flexibility to innovate with new models to reduce costs and improve patient outcomes, like we do in Indiana with our Healthy Indiana Plan. The best solutions to care for our citizens come from the ground-up, not from a one-size-fits-all federal mandate.

There is more work to be done on the American Health Care Act, and it will continue to improve as it moves through the Senate. As I told my colleagues on the House Floor last week, it's race month in Indiana. To speak in Indianapolis 500 terms, the recent vote in the House was a green flag, not a checkered one. It’s just the beginning of the race, not the end.

But I remain confident we will get this bill across the finish line, improve health care in our state and country, and make good on our promise to Hoosiers.

Messer is a Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Indiana.

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