As you may know, the ACA, commonly referred to as Obamacare, was signed into law on March 23, 2010. Since then, as I have traveled around Wisconsin, I have heard from countless individuals whose families or businesses have been harmed as a direct result of the ACA. Businesses, policy experts, government actuaries, and even some supporters of the law have confirmed what the country already knew: the ACA is bad policy. The law has spent trillions of dollars we do not have, raised taxes on workers, businesses and families, and put the federal government squarely in the middle of health care decisions. In forcing Americans to buy government-approved insurance plans that they do not like, do not need, and cannot afford, Obamacare hurts more people than it helps.
Congress continues to have the responsibility to advance solutions that strengthen health care security by taking power away from the government and insurance companies, and empowering patients with control over their care instead. These solutions should realign incentives so that individuals and their doctors – not government bureaucrats or insurance company bureaucrats – are the nucleus of our health care system. This requires reforms, which I have introduced in the past, to equalize the tax treatment of health care insurance, invite true choice and competition, and ensure critical programs like Medicare and Medicaid can deliver on their promises in the 21st century.
From the start, our approach to repeal and replace Obamacare has been a step-by-step process. Over eight months ago, for example, during the previous Congress, House Republicans introduced a health care policy rollout as part of our bold, clear, conservative agenda, “A Better Way: Our Vision for a Confident America.” We outlined our vision for repealing and replacing Obamacare and achieving patient-centered reform in “A Better Way,” and continue to work with a president committed to ending the nightmare that is Obamacare to pass legislation based on that vision. In order to fully and effectively fulfill our duty to show the country what our ideas look like in action, we need to deliver relief from the ACA’s taxes and mandates and lay the groundwork for a 21st century health care system.
This is why, on March 20, 2017, Representative Diane Black introduced H.R. 1628, the American Health Care Act (AHCA). This fiscally responsible legislation – the first of three intended phases of our comprehensive plan for health care reform – would not only repeal Obamacare, but replace it with the patient-centered reforms Americans need. The AHCA would create more choices, lower costs, and give back control to individuals and families – and in the process, move decisions away from Washington and into state programs, doctors’ offices, and family living rooms.
On March 20, 2017, the House Committee on the Budget ordered H.R. 1628 to be reported to the House floor. This occurred after the House Committee on Energy and Commerce and the House Committee on Ways and Means separately convened on March 8, 2017, to provide legislative and reconciliation recommendations to the AHCA, geared towards the effective repeal and replacement of Obamacare. The combined markup processes lasted for an exhausting 45 hours –18 hours in Ways and Means and 27 hours in Energy and Commerce – and clearly indicate a thorough, careful, and committed effort to help Americans finally have access to affordable health care. On March 24, 2017, further consideration of H.R. 1628 on the House floor was postponed.
While the postponement of the AHCA is disappointing, I am proud of the bill we produced, as well as of the long, inclusive, member-driven process that we had. The AHCA would make a dramatic improvement in our health care system and provide relief to those hurting under Obamacare. The strong and sustainable foundation it would provide for families and taxpayers would allow for further legislative efforts and regulatory relief to build on its bold reforms, enhance competition, promote federalism and, most importantly, empower patients with more choices, greater purchasing power, and the peace of mind that comes with enjoying reliable coverage that fits their wants and needs. Patients should be the focal point of our health care system. They – not politicians or Washington bureaucrats – should be able to make choices about their own care, and insurance companies should compete for their business, not enjoy mandates that force people to buy plans they can neither afford nor use. Left unchecked, the damage wrought by Obamacare will continue to spin out of control, get worse, and harm more patients and families. Its very structure has proven fundamentally unworkable and unsustainable. This is why we must – and we will – do better. This is not the end of our efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare. Moving forward, there remains much we can do to help improve the lives of Americans. That is – as it has always been – why I’m here: to make a better country. We want American families to feel more confident and the next generation to know that the best days of this great nation are still ahead of us.