It’s no secret that my organization, FreedomWorks, had serious concerns with the American Health Care Act. The amendment negotiated by Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-N.J.) and Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) to allow states to define their own community rating and essential health benefits was a step in the right direction, but further improvements must be made as the bill works its way through the Senate. As Meadows said during the House debate over the AHCA, “The American people are going to care about one thing, and that’s premiums going down.”
It’s a tall order — especially given today’s political climate and the endless onslaught of liberal outrage. But the Senate must ensure that more is being done to bring down premium costs. And we know that they can do it because we’ve seen them spearhead a repeal in the past.
In October 2015, the House passed a relatively weak repeal bill, the Restoring Americans’ Healthcare Freedom Reconciliation Act. It repealed only some parts of ObamaCare, such as the individual and employer mandates and the medical device tax, but it left the costly tax credits and cost-sharing subsidies in place. A couple of months later, the Senate passed an amended bill, repealing the costly entitlement spending, Medicaid expansion, and nearly all of ObamaCare’s taxes.
The Senate saved the repeal effort, and the House signed off on the changes, sending the bill to President Obama’s desk. Even though he vetoed the bill, the final version of the Restoring Americans’ Healthcare Freedom Reconciliation Act became the baseline for repeal under a Republican president.
In this Congress, the Senate, once again, has an opportunity to save the repeal effort, as well as produce a viable patient-centered alternative to ObamaCare that is grounded in free market solutions. What’s more, they will do so under a Republican president, which means that their repeal/replace legislation can actually become a reality.
Right now, the Senate is only in the early stages of reviewing the American Health Care Act. Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellHouse to act on debt ceiling next week White House warns GOP of serious consequences on debt ceiling Lindsey Graham: Police need 'to take a firm line' with Sept. 18 rally attendees MORE (R-Ky.) has formed a working group on health care, which includes Sens. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzMore than 10,000 migrants await processing under bridge in Texas Senators slow Biden with holds at Pentagon, State The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by National Industries for the Blind - Schumer: Dem unity will happen eventually; Newsom prevails MORE (R-Texas) and Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeEconomy adds just 235K jobs in August as delta hammers growth Lawmakers flooded with calls for help on Afghanistan exit Afghanistan fiasco proves we didn't leave soon enough MORE (R-Utah). The inclusion of these staunch constitutional conservatives, who were elected on their promises to repeal ObamaCare, should allow grassroots conservatives to hope for a better bill.
A better bill will include several key facets. It should protect the modernization of Medicaid and the expansion of health savings accounts (HSAs) in the American Health Care Act. The flexibility given to states through block grants or per capita funding for Medicaid will control costs for this 52-year-old program. Expanded HSAs would give Americans a greater number of lower-cost options for their health care, which will, in turn, promote competition in the insurance market, reducing costs overall.
Above all, however, while the Senate must ensure that Americans with preexisting conditions aren’t priced out of coverage, it must also do more to repeal or give states flexibility to opt out of ObamaCare’s community rating and essential health benefits. A recent Heritage Foundation analysis found that 44 to 68 percent of health insurance premium increases were caused by Title I of ObamaCare. Patients across the country need relief from high premium costs, and the Senate does no one any favors by hesitating or delaying.
The upper chamber has saved this effort before, and America is ready for them to do it again. Leader McConnell should continue to look to conservatives like Sens. Cruz and Lee and conservative groups so that Congress can truly deliver on Republicans’ promises of ObamaCare repeal.
The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.