Capitol Hill is quiet this time of year. Congress is out of session. All the senators and representatives have scattered to their respective districts, except the U.S. House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee. The committee’s leader, U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady from Texas (R-Woodlands), called lawmakers back to Washington to map out the imminent repeal of the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare.
Brady says the House Republicans have been working on a plan to repeal Obamacare for years. They’re calling it “A Better Way Agenda.” His committee has spent several days in the Library of Congress hammering out more details to their plan.
“[It’s] how we would solve the six biggest problems facing America,” he says. “One of them being that Obamacare has hurt more people than it’s helped.”
Nationwide, the number of uninsured people in 2015 is at 28.6 million – 9.1 percent of the nation’s population – down 7.4 million from 2014. Texas’ uninsured population is down to 8.6 percent.
In the first full year of the Affordable Care Act, the nation saw a large increase in coverage for marginalized populations who had, since then, been without insurance coverage and a plan for health care.
Obamacare is a contentious issue among Republicans and Democrats. And President-elect Trump has made it one of his priorities to repeal and replace the law.
But Brady says the Better Way Agenda would still keep some aspects of the Affordable Care Act.
Young adults would still be able to remain on their parents’ insurance plans until they are 26 years old and people with pre-existing conditions, who might have been denied insurance otherwise, will still be able to get insurance.
“We think it’s important that people be able to be covered,” Brady says. “Instead of that mandate which forced everyone into health care they can’t afford, we’re going to create some incentives [for] Americans if they keep basic coverage throughout their lifetime. So when they get that cancer or that very very expensive disease that the treatments the medicines are very high, we can make sure they’re covered without big spikes in the health care premiums.”
Brady says the goal is to give Americans a wide choice in plans, instead of current plans that rank insurance through Bronze, Silver, gold and Platinum levels. The current plan doesn’t work, Brady says.
“Then half of Texans who were forced to buy plans or pay taxes have figured out we’d rather pay a tax than be forced into a plan that we don’t want and can’t afford,” he says. “So that tells you right now that mandate doesn’t work. What we’re proposing is to replace, over time, that big huge wooly mammoth of a bureaucracy that people call Obamacare and replace it with the concept of a healthcare backpack so every American can choose a plan that’s right for them that travels with them throughout their lifetime – job to job, state to state.”
With the health care “backpack”, Brady says easy access to health savings accounts would be available, as well as an option for people to control their own medical records.
Brady says the Trump administration is already involved in the repeal process.
“We’re working with President-elect Trump’s transition team on both the health care and tax reform and infrastructure as well,” he says. “We’re all headed in the same direction. We know that repealing Obamacare and finding a plan – creating plans that are focused on what Americans need, not Washington, is going to be one of the president’s new priorities.”
Post by Beth Cortez-Neavel.