“As Republicans, we have a choice. We can act now, or we can keep fiddling around and squander this opportunity,” said Kevin Brady (R- Texas), chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. Brady addressed reporters on Tuesday with Greg Walden (R-Oregon), who co-wrote the Republican proposal.
The proposal devolves power and decision-making back to the states, restores the free market to health insurance, and provides $10 billion a year from Congress to the states to subsidize Medicaid and ensure continuing coverage, Walden and Brady said. Tax credits toward healthcare would be available immediately, grow with age, expand with family, and transfer with employment.
“This is unprecedented freedom,” Brady said.
“We have crafted the biggest entitlement reform in the past 20 years,” said Walden, who sits on the Energy and Commerce Committee, where the proposal originated.
In contrast with the 2,400 pages of the ACA “written in the dark of night,” the new bill is just over 100 pages and available to the American public, Walden said.
“I encourage them to actually read the bill, find out what’s in it,” he added, referencing Nancy Pelosi’s (D-California) famous phrase about the original ACA, when she was House majority leader.
The new bill restores free markets and “rescues Americans from failures of the Affordable Care Act,” Brady said. “More people have opted out of Obamacare than are taking it. And those who have it, frankly, can’t use it.”
Walden backed him up by citing the Congressional Budget Office’s claim that 21 million would be covered, when it reality that number was 10 million, with young people choosing to pay the penalties instead.
“This insurance market is collapsing before our eyes,” the Oregon Republican said, pointing out that 225 counties across the US had only one insurance option last year, with that number growing to 1,022 in 2017, “and that was before Humana pulled out.”
“We’ve arrived to the scene of a pretty big wreck and we’re trying to clean up the mess,” Walden said.
The bill would also eliminate federal funding for Planned Parenthood and redirect the money to community health centers, so women would continue having access to healthcare. Pre-existing conditions would continue to be covered under the proposal, though there would be a penalty for letting the coverage lapse, as some people would game the system to avoid paying premiums under Obamacare by quitting the plan for three months then re-upping, Walden claimed.
Democrats have denounced the efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, dubbed “Obamacare,” by saying it would “Make America sick again,” in reference to President Donald Trump’s campaign slogan. Some Republicans have also been critical of the proposed replacement, calling it “Obamacare lite” or “Obamacare 2.0” and arguing it does not go far enough.