Today, the Ways and Means Committee, chaired by Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX), held a hearing on the rising cost of health care premiums under the Affordable Care Act. Members and witnesses discussed how the law’s top-down, one-size-fits-all mandates and regulations have driven up premiums and out-of-pocket costs while limiting access to the care patients need and deserve.
As Chairman Brady said at the start of the hearing:
“Over six years have passed since President Obama and Democrats in Congress drafted the Affordable Care Act behind closed doors and forced it into our homes, workplaces, and doctors offices. Since then, the law has been one broken promise after another – starting with the promise in its very title: ‘Affordable.’ Millions of Americans have seen the cost of health care increase to astonishing levels while quality, choice, and access have hit new lows.”
“The truth about this law is that it has never expanded access to affordable, high-quality health care of an individual’s choosing – and it never will.“
Despite billions of taxpayer dollars pouring into the ACA, the law is failing to deliver on its promises. Just yesterday, President Obama admitted that the government-run marketplace he himself championed has failed to make health care affordable for many Americans.
According to the Council for Affordable Health Coverage, median proposed premiums are expected to rise by an average of 19% next year – the second year in a row Americans face a double-digit premium increase – with no end in sight. Joel White, President of the Council for Affordable Health Coverage, discussed what these failures and rising costs mean for patients:
“Health costs are too high and rising too fast. In fact, costs continue to rise faster than the economy, while premiums are increasing about three times faster than wages. As a result, by 2030 the typical family will spend more than 50 percent of their income on health care.”
A doctor, a patient, a husband, and a father, Rep. Charles Boustany (R-LA) expressed his frustration with the law:
“Less choice, less information, less control—this is disastrous for health care. I think it’s truly pathetic. I’m upset, I’m angry about what has happened to my beloved profession: medicine. And at the same time, as a patient, the husband of a patient, the father of patients, I’m really worried about what this is doing.
“We’re seeing the costs going up, and of course with the President imposing higher taxpayer liability on top of this, on top of the higher premiums, the higher copays, out of pocket expenses, we’re going in the wrong direction. This is a failure. And we better recognize it as such, and take steps.”
Health Subcommittee Chairman Pat Tiberi (R-OH) shared how Ohioans in his district are suffering under the rising costs of Obamacare:
“Real people are experiencing problems in their health care who didn’t have problems before. We’ve created new problems because of the health care bill – all maybe unintentionally by the way. Let me tell you about [one couple] from Westerville, Ohio. They worked their entire lives. They both retired, and since the Affordable Care Act has passed, they’ve experienced 75 percent – 75 percent – increase in premiums.”
As Obamacare CO-OPs continue to fail across the country and patients continue to lose their coverage because of insurers exiting the marketplace, Rep. Dave Reichert (R-WA) shared that thousands of patients in his home state are facing limited options:
“Premera Blue Cross and LifeWise Health Plan of Washington, a subsidiary of Premera, announced that they will completely withdraw from Washington Health Benefit Exchange in 12 counties in Washington State. The result is thousands of my constituents will lose their health plan and be forced into another, whether they like it or not. Or, they will be taxed for failing to sign up for a health care plan.”
Rep. Sam Johnson (R-TX) used an example from his hometown of Plano to highlight another Obamacare failure – patients not being able to find a doctor:
“[The Lyles] reached out to about twenty doctors but not one of the doctors took their insurance. … The Lyles’ story is becoming all-too-common as health insurers are narrowing their networks in an attempt to keep costs down.”
To put it plainly, Mr. White said:
“Having a choice of one is no real choice at all.”
Through the “A Better Way” agenda, House Republicans have put forward a roadmap for repealing Obamacare and replacing it with a 21st century, patient-centered health care system. As a doctor, Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) knows what should be done. He said:
“What we invite our friends on the other side to do is to please recognize that there are people that are hurting, and that they need help. Which is why what we’ve tried to do is to put forward positive solutions. Our friends say we don’t have a plan – we’ve put forward ‘A Better Way.’ A better way to address challenges that we face in all sorts of areas, not the least of which is health care. And in health care, a better way means patients, and families, and doctors are making medical decisions and nobody else.”
As Chairman Brady recognized:
“People across our country all want the certainty of knowing they will have access to the care they need when they need it most. This is what Americans deserve, and it’s what our Committee will keep fighting to deliver.”