From 2010 to 2016, the Republican Party voted more than 60 times to repeal Obamacare. The repeal of this catastrophically failed law was our central campaign promise. In exchange, the voters rewarded us with the House and the Senate, and in January of this year, the presidency.
As many have heard, now that Republicans have control of the federal government, repeal has not been easy. The Republican alternative bill was pulled from the floor after it became clear we did not have the votes. Many at home have asked what happened, and though my part was only a small piece of the overall back-and-forth that ultimately resulted in the bill’s failure, I wanted to explain my thinking so that people at home can decide whether I have represented them as they expect.
I ran on a platform of repealing Obamacare, and I said as much to the thousands of people I met on the way to becoming an elected official. I badly want to fulfill that promise, so I was predisposed to support the measure when it was introduced. It lacked a key feature, however: repeal of the Obamacare insurance regulations.
These are the beating heart of Obamacare. Everything else in the law — the individual mandate, the subsidies, the bailout payments to insurers, the employer mandate — are in place to try and make those regulations work. For instance, the essential health-benefits mandate requires all insurance policies to provide certain types of care. It doesn’t matter if you need maternity care or not, mental-health care or not, you have to buy an insurance policy that covers it. It’s similar to making someone buy an 18-wheeler when a compact will do. As a result, health insurance is now much more expensive, because everyone now has to buy one-size-fits-all policies.
This and other regulations are the reason Blue Cross has announced a 24.3 percent premium increase this year. The high premiums drive more healthy people out of exchanges, and the people left become sicker and harder to cover, so the price rises further. Then the cycle continues. My point would be that any bill that does not address these regulations is not going to work, if you define “working” as allowing people to buy insurance for a reasonable price.
Republicans who say not to make the perfect the enemy of the good are speaking wisely. There will indeed be changes to the legislation now that the Republican Party has to govern. Purity is much harder when you’re running for office versus when millions of Americans’ health insurance is on the line. The tax credits in the bill created a new government program that will cost many billions, something I’m not in love with from a free-market philosophical perspective. But those concessions to political reality cannot result in a bill that will not function as intended. The stakes are too high.
So when I pushed throughout the process for the repeal of the regulations, I was not doing so because I agree with Friedman economics or some lofty academic ideals. I was doing it because I felt it was necessary for our country.
The bill was released to the public on March 6. It was also at that point that the office phones started ringing. I received roughly 2,000 calls from constituents across the ideological spectrum over the course of the debate. Perhaps 100 were in support of the legislation.When the final version of the bill came down, on March 21, I read it over. It did not include the repeal of a single Title I regulation. After some deliberation, I sent out a statement saying that I could not support the bill as it was. Many conservative organizations followed with the announcement that they were fully against, including the Heritage Foundation, Club For Growth, FreedomWorks and Americans for Prosperity.
On March 24 it was clear the bill didn’t have the votes to pass and it was pulled from the House floor. Conservatives like me opposed it, as did more moderate Republican members. It was a big news story, but the reality is that most legislative ideas aren’t successful. The ones that do succeed are the result of hard and patient work, as is anything that is worth doing. Obamacare, however terrible it is, took nine months to get into law. It isn’t surprising to me that a bill that people tried to pass in 18 days wasn’t successful.
The Republican Party could pass this newspaper that you’re reading into law and claim we had repealed Obamacare, but the taxpayer will know the difference in his or her pocketbook. That fact has made it easy to resist the pressure from Washington, and to stay committed to the promise I made during the campaign: I will work to fully repeal Obamacare, and to replace it with an alternative that works.
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