Jul 28 2017
Last night was a setback for health care reform. There is no way around that.
But it may also be a blessing in disguise.
The bill we were voting on, what many in the media were referring to as a “skinny” repeal bill, was truly an anemic effort. While it did repeal the individual mandate permanently, it provided only temporary relief from the employer mandate and medical device tax. It also left the rest of the Affordable Care Act’s regulations, taxes, and subsidies completely intact. By some estimates it repealed just two percent of Obamacare.
Even worse then the product we were voting on was the process that led to last night’s vote.
The bill we voted on around 1:30 this morning was only released about three hours before. It was only a handful of pages, so there was time to read it (for a change). But there was no serious debate or deliberation about its contents. Amendments could be offered, but without reports from the Congressional Budget Office about their impact on the economy and the federal budget, they required 60 votes for passage.
The bill was written in secret, with no input from either the formal congressional committees charged with oversight of our health care system, or the informal working group assigned by our leadership to craft the legislation.
My preferred amendment sat at CBO for four weeks without being given a “score” detailing its projected costs and benefits. My colleague Ron Johnson (R-WI) waited four months for a CBO report on various Obamacare provisions, without any response.
This is not the way the Senate is supposed to work. It is not the way a free people is supposed to govern itself.
When the bill failed, many declared the issue dead. But as long as Obamacare is on the books, hurting millions of Americans and driving up the cost of healthcare, this issue isn’t going anywhere.
We must now go back to the drawing board. We must to go back to the proper committees of jurisdiction and start from the beginning by identifying the specific policy problems we are trying to solve and then craft reforms to solve them.
The United States is a large, vibrant, and diverse country. There is no reason to assume the health care policies that work in a state with the demographics of Florida will also work in a state like Utah.
What we need to identify is a politically palatable way to give states the freedom needed to craft their own health care solutions. At the heart of this effort must be true freedom from the federal regulations that are the main drivers of our nation’s rising health care costs.