No More Obamacare

By Congressman John C. Fleming, M.D.

President Obama compared his failing health care law to a starter home that needs improvements. A few more major renovations and it should be good to go, or so he believes. The President even offered solutions to addressing the law’s most troubling areas, including combating skyrocketing premiums and the fact that young people still have not signed up for it. But no matter how many repairs the President proposes, you cannot salvage a house with a faulty foundation. Instead of applying patches on the failing law, it’s time to start over and build again.

As a family practice physician with a health care clinic in Louisiana, quality medicine and personal care has been at the forefront of my career. In fact, my desire to reform the American health system played a key role in my decision to run for Congress in 2008.

Obamacare changed health care as we knew it, but ultimately continues to fail Louisianians and Americans across this nation.

Following the initial passage of the law, twenty-three Consumer Operated and Oriented Plans (CO-OPs) were established as an alternative to the public health care option, and intended to stimulate the private health insurance market.  Since then all but six plans have collapsed because of financial losses, leaving hundreds of thousands of Americans without insurance. Worse yet, the individual mandate – taxing people who don’t get insurance – remains in place, even for those who bought insurance through a CO-OP.

Last month the House passed H.R. 954, the CO-OP Consumer Protection Act, to exempt people who received health insurance through a CO-OP from the individual mandate and its taxes. I voted in favor of H.R. 954, and continue to be a strong advocate for the full repeal of Obamacare.

We all know it’s not working, the real question is, “What’s next?”

From my perspective, we need a common-sense system that makes health care affordable, allows patients to maintain control of their own medical choices, and supports the conscience rights of medical professionals, insurance companies, hospitals and clinics.

First, we can make insurance premiums more affordable for everyone by allowing consumers to purchase insurance across state lines and encouraging young healthy individuals to purchase health insurance by actually allowing them to purchase affordable plans that meet their limited needs.

Next, it needs to put patients back in charge of their own care, instead of the government trying to make those decisions for us. One way is to expand health savings accounts or HSAs which empower people to set aside resources for expected and unexpected health needs.

That’s why I introduced H.R. 3006, the HSA Health Care Choices Act, to encourage Americans to plan and save for health care costs. Health savings accounts are a key aspect of patient-centered and market-based care.

Specifically, my legislation would increase the maximum contribution limit and allow an HSA to be used to purchase health insurance premiums, over the counter medications, and pre-paid physician fees. It also permits HSAs to be passed on to future generations as a tax-exempt account, and allows a beneficiary to pay for another’s medical expenses using an HSA. I’m proud of this legislation and hope to see it up for a vote soon.

As a business owner I also see how HSA’s could save on health care costs by encouraging individual patients to invest as consumers, which is the second need of any common-sense health care bill: affordability and choice. We want to bring consumer choice back into health care, and we want this to be a patient-centered plan where health care providers compete on price and quality so consumers can make the best choice.

And lastly, for our next health care system to truly work for everyone, it must include conscience protections for medical professionals. The House recently passed legislation that I’ve been working on since 2011, the Conscience Protection Act, to ensure no one is forced to participate in abortion in any way, and for any reason.

I worked as a part of the Republican Study Committee Health Task Force to introduce a bill, the American Health Care Reform Act, that includes many of the same critical factors I’ve outlined above. It also won’t create any new taxes or mandates, and instead will encourage competitive markets to personalize and lower the cost of insurance coverage. It also supports free market innovation and research to find cures for today’s most prevalent diseases.

The time has come to repeal Obamacare and replace it with common-sense health care that gives all Americans quality care they can afford. They certainly can’t afford any more patches on the failing system we have now.

Dr. John Fleming is Chairman of the Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans and is a member of the House Armed Services Committee. He is a physician, small business owner, and co-founder of the House Freedom Caucus. He represents the 4th Congressional District of Louisiana.

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