I rise today to speak in favor of the American Health Care Act – a bill that repeals many of the worst aspects of Obamacare and begins to repair the damage caused by the law by bringing choice, competition and patient-centered solutions back into our health care system.
Standing here in the House debating this bill is a proud moment for me. I was working as a nurse in Nashville in the 1990s when, fresh off the failure of HillaryCare, the Clinton administration pushed a single-payer pilot program in Tennessee called TennCare. Vice President Gore and the Democratic governor sketched out the program on a napkin while sitting at a local bar.
I saw first-hand the negative impact government-run health care has on patient care. I saw costs rise and the quality of care fall. I saw the burdens being placed on doctors, hospitals, and other health care providers. I saw patients faced with fewer choices and more regulations. And I saw the devastating impact TennCare was having on the state’s budget, gobbling up so much state spending that other priorities like education and infrastructure were getting squeezed.
I couldn’t sit idly by while this was happening in my state, so I decided to get involved in public service. It’s what inspired me to run for office. And when, in 2009 and 2010, I saw the same principles being debated and eventually implemented on the national level, I thought my experience in Tennessee could be valuable to the national debate.
I told the people of my district that if elected to Congress, I would fight to repeal and replace Obamacare. In 2011, I sponsored the first piece of legislation that repealed part of Obamacare. And today, we take the largest step yet in rescuing the American people from the damage done by Obamacare.
We are united in our goal: to repeal Obamacare and replace it with patient-centered health care. Right now, Obamacare is imploding. We were promised premiums would decrease by $2,500; instead, average family premiums in the employer-market soared by $4,300. We were promised health care costs would go down; instead, deductibles have skyrocketed. We were promised we could keep our doctor and our health insurance plans; instead, millions of Americans lost the insurance and the doctors that they liked.
In short, the Affordable Care Act was neither affordable, nor did it provide the quality of care that the American people deserve.
The American Health Care Act is a first step in our efforts to deliver patient-centered health care reform. This bill seeks to return to the American people freedom and choice in their health care decisions. It gets government out of the relationship between patients and their doctors and puts people back in charge of their own health care. And it brings the free-market principle of competition to an industry that has long been dominated by government intervention.
Today we are faced with a stark choice. Do we vote to continue the damage Obamacare is doing to our country and our constituents or do we vote to go down another path – a better way of doing health care in this country.
While no legislation is perfect, this bill does accomplish some important reforms. It zeroes out the mandates. It repeals the taxes. It repeals the subsidies. It allows people to choose health insurance plans to meet the unique needs of their families, instead of purchasing one-size-fits-all plans mandated by a Washington bureaucrat. And it modernizes Medicaid, a once in a lifetime entitlement reform. Ending Medicaid’s open-ended funding structure will play an important role in addressing future budget deficits and our growing national debt.
I applaud my colleagues who have stayed in this fight and continued to make this bill better. The members of the Budget Committee, which I chair, outlined four principles they believed would improve the bill. Those principles led to significant changes to allow more state flexibility in Medicaid and ensure that the tax credits truly serve the people they’re meant to. Others fought to eliminate federal Obamacare regulations that drive up the cost of health care for all Americans and give those powers back to the states. At the same time, we also ensure that states have the resources to provide maternity and newborn care and treatment for mental health and substance abuse.
I agreed with these changes and applaud my colleagues’ work to make sure we truly reverse the damage Obamacare is doing to our health care system and our economy.
Obamacare’s legacy is clear: more government, less choice, and higher costs. Our vision for health care in America is the opposite: more freedom, more choice, lower costs.
Put simply, the American Health Care Act is a good first step, but it is only our first step. My good friend and our former colleague, Dr. Tom Price, will use his position as Secretary of Health and Human Services to address some of the regulatory burden of Obamacare through administrative action. And we have voted already and will continue to vote on individual pieces of legislation to implement even more patient-centered, free market reforms that we cannot address through reconciliation. In fact, we just passed two bills already this week. One would allow small businesses to join together to purchase insurance and the other would increase competition by tearing down antitrust regulations. That bill received 416 votes. This shows that these bills are common sense measures that includes bipartisan support.
The day is finally here where we have an opportunity to fulfill the promise we’ve made to the American people. I, for one, cannot sit idly by and let this opportunity go to waste. Campaigning is easy, compared to governing. But our constituents did not elect us to do what is easy. They elected us to do what is right.
I urge my colleagues to join me in voting yes on the American Health Care Act to rescue the American people from Obamacare.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. And I reserve the balance of my time.