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COLUMN: Despite Setback, Effort to Improve Health Care Must Continue

March 27, 2017
Weekly Column and Op-Ed

Republicans in Congress have long promised to repeal and replace President Obama’s flawed health law. In spite of the individual mandate forcing Americans to purchase insurance plans as dictated by the federal government, declining choices, rising premiums, and increased out-of-pocket costs have rendered health care unaffordable for far too many American families. Simply having an insurance card does not equate access to affordable, quality health care services. We must transition to a post-Obamacare health system. Despite the disappointing setback last week in the U.S. House of Representatives, we must continue the work to return control over Americans’ health care to individuals, not the government.

I have heard many stories from Washingtonians who are suffering from the high costs of rising premiums and deductibles under the current system. A constituent from the Tri-Cities recently emailed my office urging action because the price of his family’s medical premiums is doubling, and their deductible have quadrupled since Obamacare’s enactment. Another constituent from Adams County called because the cost to provide health insurance to his small business’s employees jumped from $8,000 to $30,000. While Obamacare has helped some, others continue to struggle under the law.

Obamacare has resulted in fewer and fewer options for Washingtonians in the individual insurance market. In 2016, 143 plans were offered on the state exchange by 12 insurers. Now in 2017, there are only 98 plans offered by nine insurers. In one-third of counties across America, including Klickitat and San Juan counties, there is only a single insurer in the marketplace. The status quo is moving in the wrong direction for Washingtonians who want more choices.

Remember the promise that “if you like your health care plan, you'll be able to keep your health care plan?” My constituents who liked their plans still remember, although they lost those plans. A report from the Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner (OIC) found that from 2014 to 2015, a total of 837,500 people enrolled in the Obamacare exchange plus Medicaid. Yet the commissioner also noted that only 470,000 people overall were newly-insured since Obamacare became law. These enrollment numbers suggest that around 300,000 Washingtonians ended up losing their existing health insurance plans. In fact, OIC’s own reports concedes that Washingtonian lost their plans due to Obamacare.

Obamacare is not working, which is why I voted in 2016 to repeal it, only to see that effort vetoed by President Obama. Now, under President Trump and with Republican majorities in both houses of Congress, we must continue to work to fulfill our promise to transition to a health future that increases access to affordable insurance options while restoring individual freedom.