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COLUMN: Responding to Questions and Concerns from Central Washingtonians

March 27, 2015
Weekly Column and Op-Ed
By Rep. Dan Newhouse

An important part of serving in Congress is responding to questions from constituents on a range of topics, from Obamacare to national security and religious persecution abroad. I always look forward to hearing from constituents who contact my office by telephone, email, or letters. These questions often touch on important issues facing our country, and some deserve a wider audience, which is why I would like to share a couple with you.

One retired constituent from Central Washington emailed my office with this question: How do you plan on repealing the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, and what will take its place? She asked because under Obamacare, her health insurance has become less affordable. She is in good health, and before Obamacare took effect, she paid a premium of $232 per month for group health insurance with a $500 deductible. Now, she pays $475 per month and has a $5500 deductible. In addition to paying a much higher premium, her income was mistakenly underestimated by the state health exchange, and she had to pay back more than $2000 on her taxes, which she had to withdraw from her IRA.

This month was the fifth anniversary of Obamacare, which has placed the burden of higher premiums and technical glitches on many American families and individuals. Stories like these are why I voted last month in support of repealing Obamacare. Americans deserve more choices for affordable healthcare, not a top-down, government-centered approach that jeopardizes access to doctors and cancels health insurance plans the President promised Americans they could keep. Congress is working to replace Obamacare with a patient-centered plan that would make insurance more affordable by ending federal mandates. Replacing Obamacare should include the freedom to purchase insurance across state lines and protection for patients with preexisting conditions. Obamacare is simply a mess of government bureaucracy and regulations: we must replace this disastrous law with a system that works.

Another constituent from Okanogan County shared her profound concern about the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria’s (ISIS) ongoing persecution of minority Christians in Iraq, many of whom are trying to flee the country. ISIS is a brutal terrorist organization seeking to spread civil unrest in the Middle East and create a single, transnational Islamic state based in Sharia law. Since its military offensive last June, ISIS has claimed territory in Iraq and Syria. Within the territory under its control, ISIS has displaced more than two million people and ruthlessly murdered thousands.

As a new member of the Religious Minorities in the Middle East Caucus, I will work with my colleagues in Congress to support religious minorities, including the Christians in Iraq, to counter threats in the Middle East. The horrific executions of American citizens and citizens of allied countries by ISIS have shown that Islamic extremism is still alive and well, and we can’t ignore the threat posed to America and our allies. I will continue to urge President Obama to pursue a strong foreign policy that protects U.S. interests and defends the freedoms of religious minorities.