As the House convenes for the Second Session of the 114th Congress, it is important to get off to a strong start. That’s why I’m pleased the very first bill to be considered this year is a plan to repeal Obamacare and begin the process of replacing it with healthcare policy that works.
It is past time for this law to go. Under Obamacare, many in Alabama and throughout the country lost the health plans they liked. Many have been forced to go to different doctors, to say nothing of the doctors who stopped practicing altogether. Premiums skyrocketed and many middle class families are being impacted by new taxes, fees and penalties.
I wouldn’t blame you for thinking, “So what? The House has voted to repeal Obamacare dozens of times.” It’s true that my colleagues and I in the House have voted more than 50 times to repeal, defund or replace the president’s health care law. And, each time, our efforts are ultimately blocked in the Senate, where Republicans lack the 60 votes needed to overcome a Democratic filibuster.
What’s different this time? This time our plan was carefully crafted to follow the Senate’s special “Reconciliation” rule that allows certain budget-related legislation to go through by a majority vote regardless of a filibuster. The Senate came through in late 2015 passing the Obamacare repeal reconciliation package by a vote of 52-47. That means when the House takes up and passes the measure first thing this year, we will finally send a bill repealing Obamacare to the president’s desk.
Some may quibble that this is somehow an empty gesture. After all, President Obama will never sign a bill repealing his signature legislative achievement and the law that bears his name.
However, as veteran lawmakers like Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) and Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) have pointed out, forcing a veto puts accountability for this deceptive, costly healthcare law squarely on President Obama. It also sends a clear message to the American people that, under a new president in 2017, Congress stands ready to replace this disastrous law with healthcare policies that put patients first.
That’s a message I believe will be well-received, especially now. Just as Obamacare mandates and penalties have started setting in, many signing up for health plans are facing “higher premiums, fewer doctors and skimpier coverage,” according to The Wall Street Journal. For those who do get coverage, the out-of-pocket expenses of actually seeing a doctor have risen dramatically in a maze of deductibles, copays, and “co-insurance,” the paper reports.
Yes, President Obama can stop our Obamacare repeal reconciliation package from becoming law this year. But, he cannot stop the growing chorus of Americans unhappy with the higher costs and broken promises of his healthcare law. Their voices are being heard in Congress, where, finally, a majority in both the House and Senate are ready to end this failed experiment and deliver better, more workable healthcare policy.
Martha Roby represents Alabama’s 2nd Congressional District. She lives in Montgomery with her husband, Riley and their two children.