Last week was a hectic and monumental week at the U.S. Capitol. As we prepared to mark the 7th anniversary of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, President Donald Trump was pushing the House to pass his plan to repeal and replace Obamacare.
Known as the American Health Care Act, the bill would have repealed Obamacare, ended the government mandates, cut taxes, lowered premiums, reduced the deficit, and transferred control over health care from the federal government to the individual states.
I was ready to vote in favor of the bill and support President Trump’s agenda. Unfortunately, the bill did not have the support needed to pass, and it was pulled before a vote was ever held. I was certainly disappointed by this outcome because I want to repeal and replace Obamacare with something that actually works.
Some Democrats, like former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, used this occasion to celebrate and claim victory. Despite their jubilation, Obamacare is still on a collision course with disaster. So, while they may want to celebrate now, Obamacare still must go.
President Trump has indicated that he wants to move the focus from health care to other issues, like tax reform, and I think it is important we continue moving forward with our conservative, pro-growth agenda. That said, we cannot give up on our efforts to bring relief to the American people when it comes to health care.
In fact, just last week, the House succeeded in passing two separate bills focused on improving our nation’s health care system.
The first bill, the Competitive Health Insurance Reform Act, passed with overwhelming bipartisan support by a vote of 416 to 7. The bill updates the McCarran-Ferguson Act of 1945 to restore competition in the health insurance industry by ensuring application of federal antitrust laws.
I have long believed that increasing competition is key to fixing our health care system and lowering costs. By ending a special-interest exemption in law, we can rein in insurance company practices, increase competition, and lower prices for consumers.
The second bill, the Small Business Health Fairness Act, is all about helping our small businesses lower health care costs for their employees. The bill empowers small businesses to band together through association health plans to purchase health insurance. This will allow them to increase their bargaining power, negotiating for lower health insurance rates on behalf of their employees.
The Small Business Health Fairness Act simply guarantees that our nation’s small businesses are afforded the same opportunities given to large corporations and labor unions. Small businesses are the backbone of our economy, and it is critical they be able to offer affordable insurance options to their workers.
Additionally, Secretary of Health and Human Services, Dr. Tom Price, has indicated he stands ready to use his administrative power to stabilize the insurance market and give states additional flexibility when it comes to health care. The way Obamacare was written, the Secretary has a lot of control and power, and it is important Dr. Price use that authority.
Ultimately, I expect we will be back debating the repeal and replacement of Obamacare sooner rather than later. In the meantime, we should not stop looking for targeted ways to increase competition, lower costs, and help American families.
Last week’s health care setback is disappointing, but we must move on from this moment and continue working to solve the problems facing our nation. We are going to make America great again, and that requires us to work together for the good of everyone in our nation.
• • •
Bradley Byrne is a member of U.S. Congress representing Alabama’s 1st Congressional District.