A Good Start on Health Care, But We're Not Done

A Good Start on Health Care, But We're Not Done
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You asked for it, you got it.

For seven years, everywhere I go, people tell me stories about how Obamacare’s heavy hand has cost them money and hurt their health care. I share their frustration – it was the main reason I ran for Congress in the first place and repealing Obamacare has been one of my highest priorities since then. I’m proud to tell you the House of Representatives has done just that – and I’m even prouder to have sponsored this repeal as chairman of the Budget Committee. 

The American Health Care Act eliminates Obamacare’s taxes and mandates that are crushing small businesses in my home state of Tennessee and around the country. It is a once-in-a-generation entitlement reform, saving and strengthening Medicaid so that it can continue to serve the most vulnerable Americans but doesn’t incentivize a culture of dependency. And it brings free-market competition into the health care marketplace to bring down costs and improve the quality of care while continuing to protect those with pre-existing conditions.

Creating good policy in Congress is not always easy, and we never get everything we want. That’s why this bill is far from perfect. But it is a good first step and this is a particularly proud moment for me.  

When I was working as a nurse in Nashville in the 1990s, the liberal political establishment in the state decided they wanted to try a single-payer health care system. As the story goes, Gov. Ned McWherter and his good friend Al Gore drew up the plans on a cocktail napkin at a Nashville watering hole.  

The results were predictable, to anyone who understands health care. Costs skyrocketed for the state, leaving less and less money in the budget for education, workforce training and transportation projects. The quality of care for patients suffered and the program was near collapse by the time it was repealed.  

I saw this happen first-hand and it inspired me to get involved in public service. I ran for the state legislature to fix health care in our state, and when I saw the same principles as TennCare being debated and eventually enacted on the national level after President Obama was elected, I decided that I had to try and make a difference in Congress.  

I ran and was elected on a platform of repealing and replacing Obamacare. In 2011, I was the first member of Congress to have legislation signed into law that repealed a flawed provision in Obamacare, which saved taxpayers $13 billion.

The American Health Care Act continues our progress in creating a more patient-centered, free-market health care system. The bill isn’t perfect, but I worked hard to make it as conservative as possible.  

We gave states the option of adding work requirements for able-bodied adults with no dependents who are on Medicaid. But I believe that requirement should be mandatory and I will continue to push for that, whether in our upcoming budget or in future legislation. Work is a fundamental part of the American Dream. It’s a reasonable expectation in exchange for getting a hand-up from the government, and we should do everything in our power to help everyone in America get and keep a job.  

We also gave states the opportunity to get waivers from some of Obamacare’s most onerous regulations that are driving up health care costs for all Americans. This was a positive step that we should build on with future legislation. People should be able to buy insurance across state lines. Small businesses and associations should be able to band together and buy insurance at a lower rate. Younger, healthier people should have the option to buy cheaper insurance plans so they’re only paying for the coverage they need.  

And finally, our Medicaid reforms help preserve the program so that it can best serve our most vulnerable citizens, as it was intended, but doesn’t become a permanent entitlement. I think we can, and must, go even further. Medicaid has a faulty foundation and it’s time the federal government gets out of the way of good state reforms that can fix it. And we must stop liberal states from abusing the program. 

Right now, states receive more money from the federal government to cover able-bodied adults above the poverty line who are on Medicaid than they do to support children and the disabled who are well below the poverty line. That’s wrong. States shouldn’t be able to use federal Medicaid dollars as a revenue stream to prop up their budgets. I intend to push for a change in the Medicaid reimbursement rate in our upcoming budget resolution to ensure that Medicaid dollars are used to properly support our most vulnerable citizens.  

Obamacare is a disaster, and in Tennessee, its collapse is creating dire circumstances for our citizens. Massive premium increases are making insurance unaffordable for more and more Tennesseans and rising deductibles are making it harder to get health care, even for those who have insurance. Doing nothing is not an option.   

Congress has taken the first step to keep our promise of repealing and replacing Obamacare. But we can’t stop now. We’re not done working to save our constituents from this disastrous law and give doctors and patients – not government – control over health care decisions.  

Correction: An earlier version of this article erroneously recounted a story that Al Gore once drew up a health care plan with Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen. In fact Gore collaborated with Gov. Ned McWherter.

Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn.) is chairman of the House Budget Committee.

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