After Donald Trump along with nearly every Republican candidate in 2016 promised a full repeal of Obamacare, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) headed down a separate path: a three-phase process to “repeal and replace Obamacare.”
Last week, phase one failed miserably. Thank you, Sens. John McCain (R-AZ), Susan Collins (R-ME), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and all the Democrats in the Senate.
Looking back, it is safe to say that President Donald Trump and congressional conservatives were right: anything less than full repeal was destined for failure. Indeed, within hours of the Senate vote, there was word that House conservatives were once again demanding a vote on full repeal to heighten pressure on the Senate.
But let us not forget the other phases in the Ryan plan. Phase three – getting enough Democratic votes to pass significant health care fixes through the Senate – is one of those myths that only someone outside the Beltway could believe. That leaves us with phase two: Trump using the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to dismantle the Affordable Care Act.
During congressional testimony in March, my former House colleague and HHS Secretary Tom Price pointed out that the law offers him multiple opportunities to do just that: “Fourteen hundred and forty-two times … the secretary ‘shall’ or the secretary ‘may’” make changes to the Affordable Care Act. The Price is right! Under Obamacare, he has tremendous power and latitude not only to dismantle the ACA but to replace it with health care options that enhance individual freedom.
Let Americans pick their doctors, choose a “skinny” health insurance plan, or even purchase a plan from a company based in another state. The Trump administration can waive penalties on individuals and businesses who simply can’t afford Obama’s mandates. HHS can give a green light to any state that wants to begin restoring choice and freedom for their citizens without federal bureaucrat interference.
During the Hillarycare fight back in 1993 and 1994, The Heartland Institute was a leader in defeating that government takeover of health care. In 2009, when then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and President Obama were rushing their plan through Congress, Heartland again helped galvanize opposition, both in Washington, DC and in dozens of states. When Obamacare became law, Heartland took the lead in persuading states not to implement it by launching the insurance exchanges and expanding Medicaid.
After this week’s fiasco in Washington, DC, Heartland is once again heading into the fight, this time with a complete health care reform toolbox that HHS and every state serious about improving health care can use.
Whether it’s letting states use an expedited waiver process for Medicaid choice, approving high-deductible plans consistent with religious beliefs, liberating health savings accounts, or many other proven and promising ideas, Dr. Price has 1,442 opportunities he can say “yes” to health care solutions. The Heartland Institute—with legislative advisors in 39 different states—is ready and willing to help pass meaningful, productive health care reforms.
Tim Huelskamp (email@example.com) is president of The Heartland Institute. From 2011 to 2017, he represented Kansas’ 1st District in the U.S. House of Representatives.