Photo by George Lauby
An overwhelming number of Nebraskans have expressed their support for the upcoming repeal of Obamacare. After losing their doctors, suffering repeated price spikes, and seeing their choices for care dwindle, they are ready for relief.At the same time, I have received some calls and notes from Nebraskans wondering what Obamacare repeal will mean for them. A few have suggested rather than repealing and replacing this law, we should fix it.
The problem is Obamacare is already broken beyond repair and collapsing under its own regulatory weight.
The failure of Obamacare’s Consumer Operated and Oriented Plans, or co-ops, is a case in point.
The law created 23 co-ops, but today only five remain. CoOportunity Health was the first to fold, costing 120,000 Nebraskans and Iowans their health coverage. Premiums were set too low, encouraging more people to sign up. When the co-op started paying out benefits, the shortfall became clear. It was too late.
These problems are rampant throughout Obamacare’s marketplaces. In the employer-sponsored market, on average, individual premiums have increased 27 percent, deductibles for individual plans have increased 60 percent, and annual family premiums have increased by about $4,300.
At the same time, insurers are dropping out of the exchanges due to skyrocketing costs. Nebraska is down to two insurers on the exchange, and five states have been forced into monopoly situations with only one provider.
It is clear this law does not work, and the situation is only getting worse. With time ticking and Americans’ health care hanging in the balance, we must act now to establish a new, patient-centered system.
We passed the Fiscal Year 2017 Budget Resolution in the second week of the 115th Congress, which was the first step toward repeal.
Americans currently insured through Obamacare will not be left without insurance once we repeal the law. There will be a transition period to protect consumers as we work on replacement.
A few people have claimed Congress is exempt from Obamacare and can easily make health care decisions for others without being impacted themselves.
This is false, as Members of Congress and most of their offices, including my own, are on the Obamacare exchange. Congress will feel the results of these changes.
Some Nebraskans who have contacted my office are concerned about coverage for preexisting conditions once Obamacare is repealed.
House Republicans laid out our commitments for health care last year in our Better Way plan, which includes coverage for those with preexisting conditions. It also provides more flexibility and choices for all Americans, including allowing consumers to take their coverage with them rather than being tied to a job or a state exchange.
Prior to Obamacare, Nebraska already had numerous protections in place for consumers in need of health care assistance.
The state’s Comprehensive Health Insurance Pool (CHIP) was available to help people with preexisting conditions get the treatments they needed.
Another provision required insurers offering family policies to allow children to stay on their parents’ plans until age 31, rather than Obamacare’s requirement of 26.
The heavy hand of the federal government has worked to our detriment under Obamacare, and we must roll it back and return control to the local level – primarily to patients themselves.
Obamacare is failing, and we need to act now to deliver the relief we promised.
I encourage you to reach out to me and my staff with your questions as we go through this process.
My goal will continue to be empowering patients through a robust health care marketplace built on the foundations of higher quality, lower cost, and personal choice and responsibility.
Adrian Smith represents the third district of Nebraska -- most of the geographical area of the state -- in the U.S. House of Representatives.