Rep. Reed: Lawmakers need to fulfill their role as problem-solvers
Republican lawmakers do not want to remind people about two things: rising healthcare costs and the failure to repeal the Affordable Care Act—which has essentially led to the collapse of the insurance market. On the other side of the aisle, Democrats are content with doing nothing and blaming Republicans for the dismal state of healthcare today.
Failure to act is not fair to the people we were all sent to Washington, D.C., to represent. In fact, it is inexcusable. While politicians talk, Americans suffer. This is what is wrong with our politics today.
While this news is unfortunate, it is not surprising given the strong convictions held on both sides and what shows up as deep divisions in our political discourse. My colleagues in the Problem Solvers Caucus, a group of Republican and Democrat House lawmakers, which I lead on the Republican side, foresaw the looming double-digit insurance premium hikes more than a year ago.
So, the Problem Solvers Caucus decided to sit down, listen and learn from their colleagues on the other side. What came out of this was the very first and only bipartisan plan to fix skyrocketing health insurance premiums.
Some key ideas that resulted from our work: Bring cost-sharing reduction payments under the congressional oversight and appropriations process, but ensure they have mandatory funding; create a dedicated stability fund that states can use to reduce premiums and limit losses for providing coverage—especially for those with pre-existing conditions; repeal the 2.3% medical-device tax, since the costs of the tax are passed on to consumers, again contributing to higher healthcare costs; provide technical changes and clear guidelines for states that want to innovate on the exchange or enter into regional compacts to improve coverage and create more options for consumers.
While no one in the caucus got everything they wanted, we recognized the importance of working together to reduce the suffering of our fellow Americans caught in this healthcare debacle.
We also believe that this proposal should be paid for and stand ready to work to find agreeable offsets within federal healthcare spending. Potential offsets could include: Recapture premium tax credit overpayments; encourage use of generic drugs in Medicare Part D; speed up brand-name drug discounts in Medicare Part D as seniors approach the coverage gap, or “donut hole”; create a bundled-payment system for post-acute care in Medicare; reduce Medicare payment for bad debt; and accelerate competitive bidding in Medicare Advantage.
In response to our plan, Larry Levitt, a health policy expert at the Kaiser Family Foundation, said: “Overall, I think it would keep insurers in the individual markets and reduce premiums. And I think it would avoid the potential of coverage losses, while also risking a modest loss in coverage from repealing the employer mandate.”
We realize how many Americans desperately need and deserve a solution to their rising premiums. We are fully committed to continue working toward a bipartisan solution and urge President Donald Trump and our colleagues in the House and Senate to come together to break the gridlock in Washington on healthcare policy and help the people they represent.
Now more than ever, we as a nation need to move past petty political games. We are better than this. The American people deserve the solutions and leadership the Problem Solvers Caucus is providing.