By Congressman Bradley Byrne (AL-1)
“In a death spiral.” Those are the words Mark Bertolini, CEO of Aetna, one of our nation’s largest insurance companies, used to describe the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.
When I first ran for Congress in 2013, repealing and replacing Obamacare was a top priority. I introduced a bill to repeal the law, which passed the House but never reached the President’s desk. Unfortunately, with President Obama in the White House, our efforts never succeeded. Even when we finally got a repeal bill to the President’s desk, he vetoed it.
Thankfully, last year’s elections completely changed the dynamics. President Trump is committed to repealing and replacing Obamacare, and Republicans control both the House and the Senate. The stage is set to finally get rid of this failed law.
Why is this so important? Because Obamacare is a fundamentally flawed law that cannot simply be fixed or patched back together. Obamacare has cost the economy $53 billion and an estimated 176,897,428 paperwork hours. Those are funds and time that employers can’t use to hire people and jumpstart the economy.
More importantly, with its government mandates, higher taxes, and increased regulations, Obamacare is hurting hardworking American families. We have seen canceled plans, higher premiums, fewer choices, and increased deductibles.
Believe it or not, former President Bill Clinton might have put it best when he called Obamacare “the craziest thing in the world.” He also pointed out that it has resulted in “people who are out there busting it, sometimes 60 hours a week, wind up with their premiums doubled and their coverage cut in half.”
I’ve heard story after story from people who live in Southwest Alabama who have been negatively impacted by this law. In fact, I have had people come up to me with tears in their eyes to show me their cancellation notice or premium increase letter.
Despite President Obama’s promise that “if you like your plan, you can keep it,” 4.7 million Americans were kicked off their health care plans by Obamacare. Many of these Americans liked the plan they had, only to have the federal government step in and tell them it was not good enough.
Premiums are also skyrocketing. Seven states have seen premium increases of more than 50 percent in 2017. In Alabama, this year’s premiums on the exchange increased 58 percent on average for a benchmark plan and 36 percent for the individual market as a whole. For those with employer-sponsored coverage, individual premiums are up 27 percent on average nationwide, more than double the average rise in workers’ wages. Deductibles are up an average of 60 percent since 2010.
Americans are also facing fewer and fewer health care choices, with five states – including Alabama – only having one insurer to choose from. In fact, next year, some counties in the United States may not have a single option on the Obamacare marketplace. At that point, those Americans relying on Obamacare will have nowhere to turn and the law will have failed.
The bottom line is that Obamacare is on a collision course. If Congress were to sit back and do nothing, Obamacare would implode. This would leave millions of Americans with no insurance and the overall insurance market for the rest of us in a dangerous condition. So, Congress must act and rescue the American people from this broken law.
I have pledged to repeal and replace Obamacare since being elected to Congress, and I remain committed to honoring that pledge. Now, under unified Republican government, we have the best opportunity we have ever had to get rid of this failed law and instead provide Americans with the freedom, choice, and control.