Commentary

Let’s End the National Nightmare of ObamaCare

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Let’s set the record straight on a lot of the propaganda you are going to see from Democrats on the new attempt to repeal and replace ObamaCare.

First of all, the key parts of ObamaCare that conservatives have opposed across the board, such as the individual mandate, the destructive taxes and the use of the IRS to punish and penalize people for not buying insurance, are repealed.

The employer mandate will also be repealed for months beginning after December 31, 2015 under this plan. No more punishing businesses for growing to larger than 50 employees. These businesses can breathe easy.

Components of ObamaCare that drive up the cost of health insurance can be replaced by reforms at the state level that reflect free market principles and competition. This is the best way to bring down health insurance costs. The requirement that plans cover specific essential health benefits (minimum requirements for health insurance plans) can be moved to the state level, allowing each state can manage their insurance market as they fit, if they wish, with a federal waiver.

Rising premium costs, pre-existing conditions and high-risk pools:

Insurance premiums have been skyrocketing under ObamaCare in Maine and across the nation, largely due to the way ObamaCare melded coverage of pre-existing conditions with people who do not have pre-existing conditions into the same insurance pool.

Ensuring people with pre-existing conditions under ObamaCare is one of the more popular provisions, and so I hope what follows is a helpful explanation of the new plan under the AHCA to replace the mistakes on these issues.

Most exciting for those of us who live here in Maine, these new provisions are based on the bipartisan Maine Model of health reform passed under PL90 during the 125th Maine Legislature and signed by Governor LePage in 2011.

Under current law, people with pre-existing conditions are covered in the same insurance pools with healthy people and young people with no risk factors who would have lower insurance premiums. The result is that those with pre-existing conditions drive up premiums for everyone.

This was one of the fatal flaws of ObamaCare – the belief that the government could put young and healthy people in the same insurance pools as people with costly pre-existing conditions, and somehow everyone’s premiums would drop. Remember how President Obama made all those promises that turned out to be false? This is one of the big reasons why.

Under the Maine Model in this plan, those with pre-existing conditions cannot be denied, but they are moved into what is called an invisible risk pool, where they receive coverage and healthcare, but the plan focuses on management and treatment of their care and costs, with a subsidy just for them – funding which directly helps them.

Federal waivers for states with real solutions

The new plan will keep provisions that protect consumers in place, such as pre-existing conditions. It will stay exactly as it is, with one potential exception: state governments can show the federal government a better way, a better system, and seek a waiver from the federal government to run these programs at the state level in a way that best works for their own populations.

This does not mean state governments can hack away and abandon people without access to insurance, it just means they can go back to being free to work on better solutions, in the spirit of the way our country has always worked. This is the piece of the legislation liberal ObamaCare supporters are claiming will “throw people off” insurance. This is just not true. The waiver can only happen when states show a better way.

We can all hope and expect that both the Democratic and Republican controlled state legislatures and governors around America would, and will, work hard to ensure their own citizens, brothers, sisters, cousins and friends receiving the care they need.

Clearly, instead of driving up everyone’s rates and then subsidizing everyone’s costs, healthy people would see premiums drop and no longer need dramatic subsidies, and those with greater needs due to pre-existing conditions will get coverage they can afford.

Under the Maine Model with PL90, individuals with pre-existing conditions were all guaranteed access to health insurance, and nobody could be denied insurance. Rather than driving up insurance premiums for everyone, premiums dropped by as much as 70-percent for some individuals, and the number and size of large rate increases dropped dramatically, while those with pre-existing conditions were still taken care of.

At the time we put the Maine Model into effect, liberal groups and Democrats were predicting “Armageddon” in Maine’s insurance markets, but all the data showed strong results in lowering insurance premiums and expanding access to affordable care through free-market reforms. Sadly, once ObamaCare came crashing in, those gains were erased in short order. Still, it is incredible for the people of Maine to see a model developed in our state being used in this national healthcare reform. It is happening because we proved it would work.

Health Savings Accounts, Flexible Savings Accounts and other changes

ObamaCare had several regulations and taxes in place that punished those with Health Savings Accounts (HSA) and Flexible Savings Accounts (FSA).

ObamaCare prohibits using HSA’s and FSA’s to purchase over the counter medicines not prescribed by a doctor. This proposal repeals that and allows you to use your HSA or FSA to do so.

ObamaCare increased taxes on HSA and FSA withdrawals not related to healthcare. This bill repeals that tax increase and returns it to the levels before ObamaCare.

Repealing, not replacing, the massive tax hikes of Obamacare

ObamaCare imposed new taxes on American businesses and individuals to pay for the government to take over your healthcare. Among these were the medical device tax, the pharmaceutical tax, the tanning bed tax, a tax on health insurance plans (even as costs were shooting through the roof), the Medicare tax, and the net investment income tax.

These taxes, along with the penalties described above, and others are repealed. The “Cadillac tax” is also delayed until 2025.

Additionally, several tax credits and deductions will be restored or created that help Americans afford their insurance plans. This includes allowing taxpayers to claim expenses that exceed 7.5-percent as itemized deductions (instead of the 10-percent under ObamaCare) and establishing a refundable tax credit starting in 2020.

Remember who is, and who is not, affected by these changes

About 7-percent of Maine’s insured people are “on ObamaCare.”  The other 93-percent are not. This includes senior citizens on Medicaid, people who get insurance from their work with private plans, people on direct private plans, veterans who receive VA coverage, and Medicaid welfare recipients. None of these 93-percent will have their plans directly affected.

This is important to note as you talk with your friends, co-workers, and family about this ongoing ObamaCare debate.Those who have private or workplace plans and seen large rate increases due to underlying ObamaCare regulations will hopefully see reductions due to these reforms.

Stay tuned

It is important we together as conservatives, and American citizens, do all we can to have great health care choices, great technology and care at an affordable price.  We also want to make sure all of our family members, regardless of pre-existing conditions, can get coverage.

In summation, the new GOP plan will repeal individual and employer mandates, repeal or restore taxes to pre-Obamacare levels, provide tax credits for insurance purchases, cover pre-existing conditions (in a way that doesn’t drive up costs for everyone), stop welfare expansion in its tracks, push the IRS out of the health insurance business and protect essential benefits and services at the state level.

These are the reforms our country needs to enact to end the national nightmare of ObamaCare.

About Jason Savage

Jason Savage has been the Executive Director of the Maine GOP since 2013. Before heading up Maine's premier political party, he co-founded and served as Executive Director of the non-profit organization Maine People Before Politics, where he advocated for lower taxes, less debt, welfare reform and other priorities for Maine people. Jason's work has been published in every major newspaper in Maine.

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