Report from Washington
This week, the House of Representatives achieved the first steps in the repeal and replacement of Obamacare.
As a bill moves through Congress, as you may remember from civics classes, the bill starts in the committee with jurisdiction over the content of the bill. The committee reviews the content and votes on the bill. The American Health Care Act is comprised of two parts. The financial side that repeals and replaces most of Obamacare finances went through the House Ways and Means Committee. The Energy and Commerce Committee, on which I sit, worked on the other part, health care policy. In a marathon 27 -hour long debate, lasting through the night and only pausing to vote, my committee, Energy and Commerce passed our part of the American Health Care Act. Unlike Obamacare, which was rammed through without giving members of Congress, or the public, time to read the bill, we are following a step-by-step, deliberate and transparent process. Republicans are keeping Americans informed each step of the way. Both parts of the bill were posted online (www.ReadtheBill.gop) on the Monday prior to the committee votes.Last Wednesday morning, Energy and Commerce committee began the review and amendment process of the bill. This process in D.C. is called a markup. From the beginning, the Democrats aggressively fought to defeat the bill.During opening statements, they complained and protested. They claimed the American Health Care Act would completely dismantle and destroy the Obamacare exchanges, and thus destroy Obamacare. Republicans promised during the last several campaigns to repeal and replace Obamacare. As we have begun that process, the Democrats are fighting at every turn to keep Obamacare, even though it has failed.As we worked through the bill, Democrats fought to block our progress even on the most minor of items. They took hours to debate the title of the bill, mostly as a delay tactic. But these tactics were fruitless. Throughout the night we continued working through the bill, dealing with amendment after amendment. Finally, on Thursday afternoon, we voted to pass this portion of the bill. Although there is no official record, it is believed this was the longest continuous markup of a bill in Congressional history. The American Health Care Act repeals Obamacare and begins the process of replacement.
The replacement plan is designed to lower costs and give patients and families more choice and flexibility in their health care. Furthermore, it allows the states to have more power and gives less power to the bureaucracy in Washington, D.C.As we promised when campaigning, the American Health Care Act does provide protection for those with pre-existing conditions and the ability to stay on your parent’s insurance until you are 26. Further, some parts of Obamacare aren’t being repealed either because we can’t do so under the Senate rules related to the budget reconciliation process or because we promised to keep the policy.As an aside, many of you know that I have fought to keep the three pages out of roughly 2,100 pages of Obamacare that deal with black lung protections. These protections are not repealed by the American Health Care Act.Also, the new plan includes a Patient and State Stability Fund to assist those who are higher risk and therefore can’t afford traditional health insurance. This fund can also be used by states to lower other costs.Additionally, the American Health Care Act reforms Medicaid as well. It is important to provide a safety net for the needy, but Medicaid is flawed and can be improved. Medicaid funding is not unlimited and the law directs the funding to those most in need.
Republicans are delivering on the promise to repeal and replace Obamacare, with transparency at each step of the way. The bill that passed the Energy and Commerce Committee is now headed to the Budget Committee to be combined with the Ways and Means portion of the bill. As the bill works its way to the floor of the House for final passage, I expect additional amendments will be adopted. I even have an amendment of my own which would allow states to require those receiving Medicaid who are able-bodied and do not have responsibilities for a young or disabled child to work or be retrained.I look forward to continued improvements in the bill. I believe that working with the Administration, we can better control the costs of health insurance. The bill will bring reform that allows American families to buy an insurance policy that fits their needs.If you have questions, concerns, or comments, feel free to contact my office. You can call my Abingdon office at (276) 525-1405 or my Christiansburg office at (540) 381-5671. To reach my office via email, please visit my website at www.morgangriffith.house.gov.