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Brat Votes to Begin Obamacare Repeal Process

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Washington, January 13, 2017 | Press Office (202-225-2815) | comments
WASHINGTON - Rep. Brat (R-Va.) issued the following statement after the House of Representatives voted to begin the repeal process for Obamacare:

"Today’s vote was not easy for me because it pits many of the principles I hold dear against the ability to repeal Obamacare. I believe that a full repeal of Obamacare is necessary in order to begin to unravel its stranglehold on our small businesses, families, healthcare, and one-fifth of the economy.

President Obama promised that the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, would lower the costs of healthcare and protect access to existing plans. Instead, the results have been disastrous, and people have lost their doctors, their plans and are facing skyrocketing deductibles.  Premiums are rising by more than double digits in 31 states, and it's reported that one third of the country may soon have just a single insurer to choose from. The mistake of the ACA's top-down approach to healthcare has been so monstrous that seventeen Obamacare co-ops have collapsed under their own weight -- leaving taxpayers on the hook for that $1.8 billion failure.

This was not merely a vote to start the process for repeal, which I agree we must do. The budget resolution, which was never considered by the Budget Committee, sets budget numbers so broad and wide so that one could drive a Mack truck through it. And I believe we did this to make it easier for Senators to pass it. 

While we are doing the right thing when it comes to starting the process of repeal, our budget usually balances in 10 years and usually requires serious entitlement reform. This resolution, created to be the vehicle for Obamacare repeal, does not include these critical spending constraints. Instead, the resolution allows for a huge gray zone and a huge realm of ambiguity with respect to the resulting repeal and replacement package.

Leadership in the Senate had promised that we would hold the 2015 package as the minimum baseline for policy. However, as time went on they deviated from that pledge and now they are operating from a weaker position again in order to pacify those who really don't want to put a strong package together. And this deviation from the 2015 policy could allow us to put Obamacare repeal and implementation off by up to three years if not more.

One of  the reasons we can only repeal Obamacare at this step in the process is because we are using a vehicle called reconciliation -- the tool with which Obamacare was originally passed. The law requires that reconciliation can only be used on items that effect levels of Federal spending, the amount of revenues to be collected, and the size of the debt limit. 

As previously adjudicated by the Senate parliamentarian (who, unlike House and Senate members, is not elected), the Senate rules for reconciliation will not allow Congress to repeal the insurance regulations. The insurance regulations, such as guaranteed issue, are some of the most costly elements of Obamacare. And if we are unable to unwind them, then it is less likely that the cost curve for healthcare will bend down. Without instituting truly free-market healthcare solutions, the American people can expect many of the same problems.

Yesterday morning a Senator and two Congressmen, all Democrats, went on CNN and told viewers not to worry, because Obamacare will still be in place in several years. This is my primary concern: that we will not be able to give the American people a better plan.

I believe we should have an outline of the Republican plan to reform the health care system. There are many sick people who are now reliant on this coverage, and they need to know what is coming next. We owe it to the American people to carefully explain each step of this process.

President-elect Trump and Vice President-elect Pence have both assured us that we will make the alignment of repeal and replace occur fairly close in time, although we still do not have a commitment as to what the plan will contain. So we are being asked to take a leap of faith.

The way I viewed the vote was that I can either vote no and try to stop the process because of this great uncertainty, or I can vote yes and keep the promise I made to my constituents. I have said time and again that I will work as hard as possible to ensure that the repeal and replacement of Obamacare will live up to the free-market principles that we promised for the last six years. I know full well that after this vote, the momentum to repeal whatever provisions of Obamacare we can repeal, will pick up speed, making dissent even more difficult.

Repealing Obamacare is what Americans want, and it may ultimately be the action that saves Medicare for future generations. Americans sent us to Congress to fight back against an intrusive government, making their lives better for it, and that's what we are doing. At the same time, the ambiguities remaining in the process are troublesome. So, I ask that you continue to hold elected officials accountable and be a part of the conversation as we search for better healthcare alternatives."

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