Over the past few days, I've been thinking about the recently-defeated House proposal to amend Obamacare. On the morning of the scheduled vote on the American Health Care Act, I sat next to a fellow first-year congressman on the floor of the House of Representatives. He supported the bill and knew that I was opposed. He asked me, "If we don't do this, what's the path forward?"
I responded, "The good news is that there are multiple paths to producing legislation that will actually repeal Obamacare, just like we promised our voters."
In fact, after the failure of the AHCA, that's exactly what we ought to do — repeal Obamacare.
There were multiple options to repeal and replace Obamacare when the 115th Congress commenced in January. All of them are still available.
The first option is to repeal all of Obamacare's statutes and regulations, which is what I and many Republicans promised to constituents. In fact, I am a cosponsor of a one-page bill to do just that. The repeal called for in the bill would take effect at the end of September 2018, giving patients, healthcare providers and insurers time to transition. In the meantime, it would give Congress time to craft the patient-centered, market-based alternative we vowed to create. No other option so completely keeps faith with the American people.
The second option is to pass the bill that was approved by every Republican in the House and the Senate in 2015. It wasn't perfect, but it was a much more meaningful nod toward repeal than the AHCA. This bill has the advantage of having been through both houses of Congress and is a minimal baseline that seems achievable because many members still support it.
The third option is to craft an entirely new bill to repeal Obamacare and reform Medicaid in a way that can pass both the House and the Senate. I know that many members are currently discussing this now.
To say that because the AHCA did not garner enough votes means that we must accept the permanency of Obamacare is defeatism. I cannot believe that Americans want to give up because of the failure to pass this bill, and Congress should not either. In fact, the defeat of a bill with numerous problems is something to be optimistic about, because it shows that Congress is being more deliberative than it has been in a long time. It means that the process is working, and that representatives are listening to the people who put them into office.
For too long, Congress has been a thoughtless toad of the executive branch, rubber-stamping every idea and failing to challenge unlawful abuses of constitutional powers. The defeat of a flawed healthcare bill indicates that Congress is attempting to exercise its Article I authority, and that its members are being truly thoughtful regarding the outcomes of proposed legislation.
The outcry over the withdrawal of the AHCA is an overreaction. Some claim that President Trump is weakened and won't be able to get the rest of his agenda through Congress after this setback. I see just the opposite.
Trump allowed Congress to construct the bill and work through the process. He was thoroughly engaged, trying to help the bill pass. However, his promise to repeal and replace Obamacare would have taken a hit had the bill passed as proposed because it simply didn't do either of those things. I believe his popularity is still intact, and that he will achieve his ambitious policy objectives soon.
Others criticize Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and suggest he is damaged because of his failure to successfully guide the AHCA through the legislative process. I again disagree.
Although the bill took a choppy path, I believe the process played out as the Founding Fathers intended. The Constitution was designed not to streamline a legislative process, but rather to filter out potentially harmful ideas through multiple layers of screens. The process worked here. The filters halted bad policy and in the process left open multiple paths for finding a better solution to ensure every American has access to affordable healthcare.
Many members worked tirelessly to try to save the bill and make it better for the American people, and for that I am grateful. If not for Reps. Mark Meadows, Jim Jordan, and the other members of the House Freedom Caucus, we would have certainly passed a bill that keeps costly subsidies in place and maintains federal control over our nation's healthcare.
It would now be a mistake to walk away from the task of repealing Obamacare.
We are not socialists. We do not want a European-style single-payer system that crushes individual choice and isn't economically viable. The options that were available at the start of the 115th Congress are still open to us. We must not let impatience be the adversary of great public policy — especially on an issue that impacts one-sixth of our national economy.
Since the start of this process, I have advocated for the immediate passage of a bill that completely repeals Obamacare and all the regulations associated with it. Many agree that this action would quickly lower premiums for every American. More importantly, passing a clean repeal would keep the promises we made to the American people.
I have also suggested that after we repeal Obamacare we pass further legislation to remove the federal government from the unconstitutional path of regulating our nation's healthcare system. We should instead make it possible for companies and individuals to buy and sell insurance across state lines, incentivize establishment of high-risk sharing pools within the states, and pass many other reforms that will lower premium costs, restore state authority vis-a-vis the federal government, and increase the freedom of Americans to make their own healthcare choices.
Pulling a bill that leaves the framework of Obamacare in place is not a failure, but an opportunity. I am committed to the challenge of eliminating Obamacare and to re-establishing our nation's healthcare system to once again be the envy of the world.
Andy Biggs represents Arizona's fifth district in the U.S. Congress.
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