Sanford takes lead on Obamacare replacement

Sanford takes lead on Obamacare replacement
February 24 21:20 2017 Print This Article


Rep. Mark Sanford recently became the lead sponsor on the Obamacare Replacement Act (HR-1072). He did a press conference with Sen. Rand Paul, who released a similar bill in the Senate (S-222) to replace the existing Affordable Care and Patient Protection Act (Obamacare), which will be repealed through the budget reconciliation process.

While America continues to have the highest quality and accessibility in the world for medical care, cost factors have placed a large burden on families, employers and the government. Medical insurance premiums have increased 32% since 2010 for employer-provided plans and 140% for self-insured family plans, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Problems associated with medical insurance didn’t just pop up with the passage of Obamacare in 2010 (without a single Republican vote). I can remember watching the movie As Good As It Gets in 1997 when the character played by single-parent Helen Hunt couldn’t get coverage within her Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) plan for her special needs child. People in the theater stood up and cheered in sympathy.

On a personal note, my HMO plan may have saved my life. In 2000, my employer changed plans and my primary care physician was not on the list of network providers. I switched doctors, and my new doctor noticed a melanoma mole that my previous doctor overlooked for several years.

Sanford notes that Republicans have only controlled the House, the Senate and the White House four times in history. The last time the Republicans had that kind of control was during the George W. Bush Administration from 2003-2007. I don’t recall any attempts to reform our medical insurance system during that time.

Opposition to Obamacare and excessive government spending led to the Republicans re-taking the House in the 2010 election. Sanford notes that the GOP majority House has voted more than 60 times since then to repeal Obamacare. He stated, “Repeal is no longer a symbolic vote.”

Sanford and Paul are taking a free-market approach to medical insurance reform. Among the problems in the current system are reduced competition among insurance providers (you can’t purchase a policy from an insurance company in another state) and the mandates for the type of coverage that everyone must carry. Sanford points out that young adults are asked to purchase coverage they don’t need at prices they can’t afford.

The Sanford plan treats the self-employed the same as larger businesses under the tax system. After World War II, Congress adopted wage and price controls. As a tool to compete for employees, businesses were allowed to deduct expenses for employee medical insurance expenses. Sanford will allow individuals to take a deduction for their medical insurance premiums.

Sanford and Paul want small business groups and trade associations to be able to purchase group insurance plans to lower their costs. They also will empower states to create high-risk insurance pools to cover patients with pre-existing medical conditions and allow parents to cover children under the age of 26 on their policies.

The Obamacare Replacement Act also expands the use of tax-free Health Savings Accounts (HSAs). HSAs would provide a $5000 tax credit (meaning that a $5000 HSA contribution would be subtracted from your federal tax bill) and allow HSAs to be used to pay for medical insurance premiums and deductibles.

I have expressed to Rep. Sanford that his plan does not address a crucial component in medical insurance reform – the requirement for hospitals, labs and medical practices to disclose their prices in advance. I undergo lab tests for my annual physical exam. If I went through my insurance company, I would pay about $600 for the tests, and it would be absorbed by my deductible. I pay out of pocket to Any Lab Test Now on Ashley River Rd. and only pay $229 for the same tests. We should know how much every procedure costs.

I commend Rep. Sanford for taking the lead in an effort to fix a broken medical insurance system. Let’s find a way to keep our medical care system the world’s best and make it truly affordable.