OHIO SENATORS PORTMAN AND BROWN RESPOND…

August 5th, 2017

In recent weeks I’ve contacted my senators—Sherrod Campbell Brown and Robert Jones Portman several times to leave messages regarding Trumpcare via both the phone and email. The senators responded to my messages in emails.

The first to get back to me was Sen. Brown on 27 July. Here is what he said:

Thank you for reaching out to me and sharing your thoughts about current proposals to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. I appreciate your views on this matter.

Opponents have had seven years to create a comprehensive ACA replacement plan, and they have yet to produce anything that would guarantee affordable, quality coverage for millions of Americans the way the ACA has. Like most laws, the ACA is not perfect, but instead of kicking people off their health insurance and forcing premiums to skyrocket for everyone, we should be improving the law and making health care more affordable and more accessible for all Americans. Congress should be working to reduce prescription drug costs, strengthen Medicare, and protect Medicaid. And since coming to Congress, I have supported legislation that would accomplish each of these goals and strengthen our country’s health care system.

One current proposal—the Better Care Reconciliation Act—was written by a handful of Senators behind closed doors in consultation with lobbyists from the insurance and pharmaceutical industries, but without any input from Ohioans. According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, the BCRA would result in at least 22 million Americans losing their health insurance. In addition, the BCRA would cause premiums to spike by an average of twenty percent in 2018, causing costs to go up for millions of Americans, especially older Americans who are not yet eligible for Medicare and for those who have preexisting conditions. The BCRA also includes more than $1 trillion in tax breaks for insurance CEOs and the richest Americans, paid for by cutting hundreds of billions of dollars from Medicaid – the federal state partnership program that helps provide health insurance to children, the disabled, and the elderly in nursing homes. Another proposal for repealing and replacing the ACA is the House-passed American Health Care Act, which would result in 23 million individuals losing their health insurance coverage—even more than the BCRA.

Americans have made it clear that the AHCA is bad for businesses, bad for state budgets, and bad for Ohioans. However, I remain concerned that opponents of the ACA remain dedicated to repealing the law without a meaningful, affordable, and comprehensive replacement. Not only is this a disservice to the millions of Americans—including 900,000 Ohioans—who gained coverage under the ACA, it is reckless to upend the health care industry and implement a policy that will enhance barriers that hinder access to healthcare for children, veterans, disabled individuals, and the elderly.

Everyone in Washington needs to understand the incredible progress we have made when it comes to health care in this country and that Congress cannot gamble with your health insurance. As your Senator, I will keep working to protect the gains we have made in health care coverage under the ACA. Know that I will fight to protect your care, and I will not stop fighting until all Ohioans have access to affordable, comprehensive health insurance.

Sen. Portman’s reply arrived on 3 August.

Thank you for contacting me to express your views on health care reform. It is good to hear from you.

Under the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare, individuals and families continue to face higher health care costs and fewer choices for health care providers. Small businesses continue to pay more money for insurance premiums that could have otherwise been used to hire more employees or provide better pay for those they already employ. The Ohio Department of Insurance has reported a 91% average cost increase in Ohio individual insurance market premiums since Obamacare went into effect. Insurance companies, saddled with costly and cumbersome regulations, continue to pull their health plans from the individual market. With the pullout of Anthem and Premier in Ohio, at the time of my vote there were at least 19 counties without a single insurer offering health coverage on the Obamacare exchange. At least 27 other counties in our state have only one insurer, with no competition to get costs down for families. This is a problem not just in Ohio but across the country. Approximately one-third of the counties around the United States now only have one insurer. Given this situation, repealing Obamacare without a replacement is not an option at this time. We need to fix our health care system to ensure everyone has access to affordable and quality coverage.

My goal has always been to create a more workable health care system that lowers the cost of coverage, provides access to quality care, and protects the most vulnerable in our society. The initial draft proposal of the Senate’s bill, the Better Care Reconciliation Act, included some promising changes to reduce premiums in the individual market but I did not feel that the initial BCRA draft accomplished these larger goals and my concerns over the Medicaid policies in the proposal remained. I rolled up my sleeves and worked with my colleagues to make changes to the BCRA and find solutions that work for Ohioans and Americans. The final product of those discussions brought a bill that included $45 billion to address the opioid epidemic, a glide path to the traditional Medicaid payment structure to avoid pulling the rug out from under Ohioans on Medicaid expansion, an additional $100 billion in funding for states to provide low-income Americans with access to quality and affordable health care, and the ability for states to use Medicaid dollars to lower the costs of health care for low-income individuals. Unfortunately, even with these promising changes to the BCRA, the bill did not have the support to pass the Senate.

In an effort to move the process forward, I supported legislation that would have led to a House-Senate conference in an effort to come together, solve our differences, and find agreement on a final product that would benefit our state and country. Although it was, at times, a frustrating process and I am disappointed that the Senate was unable to proceed towards a House-Senate conference, we must not lose sight of the fact that, for many Ohioans, the status quo is unacceptable. I know some may want to throw in the towel and do nothing, but I don’t believe that is the responsible course of action. Doing nothing would leave some Ohioans stranded without health insurance and everyone with higher costs.

We can do better, and I’m not giving up. I will continue working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle toward common-sense solutions on behalf of Ohio families to increase choice, bring down costs, and protect our most vulnerable. I hope the Senate Finance Committee will announce a series of health care hearings and we can do this process the right way. People are rightly frustrated on both sides of the aisle. We must come together as an institution and do better for Ohioans—and all Americans. As your Senator, I will make this my priority for years to come.

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