SEN. PORTMAN RESPONDS, SIX MONTHS LATER…

February 6th, 2018

So, back on 18 July, I contacted Senator Robert Jones Portman regarding the Republican plan to leave millions of Americans and tens-of-thousands of Ohioans swinging in the healthcare wind by repealing the Affordable Care Act without a replacement.

We’ve tried to play nice with the insurance companies, but their for-profit model has no place in healthcare. They’ve had their chance, now we need to be talking single-payer/Medicaid for All, which Aaron Godfrey—the candidate I’m supporting for Ohio’s 16th congressional district—is calling for.

Today, after nearly seven months had passed, I got this response:

Dear Jeff,

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. Furthermore, it was uncertain at times this year whether the Obamacare Marketplaces would remain viable for Ohioans, when Anthem and Premier pulled out, leaving 19 Ohio counties without a single insurer offering coverage in the markets. While the state was able to work with insurers to return to the markets, many Ohioans are still without choice, with 42 counties in the State projected to have only one insurer left in the markets next year. 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 (BCRA), 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 included several of my proposals: $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. My colleagues and I remain committed to finding a pathway forward, whether that be through the most recent proposal by Senators Graham and Cassidy or through the bipartisan conversations on market stabilization efforts, and I will continue to work to ensure that Ohioans can access affordable health care.

Although it has, at times, been a frustrating process and I am disappointed that the Senate has not been able 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. 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.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact me. For more information, I encourage you to visit my website. Please keep in touch.

Sincerely,

Rob Portman
U.S. Senator

Me thinks the senator needs to hire better, or more, staff.

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