Opinion

Cory Gardner made the right call with health-care vote. Here’s what to do next

Author: Jimmy Sengenberger - July 28, 2017 - Updated: July 28, 2017

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Jimmy Sengenberger
Jimmy Sengenberger

Fifty Senate Republicans and Vice President Mike Pence on Tuesday voted in favor of opening up 20 hours of debate on repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  Colorado’s own Sen. Cory Gardner, an advocate for healthcare reform, was among those who voted to move ahead.  He subsequently cast votes in favor of repeal and replace, “straight repeal” and “skinny repeal” of Obamacare.  With each of these votes, Senator Gardner unquestionably made the right decisions.

Coloradans on the individual market are bracing for premium increases of 27% next year, a staggering amount on top of already-staggering premiums.  Top that with outrageous deductibles, and Obamacare yet again has doomed many Coloradans to “health insurance” in name only – not access to the care they need.  That is, if they (unlike me) can even afford insurance.

Similarly, the Department of Health and Human Services reported that premiums have shot up $2,784, or 105%, on average nationally since 2013 – one year before the ACA regulations went into full implementation.  This is not only expensive – it is reprehensibly so.  Americans throughout the country are suffering under the ACA, and we deserve better.

Judging from past radio interviews I’ve conducted with Sen. Gardner, he seems to recognize that now is the opportunity for the Senate to take decisive action to resolve this crisis for his constituents in Colorado and Americans everywhere.

Coloradans like me who are hurt by or suffering under the boot of Obamacare deserve to have our voices heard in Congress.  We deserve a shot at meaningful reform.  Had Sen. Gardner not voted to simply take up debate, struggling Coloradans would have ultimately been denied the opportunity for real, vigorous debate on the Senate floor on conservative solutions to address premiums, deductibles and tightening access to care.

While the U.S. Senate has hit a serious roadblock on this issue, it is essential that Republicans continue to strive for solutions to the health care crisis. It will take a renewed and open process of debate and amendments on the Senate floor to get there, but it is crucial that Sen. Gardner and his colleagues in the majority work together to revive this pivotal effort and follow through on their promise to the American people.

Now, this does not mean that Republicans cannot, should not and must not take any steps to work with Democrats. Quite the contrary: there are initiatives that will require collaboration with Democrats for 60 votes, but only after the most foundational components of Obamacare are torn from the lawbooks.

Writing for The Colorado Springs Gazette back in April, Dr. Michael T. Parra, a Fellow at the Millennial Policy Center, and I proposed a piecemeal approach to repealing and replacing the ACA.  We suggested that Congress should repeal and replace a significant chunk of the law and then work alongside Democrats on necessary supplemental reforms.

More than four months later, with deep-seated divisions among Republicans remaining, I still see that something along the lines of the strategy we proposed in April is the right one.  The Senate should indeed pass one large-scale bill which accomplishes as many key reform objectives as possible within the constraints of reconciliation.  (Reconciliation is a procedure requiring only 51 votes for approval of legislation that meets certain budgetary standards.)

Such a bill should, among other steps, eliminate the Obamacare taxes and the employer and individual mandates; offer expansive relief from the essential health benefits that are jacking up costs so high; rein in Medicaid with block grants and work requirements, and unleash health savings accounts (HSAs) so that they can be applied toward premiums and all medications.

While the Congress works to pass this “large-scale bill” first, there are several other steps that it should take to chip away at other parts of Obamacare and implement reforms that should bring Democrats into the fold on individual legislation.

One piece of legislation would permit insurance sales across state lines while a second would support invisible high-risk pools for those individuals who have expensive, pre-existing conditions.  Another bill would permit Association Health Plans, which allow community organizations and small businesses to pool resources together to insure members and employees.

Senate Republicans like Senator Gardner would do well to make use of a strategic, piecemeal approach like this to accomplish the repeal and replacement of the ACA with serious, much-needed reforms that will bring down costs and boost access to healthcare.

Jimmy Sengenberger

Jimmy Sengenberger

Jimmy Sengenberger is the host of "Business for Breakfast" on KDMT Denver’s Money Talk 1690 AM and "The Jimmy Sengenberger Show" on News/Talk 710 KNUS. He is also the president and CEO of the Denver-based Millennial Policy Center.