Topping the list of rural concerns: jobs, health care — and opioid abuse
Author: Scott Tipton - September 12, 2017 - Updated: September 18, 2017
Over the month of August, my team and I traveled over 1,700 miles across the 3rd Congressional District and state of Colorado, making over 30 stops to discuss the most pressing issues facing our nation. I had the privilege of visiting with local economic development leaders, county commissioners, school boards, health care providers, veterans groups, substance abuse professionals and many others — including U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt. He visited the Gold King Mine site on the two-year anniversary of the toxic spill to reassure the community that the EPA is prioritizing cleanup of the site and will make those impacted by the spill whole.
There are a few themes that I heard throughout the month no matter where I was, and it is clear that jobs and the economy, health care, and the nation’s opioid abuse epidemic are top of mind for many Coloradans.
In Colorado, we have a tale of two economies. While resort towns and major metropolitan areas are thriving, there are many communities on the Western Slope, Front Range, and in the San Luis Valley where families are struggling. The legacy of heavy-handed federal regulations is still preventing the private sector in these communities from creating jobs and supporting economic security.
According to the Small Business Administration’s 2016 statistics, small businesses support 49 percent of Colorado’s workforce. Small businesses are truly the backbone of our state’s economy, and we must do everything we can to support entrepreneurs and job creators. Unfortunately, a 2014 study by the Brookings Institute showed an alarming trend: in recent years, the number of small businesses that have shut down exceeds the number that have opened their doors. Nowhere has this trend been felt more profoundly than in rural America, where small businesses are responsible for approximately two-thirds of all jobs.
As a former small business owner, my focus in Congress has been on advancing policies that will create an environment where we see more businesses opening than closing each year. When more businesses open, struggling families have more job opportunities and a better chance at achieving financial stability.
While it takes time to undo nearly a decade of harmful regulatory policies, we are making progress on this front in the 115th Congress. So far this year, Congress passed and the president has signed 14 congressional resolutions of disapproval that roll back unnecessary, overly burdensome federal regulations, and the House passed the REINS Act (H.R. 26), which would require Congressional approval of any regulation that would have an economic impact of $100 million or more. Although we still have a long way to go, I am confident that we are heading in the right direction to deliver more job opportunities and economic stability to families in the 3rd Congressional District.
The Colorado Division of Insurance recently announced that premiums in the state’s individual health insurance market will increase by 26.7 percent on average in 2018. This is on top of the 20 percent increase in 2017 and 24 percent increase in 2016. The trajectory is unsustainable and unacceptable. We must repeal and replace the so-called Affordable Act and bring affordable health insurance to the 3rd Congressional District.
In May, the House made important progress towards this goal by passing the American Health Care Act (AHCA). The bill would drive down the cost of health insurance and bring competition and choice to the market, while ensuring that individuals who have pre-existing conditions maintain access to affordable health insurance. In addition to the AHCA, the House also passed bills to begin medical tort reform — an issue that needs to be addressed in order to drive down health care costs — and allow small businesses and associations to provide insurance options for their employees or members across state lines, which will give individuals and families more choices when it comes to their insurance coverage. These bills were the Protecting Access to Care Act (H.R. 1215), Small Business Health Fairness Act of 2017 (H.R. 1101), and the Competitive Health Insurance Reform Act (H.R. 372).
The Senate has not yet passed the AHCA or a health care bill of its own that would allow both chambers to compromise on final legislation. It is beyond time for the Senate to act.
As I have traveled our district to speak with the men and women who work on the front lines of the opioid abuse epidemic, it has become clear to me that Colorado has some of the most dedicated doctors, nurses, counselors, and substance abuse professionals in the country. The president recently declared the opioid abuse epidemic a national emergency, and I have been committed to ensuring our communities have the resources they need to develop and sustain prevention, treatment, and recovery programs.
In 2016, the 21st Century Cures Act and Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) were both signed into law. These bills authorized programs to provide states with more resources to expand opioid abuse prevention and treatment efforts. As a result of these bills, Colorado received $7.8 million to support prevention, treatment, and recovery services, and the Department of Health and Human Services has made $75.9 million in competitive grants available to state mental health and substance abuse agencies.
I continue to receive feedback on how the federal government can better support Colorado’s efforts to fight the opioid abuse epidemic, and I’m committed to incorporating this feedback into policy decisions that are made in Washington.
Congress has a full agenda between now and the end of the year. If you have any questions about bills that are up for a vote or my work on your behalf, please do not hesitate to give my office in Washington, DC, a call at 202-225-4761. You can also write to me on my website, www.tipton.house.gov.