State Republican leader responds to Gov. Inslee’s AHCA statement

This article is crossposted from State of Reform, a health policy news site. 

U.S. House Republicans introduced their plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act last week, called the American Health Care Act, and it’s met a chilly reception from leaders in health care and on the left.

The Congressional Budget Office issued an analysis of the AHCA on Monday with an estimate that the number of uninsured Americans could increase by 24 million.

Gov. Jay Inslee responded with this statement:

Today’s analysis from the nonpartisan CBO confirms our worst fears about the Republican effort in Congress to repeal the Affordable Care Act. It would actually leave our nation worse off than before the ACA was implemented. Republican leaders use words like ‘freedom’ and ‘choice’ to hide what they’re really doing, which is ripping away one of our most important safety nets and rewinding the clock to a time before cancer patients could get coverage, all women could get preventative care and thousands could get help for opioid addiction.

I will be personally contacting every member of Washington’s congressional delegation and calling on them to reject this attack on working families and vulnerable Americans.

But, Rep. Joe Schmick, R-Colfax, along with other Republican leaders, issued a statement Thursday criticizing Inslee’s comments:

Everyone knows that Obamacare is failing in critical areas and that it must be rescued at the federal level with reforms. Among those failures are escalating health insurance premiums, fewer health care choices for patients and companies leaving the exchanges. This current system is simply not sustainable. Our governor, who voted for Obamacare while he was in Congress, is doubling down on this failed system and is now promoting information that, at best, is incomplete.

The House Republicans in Congress have put forward the American Health Care Act. Like major pieces of public policy we see come through the Legislature, I expect this proposal to change and improve as it moves forward. It’s important to let the process play out and provide facts so people understand the debate.

I believe there are some very good things contained in the American Health Care Act. First, it would encourage free markets and fair competition, which would lower health care costs. Second, it would provide tax relief to every American. Third, it would continue to protect people with pre-existing conditions. Fourth, it would return power back to the states and provide them with more flexibility for innovation, rather than having the other Washington dictate how individuals purchase their own health care. Finally, it would be fiscally responsible and reduce the federal deficit.

A lot has been made about the Congressional Budget Office’s report and the possibility of more people becoming uninsured. The report says 14 million more people would be uninsured. However, according to the CBO, most of these people would be the result of the individual mandate being repealed. We have to remember that these are people who were forced to buy a product. Without this mandate, fewer people may choose to have health insurance. The report further states that five million are potential enrollees from states that had been considering expanding their Medicaid populations but now won’t. This is old-fashioned government logic where nixing a proposed government increase is viewed as a cut.

Governor Inslee and Insurance Commissioner Kreidler have also said that more than 700,000 Washingtonians would lose their health insurance. This faulty number assumes the majority of our state’s expansion population will stop receiving benefits, which is a huge assumption. The ninety percent match rate provided by the federal government for these expanded populations will continue under the proposed legislation. Why would the state make any changes to the expansion population when the federal government has promised to continue the current level of support with no end in sight?

I encourage Governor Inslee and Insurance Commissioner Kreidler to be forthcoming and provide the whole story as this important debate continues in our state and around the country. Releasing incomplete information and utilizing scare tactics is not helpful. Let’s gather all the facts, share them, and see how this issue plays out in our nation’s capital. I encourage everyone to be a part of this process.