Traverse City Record-Eagle: Obamacare replacement will give Mich. more choices

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Washington, February 2, 2017 | comments
There’s an old Irving Berlin song you may have heard that goes like this: “anything you can do, I can do better / I can do anything better than you.”

I’ve been thinking a lot about those words during my first few weeks in Congress because that’s exactly how many of my colleagues on the left seem to view the role of government. As they see it, there’s no matter too big or too small for Uncle Sam. And, as for individual liberty? That’s a myth and a relic. The American people can’t be trusted. Government can do it better.

I disagree. My roots run deep in the First District, and I trust Michiganders to make the best decisions for themselves and their families. Self-governance is the bedrock of democracy, and I think Washington would do well to remember that.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) or “Obamacare” is a prime example of what I’m talking about. Seven years ago, the Obamacare advocates assured the American people that the best health care system would be state-led, state-implemented and state-monitored. We were told it would be affordable and accessible for every American, that “if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor,” that “the average family would save $2,500 each year on their premiums” and that Obamacare wouldn’t add to the deficit.

It took almost no time for Obamacare’s big-government failures to become evident. But what do those failures mean?

For one thing, costs are skyrocketing. Premiums have increased as much as 63 percent in some states and spiked significantly in others. In the year ahead, administration data suggests premiums will increase an average of 25 percent across the board for benchmark plans. And deductibles for some are so high that they may as well not have health insurance.

In the meantime, economic realities have confirmed that Obamacare isn’t a viable long-term health care solution. Hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars have been poured into supporting failing co-ops and nonprofits tasked with administering Obamacare in certain states and jurisdictions, and yet those co-ops and nonprofits continue to fail (many of them have already tanked).

Obamacare’s biggest failure might be its tendency to reduce options for Americans and their families. If the American experiment has taught us anything, it’s that open markets lead to more choices. Boris Yeltsin, Russia’s first post-Soviet leader, was famously overwhelmed by the variety of options he found on a visit to a Houston supermarket and is reported to have told an associate that he felt “pain for all of us, for our country so rich, so talented, and so exhausted by incessant experiments.” More freedom means more choice.

As it stands now, people who don’t like their health care coverage have few if any options when it comes to finding something better. And in some places, people are stuck with only one option. That means less freedom and less choice.

That said, certain aspects of Obamacare are rooted in sound policy and deserve to be salvaged — for instance care for those with pre-existing conditions and measures that allow young people to stay on their parents’ insurance plans until the age of 26. But that doesn’t justify keeping the whole plan.

Think about it this way: if you have a basket of eggs with a hole in it, and most of the eggs are broken, you don’t keep the faulty basket to save the good eggs. You get a new and better basket.

Obamacare is a basket with a hole in it. That’s why I’ve supported Obamacare repeal, and why I’m working with House Republicans to choose the best replacement possible. It’s time for us to replace it with something that really does work for every American. It’s time for us to empower Michiganders to make their own choices about affordable care.

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