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Springfield, MO

Opinion: Missourians deserve better health care system

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Earlier this year, Senate Republicans took the first step toward repealing “Obamacare” and paving the way for solutions that will expand access to quality, affordable health care for every American.

If Obamacare was working the way President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats said it would when they forced the law through Congress, this wouldn’t be necessary.

But Obamacare is wreaking havoc on our health care system and leaving Missourians with higher costs, fewer options and more uncertainty. When Obama was making the case for this law, he repeatedly assured Americans they would be able to keep the plans and doctors they liked and could afford. By the end of 2013, millions of Americans had their plans canceled because they did not meet the law’s requirements.

Obama also said this law would mean “more choice, more competition and lower costs for millions of Americans.” That’s not the case. In Missouri, several insurers have pulled out of the Obamacare exchanges, significantly narrowing health plan options for individuals and families. This year, 97 Missouri counties have only one insurer participating in the exchanges. Last year, every Missouri county had at least two insurer options.

In addition, most Missourians will see a rise in their premiums, with some facing an increase upward of 40 percent. I’ve heard from one small-business owner, Dave, who told me his premiums have more than doubled under Obamacare, at the same time that his business has been forced to continually raise deductibles and seriously reduce benefits. Dave has been told to expect a 40 percent increase next year, which, he says, will be the end of his company’s participation in a health insurance program.

These rate hikes are on top of the skyrocketing deductibles families have to meet before they’re even able to use their insurance. According to HealthPocket, this year the average deductible for a bronze plan tops $6,000 for individuals and $12,000 for families. Individuals with the middle-tier silver plans have an average deductible of more than $3,500, a 15 percent increase over last year.

Missourians shouldn’t have to foot the bill for a law that has proven unworkable, unaffordable and unsustainable. That is why repealing and replacing Obamacare is one of our top priorities in the Senate.

In his recent address to Congress, President Donald Trump reiterated his commitment to enacting step-by-step health reforms “that expand choice, increase access, lower costs and at the same time provide better health care.”

I was encouraged to hear the president back the expansion of health savings accounts, which would allow Missourians to put more of their pretax dollars into portable HSAs and use those funds to cover health care costs. This policy would make health care more affordable now and easier to plan for in the future. Most importantly, the president reaffirmed the need to ensure coverage for those with pre-existing conditions.

The American Health Care Act, which is currently working its way through Congress, would go a long way toward creating a health care system that better addresses the needs of hardworking families without imposing costly new mandates and tax hikes. But we have a lot of work ahead.

Obamacare has fundamentally altered our health care system, and repairing the damage will not be easy. But doing nothing is not an option. Missouri families need and deserve health plan options that give them access to quality care they can afford, without the fear of skyrocketing costs year after year.

I look forward to working with the president and my colleagues on a step-by-step, patient-centered approach to improve and expand access to affordable health care in Missouri and across the nation.

U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., can be reached through Blunt.Senate.gov.


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