Less than one week after Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) stated that a limited bill could be needed to stabilize the health insurance marketplace, a group of House Democrats from across the political spectrum unveiled a five-part plan to improve upon the Affordable Care Act and stabilize the individual marketplace.
The plan, titled Solutions over Politics, seeks to stabilize the individual market while protecting plans for people with pre-existing conditions, keeping costs down for lower income folks, promoting enrollment and ensuring everyone pays their fair share. The plan also calls for improvements to the ACA including ways to reduce churn in the market and drawing bidding areas to ensure that rural areas aren't left at a disadvantage.
Led by the New Democrat Coalition Co-Chairs of the Affordable and Accessible Health Care Task Force, Reps. Kurt Schrader (OR-05), Ami Bera, M.D. (CA-07) and Ann McLane Kuster (NH-02), the group is comprised of members from across the country representing diverse parts of the Democratic Caucus, including members of the House Energy and Commerce and the House Ways and Means Committees, through which the Affordable Care Act was marked up and passed during the 111th Congress.
"It's time to tackle the real issues. The Affordable Care Act has helped 20 million people access quality health care, many for the first time in their lives," said Rep. Schrader. "Medicaid expansion has been an unqualified success in red and blue states. But we have to face facts: some folks in the individual marketplace have seen their premiums and deductibles increase significantly due to an imbalance in the marketplace and uncertainty caused by this new administration. Let's fix that! Our five-point proposal aims squarely at stabilizing and improving the individual market. We've talked with health care experts, providers, and patients to find real solutions. If we are serious about making health care affordable for everyone, let's direct our focus there."
"We know that the Affordable Care Act has challenges that need to be addressed to expand access to health insurance and bring down costs, but the Republican proposal is not the right answer," said Rep. Kuster. "Under the GOP's plan, thousands of people in New Hampshire and millions of Americans, including millions of veterans, could lose access to health care. Today we're announcing priorities for what I hope will be the first steps toward bringing together Republicans and Democrats behind commonsense proposals to improve the Affordable Care Act for all Americans."
"As a doctor, health care is about putting the patient's health first, reducing costs, and increasing the number of people insured -- and that's exactly what these proposals do," said Rep. Bera. "We've made great progress under the Affordable Care Act and it's time to stop playing politics with people's lives. I'm urging Democrats and Republicans to work across the aisle and implement these bipartisan ideas that will improve our health care system."
The group also includes Reps. Suzan DelBene (WA-01), Peter Welch (VT-At Large), Scott Peters (CA-52), Terri Sewell (AL-07), Kathleen Rice (NY-04), Jim Himes (CT-04) and Ron Kind (WI-03).
"It's long past time for Republicans to drop the threat of repeal and start working across the aisle on solutions for the American people," said Rep. DelBene. "Democrats have always been ready and willing to work across the aisle to build on the progress we've made to bring down health care costs and provide stability for individuals and families."
"Rather than repealing or replacing a landmark law that has expanded quality health care to millions of Americans, the focus of Congress should be on improving the Affordable Care Act," said Rep. Welch. "We can build bipartisan consensus by taking steps to stabilize the individual market where 7 percent of Americans purchase health plans. Our commonsense reforms will help make health care affordable and accessible to all Americans."
"Even as we work to defeat the disastrous Republican proposals to repeal the Affordable Care Act, it is clear that Congress will still need to act to improve our current health care system," said Rep. Peters. "These proposed solutions would help increase choice for Americans who use the exchanges and slow the growth of premiums and deductibles by stabilizing the individual markets. This is what Congress should be doing: putting politics aside and working together to protect what is working in our health care system and fix what isn't."
"Health care is a right, not a privilege, and we have a responsibility in Congress to put solutions over politics when it comes to ensuring all Americans have access to quality, affordable health care," said Rep. Sewell. "I am honored to join my colleagues to urge Republicans to abandon their partisan health care repeal bill and work with us on policies that provide stability and certainty to health insurance markets across the country. Our proposal addresses some of biggest challenges in our health care system with commonsense solutions, like protecting premium assistance, promoting continuous coverage, and protecting essential health benefits. The Affordable Care Act delivered affordable health care to millions of Americans. Rather than going back on that promise, it's our job in Congress to improve the ACA by reducing costs, increasing coverage, and stabilizing the marketplace."
"We all know that it's time for Republicans to stop trying to undermine and repeal the ACA and start working with us to improve the law in a bipartisan way," said Rep. Rice. "We're ready to put politics and campaign promises aside and get to work, and we can start with these common-sense proposals to strengthen the individual market and make health care more affordable."
"In order to continue the hard and necessary work of ensuring that the Affordable Care Act benefits all Americans who need it, we must address the pressing problems of market stabilization," said New Democrat Coalition Chair Rep. Himes. "Families across the country are struggling with rising costs in every area, especially when it comes to health care. The ideas that we are suggesting today are designed to begin to address these challenges. In recent months, much of our energy has been focused on opposing the destructive efforts to tear down all the good the ACA has done. We will continue that fight, but are also committed to showing the American people that Democrats are not the party of "no.' We have real solutions to real problems."
"Instead of continuing to push forward a partisan health care bill that will negatively impact the lives of thousands of seniors, veterans, and children, I hope my colleagues will join us in putting solutions over politics," said Rep. Kind. "It is time we recognize what works in health care, fix what doesn't, and seek to lower health care costs for all Americans."