Sen. John Barrasso: Democrats want to make our nightmarish, costly health insurance system even worse

FILE -- House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-CA, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-NY, speak during a briefing on Capitol Hill in Washington. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

The American health insurance system is, for many, an expensive bureaucratic nightmare. The Trump administration has put in place affordable options to inject more choice and competition into the marketplace. Democrats are trying to block them.

Republicans are providing alternatives to ObamaCare that lower costs for families and protect people from catastrophic medical bills. More people will now be able to choose affordable insurance that works for them. 

This is the result of two Trump rule changes. The first expands access to “short-term” health plans, and the second allows more people to join “association” health plans. Combined, these two changes are likely to provide more affordable insurance to 8 million Americans. More than 2 million of these people are living without health insurance today.

Short term plans have been expanded from 90 days under President Obama to as long as three years by President Trump. These plans aren’t bound by the most burdensome requirements of ObamaCare, so they cost less.

An analysis by the insurance company eHealth found that these plans cost an average of 80 percent less than the cheapest plans on the insurance exchanges. A 25-year-old woman in Cleveland would now pay $266 a year compared to $2,301 for ObamaCare insurance.

The liberal Urban Institute expects 4.3 million Americans will choose this sort of plan next year. Of these, 1.7 million currently have no insurance. Many Americans will see this option as a great opportunity to escape from ObamaCare.

A second Trump administration action helps the millions of Americans who work for small businesses or are self-employed. These people lack the leverage to negotiate better rates on their insurance, so their coverage has become very expensive.

Ranchers in Wyoming wanting to insure their families and their workers have been priced out of the market by ObamaCare. Now, ranchers and others can join together to shop for better insurance rates, just like big businesses do.  

Under these association health plans, the same protection for pre-existing conditions apply. The Congressional Budget Office says 4 million Americans will join these types of plans, including 400,000 who have no insurance today.

With these two steps, Republicans are giving relief to millions of Americans who want health insurance and have struggled to afford it. These are options, not mandates. No one will be forced to buy either of these policies or any other kind of insurance that’s not right for them.

ObamaCare plans will still exist – and so will the subsidies for people who prefer to buy that coverage. ObamaCare will just have to compete in the open market with more affordable options. States will still have the authority to regulate these plans, dispelling claims by the liberal left that the policies are junk insurance.

It’s this competition that Democrats fear. Thirty-one Democrats in the Senate are trying to keep people from getting access to expanded popular short-term plans. Democratic politicians in several states and Washington D.C. are blocking these plans and suing to stop association health plans as well.

Their main argument against Republican reforms is that too many people will choose an affordable alternative rather than the one-size-fits-all ObamaCare coverage.

Democrats know that their health care law was based on limiting peoples’ options. This caused prices to spike. In states using the federal HealthCare.gov exchange, average premiums have doubled since the law took effect. It also caused choices to disappear. People living in more than half of America’s counties have only one insurer in their ObamaCare exchange.

When people can pick affordable insurance that is appropriate for them, Democrats fear even fewer will sign up for ObamaCare.

Republicans know a better solution is to give Americans more options, and let them choose the coverage that works best for them.

Each of these changes will give people a fair choice. Add them together and they’ll help millions of Americans obtain the affordable insurance they have been seeking since before ObamaCare became law.

Republican John Barrasso represents Wyoming in the U.S. Senate. He serves in the Senate as a member of both the Energy and Environment Committees. Follow him on Twitter@SenJohnBarrasso.

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