The health care replacement bill developed by Republicans and working through House committees on Capitol Hill establishes a starting point for improvements to the U.S. health care system, according to Congressman Darin LaHood (R-18) of Dunlap.
In a GLT interview, LaHood said the process is "complicated and nuanced."
"If we do nothing in Congress, Obamacare will fail. That's not just my opinion. That's the opinion of Democrats, Republicans and Independents," LaHood said. "This (the American Health Care Act) is a good first step in doing that, but there's a long way to go."
LaHood said there some positives about Obamacare he would keep and some negatives worth doing away with. He favors provisions that keep young adults under parents policies until age 25 or 26. He also likes the stipulation banning discrimination against pre-existing conditions. Both Obamacare features are included in the AHCA.
As far as things to include, LaHood touts marketplace competition. He said the number one concern he's heard from constituents is the rising costs.
"In my district, 55 percent of premiums have gone up over the past two years. Deductibles are way too high. Obamacare promised lower costs. That hasn't happened. Obamacare was supposed to let you keep your doctor. That hasn't happened. We have to fix the high costs of health care," LaHood said.
LaHood also said he favors allowing health insurance to be purchased across state lines. That's not a feature of the AHCA, but something he said "in the next phase of health care reform."
"You should have options. There are 19 counties in my district. In many of them, you only have one insurance company option. That's not the original intent of Obamacare. Allowing an Illinois policy holder to pick from plans from other states will help drive down costs," LaHood added.
Medicaid expansion is also a concern of LaHood. He said the system should revert back to it's original intent when it was introduced in the 1960s.
"Medicaid was originally established to provide care for poor women and children. It's gotten out of hand and has tripled in size since Bill Clinton was president," LaHood said. He added the system now allows well-abled working men to participate in some instances.
The Congressional Budget Office announced Monday some 14 million people will lose coverage if the AHCA is enacted, with as many as 24 million losing coverage by 2026. LaHood said many of those would be by choice, since the individual mandate would not be included.
"Under our plan, it's optional. Many young people who are out of college or healthy now have to pay for something they don't need. You won't be required to do that," he said.
But LaHood said he is concerned about some people being left out of coverage.
"We have to make sure we don't pull the rug out from anybody that has pre-existing conditions, that has a plan now that they rely on. But I look at this as the start of the process. This will be open and transparent. I don't envision we will have a vote on this for two or three weeks, maybe longer," LaHood added.
Concerning public access to him, LaHood said he held 25 public events during his last visit to the expansive district, which includes parts of Bloomington-Normal to the east, stretching to the Mississippi River to the west. Some residents have asked for more access, including the chance to ask questions. LaHood said he's considering that during the upcoming April recess.
"If we can structure those in a very civil manner. I'm not going to engage with people who are going to yell and scream and play the 'gotcha' game. But people that want to have a dialog and discussion, I will do that every single day that I'm back in my district, even if you don't agree with me," LaHood said.
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