NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. – Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-Ga.) told PJM that the Republican-led Congress has to eliminate most of Obamacare and create new legislation that makes health insurance as “simple” as a smartphone.
Loudermilk, a member of the House Financial Services Committee, said during an interview late last month at the Conservative Political Action Conference that a Republican healthcare plan should end the federal public exchanges for health insurance but let states have the option to keep their state-level exchanges or not.
The American Health Care Act, crafted by the House Energy and Commerce and Ways and Means committees, met conservative opposition out of the gate, with critics calling the plan “Obamacare Lite.” President Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) have spent the week trying to convince lawmakers to support the bill, while enough GOP senators and congressmen to threaten rejection of the legislation have said they need to see changes.
PJM: What’s the cohesive message you want the grassroots activists to take out of CPAC?
Loudermilk: It’s time for us to more forward, not keep going backwards. Look, what’s happened over the last eight years is that the Democrats have come in – they’ve tried to make the government the solution for everything and the government rarely does anything right. Their way did not work. When you look at healthcare, healthcare costs have gone up, insurance rates have gone up, deductibles are to the point where people can’t even afford – their insurance is basically useless. Our healthcare system, the insurance, was broke before President Obama came in; government just made it worse. You look at everything – Dodd Frank has actually closed the economy off for most Americans, it’s protected Wall Street. It’s time to start breaking down the barriers and people are saying ‘let’s get big, let’s get bold or just go home,’ and it’s our time to fix America.”
PJM: When it comes to healthcare, what’s your timeline? When do you want to see the Republicans have a replacement actually passed and Obamacare fully replaced?
Loudermilk: Most of Obamacare we don’t want to replace, OK, if you look at it, the taxes associated with Obamacare, I don’t want to replace those. When you talk about the high cost of insurance premiums, why do you want to replace that with more government controls that have caused that? So there’s a majority of Obamacare we don’t want to replace – that’s government-instituted hurdles that really keep American people from getting the health insurance they want.
I don’t want to replace the mandate on businesses and individuals or the penalty if you don’t own it. So what we have to do is remove the barriers, remove what is really the bulk of Obamacare, get the federal government out of it, now let’s start fixing the rest of America’s healthcare system. If all we do is repeal what Obama has done, we will still be back to before he got elected, which the healthcare costs were too high anyhow. Now is the time to fix America’s healthcare system. It’s going to take a while but we have to start now.
PJM: Former Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) said, why don’t the Republicans just pass what they did when President Obama was in office and just give Trump the same bill?
Loudermilk: That’s the baseline of what we are doing, so what we passed last year in reconciliation is the baseline. What it means is that everything that was in that is in this, but we are going to add as much more as we can because now it is not just messaging, it’s actually getting it done. So through reconciliation, a parliamentary procedure that allows us to avoid the 60-vote requirement in the Senate, it will just be majority vote. There is only so much that we can do according to the rules of the Senate so we are going to pass the most that we can, let them put more in it. That will move the plumbing of Obamacare, but there’s certain aspects that you can’t hit with that. Then we have to follow up with more legislation, but having Tom Price as Health and Human Services secretary, there’s a lot of latitude he has in that position to actually start transitioning away from a federal-controlled system to actually get it back to the states and to the people.
PJM: Should the public exchanges stay in place?
Loudermilk: Not under any form of federal control. If states want to have an exchange then the states can have an exchange. We need to break the barriers to allow insurance to be bought across state lines – you can do that with your auto insurance now, why can’t you do it with your health insurance? We need to increase the ability for you to use health savings accounts, but that needs to be handled at the state level – but your health savings account ought to be transferable between employer and even across state lines. But if somebody really just wants to go pay cash for their services, then we ought to allow them to do that as well. But I don’t believe we should have any federal control over any of the exchanges; that should be totally done at the state level. Let the states decide because in Georgia we didn’t participate in the exchange. We didn’t expand our Medicaid; some other states did. If they want to keep doing that and states want to control it, then that ought to be up to the states and the people can respond if they don’t like it.
PJM: Will the Republicans get rid of the patient’s bill of rights in a replacement or new version of the Affordable Care Act? (The Patient’s Bill of Rights regulations in the Affordable Care Act are a set of patient protections including health coverage requirements for insurance companies to follow and minimum essential health benefits that must be covered.)
Loudermilk: We need to get rid of any mandate from the federal government that forces the states to comply with minimum coverage of any type. Look, I want to take and make the healthcare system in America as simple to use as your cell phone. If you were to take your iPhone and you were to apply the rules of and the laws that we passed on healthcare to your phone, what would that do?
Well, first of all, the government would have to approve what kind of phone you get as they have to approve the healthcare plans as you were just stating – that also means you would not get new technology every six months. You wouldn’t see a new iPhone coming out, you would see one maybe every 2 or 3 years after it went through all the government scrutiny. It also means that you wouldn’t be able to download the apps that you want because they determine what apps you can have.
Also, if you require a large data plan because you use it a lot, well, that’s Cadillac. That’s a Cadillac plan. We’re going to tax you more for having that – and oh, by the way, even though your cost per month is going to go up we are going to put a high deductible, which means you still have to pay to use it. And even though you are paying for it and if you decide that’s too onerous and you don’t even want to mess with the phone, guess what? We are going to tax you because you don’t own one. If we did that to the phones the people would revolt.
What I want to do is reverse that and make healthcare as simple as that phone. You choose what apps you want on there, if you decide, you know, if you are an 18-year-old male who is in good health, you don’t plan on getting married anytime soon, then why should you have to pay for maternity care?
You ought to be able to just select what coverage you want, what deductibles you want, whatever you can afford in a premium and customize your own plan just like you download and customize your phone. That’s what we got to get to in America. So we’ve got to get the federal government out of it, get us out of the way and let the states and let the people decide.
PJM: Do you think healthcare costs will go down if the government is out of the way?
Loudermilk: Absolutely. The government does very little very efficiently. You get the government out of the way and you get the regulations, the cost that are associated with these regulations and the red tape, you will see the cost of premiums basically reduced. Look, right now in my district, there is an ear, nose and throat outpatient surgery center. If you pay cash for a tonsillectomy through them it is $2,600. If you come for the same procedure and you use any type of Obamacare health plan or any other insurance it is $5,800 because of the additional red tape and regulation associated with it. Can they come down? Yes.
PJM: I know exactly what you are talking about because I have seen that with my own eyes happen and there is a disparity between the costs of the service, like you just said. So, can Congress do something about that?
Loudermilk: Absolutely. They can get the federal government out of the way and let’s get this thing back to where the people are in charge of their own healthcare. Obamacare is nothing but a federal takeover of the health insurance industry, so it’s time to break that. There are some other things that we need to do associated with it. We need to get the economy going, which is breaking away from Dodd-Frank and quit protecting the Wall Street insiders and open up the economy for everyone so that the economy can naturally and organically grow regardless of the status of your birth – that you could actually achieve the American dream.
Most people don’t even believe that they could develop a new product – that’s been part of the ethos of America as you have the opportunity, you’ve got a good idea you could turn that into a huge success. People don’t believe you can do that anymore, only the big corporations can do it, a lot of that is because of the barriers that have been put up because of federal law. We start breaking that down, it opens the world’s greatest economy to everyone. You start removing the barriers that are keeping people from getting affordable healthcare, that just encourages government involvement – if we can break those barriers, the cost will come down. This isn’t a pie-in-the-sky idea. We’ve seen it from where you can pay cash. Let’s get the cost of healthcare down to that by opening up our economy, opening up healthcare, opening up opportunity for every American.