Congressman Kevin Cramer

Representing North Dakota, At Large

CRAMER: AHCA Ensures Americans Access to Quality, Affordable Health Care

May 4, 2017
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Kevin Cramer supported legislation passed by the House of Representatives today, which he describes as a rescue mission to save Americans from a very sick health care law. 

The House passed H.R. 1628, the American Health Care Act (AHCA), today by a vote of 217-213. 

“The AHCA dismantles Obamacare’s crushing taxes and government-mandated penalties that have hurt patients, families, job creators,” said Cramer. “It delivers nearly $900 billion in tax relief and establishes a patient-centered health care system to give Americans access to quality, affordable care. Unlike Obamacare, which discourages people from having health insurance, the AHCA will incentivize folks to get health insurance through lower premiums and federal resources for low-income individuals and families.”

Cramer said that under Obamacare, the average family premiums in the employer-sponsored market have soared to $18,000 annually and individual premiums are up 27%. One third of counties in the entire country – 1,022 counties – have just one insurer, and many counties have lost health coverage entirely. Unlike Obamacare, the AHCA harnesses the free market, which will drive down costs and ensure Americans have access to quality care.

The legislation repeals the individual and employer mandate penalties as well as taxes on health insurance, medical devices, over-the-counter medications, prescriptions, and health savings accounts. It also repeals the Obamacare slush fund subsidies, Medicare tax increases, the net investment tax, the income threshold for medical expense deductions, limitations to flex spending account contributions and the cost-sharing subsidy program.

The AHCA also prohibits discrimination against folks with pre-existing conditions, allows dependents to stay on their parents’ plan until age 26, and prohibits lifetime caps on medical care.

“I have heard from many North Dakotans, especially seniors and those in rural areas who lost access to insurance markets and were burdened by increasing premiums and skyrocketing deductibles,” Cramer said. “The AHCA will bring them relief through affordable, patient-centered health coverage by encouraging greater marketplace competition between health insurance companies.”

As part of the revised health bill, the MacArthur amendment further protects citizens by explicitly stating under no circumstances can people be denied coverage because of a pre-existing conditions or by gender. This amendment gives states the option to waive three of Obamacare’s costliest mandates if the states have risk-sharing programs in place. For states to apply for waivers, they must show their programs will reduce premiums, increase enrollment, or increase patients’ healthcare plan options, among other requirements.

Highlights of the replacement provisions in the ACHA include:

  • Repeal of $900 billion in taxes.
  • Funding of $115 billion to states to design programs that meet the unique needs of their patient populations and help low-income Americans access affordable healthcare. Included in that amount, is $15 billion specifically for a new federal Invisible Risk Sharing Program to further stabilize markets and lower premiums.
  • A new health insurance framework based on free-market principles to create lower cost coverage that allows an individual to choose what best meets their needs.
  • Additional flexibility for states administering their Medicaid programs to protect our most vulnerable populations. By putting the power of health care back into the hands of local leaders, states will have the ability to better care for elderly and disabled citizens. States will also have flexibility to implement reasonable work requirements for able-bodied adults without dependents.
  • Traditional Medicaid recipients will retain coverage with better quality coverage.
  • Medicaid Expansion recipients can stay on the program as long as they are eligible.
  • Low- and middle-income individuals will have increased access to health insurance through advanceable, refundable tax credits. The AHCA helps Americans access affordable, quality health care by providing a monthly tax credit—between $2,000 and $14,000 a year—for low- and middle-income individuals and families who do not receive insurance through work or a government program. 
  • Additional funding of $285 million will be provided for Community Health Centers.
  • Additional $15 billion in funding to support maternity and newborn care, mental health coverage and addiction treatment.
  • Creates a new continuous coverage protection to promote and reward individual responsibility – this new safeguard prohibits medical underwriting for anyone who maintains continuous coverage, whether they are switching from job-based care to the individual market, or within the individual market. An additional $8 billion is provided to support those who see changes in premiums as the result of a state’s decision to pursue a waiver amending community rating for those who choose not to maintain continuous coverage.

The House also passed H.R. 2192, which ensures Members of Congress and their staff are subject to all the same provisions in the AHCA.

Cramer said the House passed two other phases of healthcare reform earlier this year which will accompany the passage of the AHCA. The other two phases are the rolling back of Obamacare regulations by the Department of Health and Human Services, and separate legislation to strengthen insurance markets and provide further relief from Obamacare. 

Cramer supported two other pieces of legislation passed by the House in March, beginning the third prong of reform. These bills are: 

  • H.R. 372, the Competitive Health Insurance Reform Act of 2017, ensures health insurance issuers are subject to the same antitrust and unfair trade practices laws with which all businesses comply. It is the first step to allowing insurance companies to sell across state lines which will increase competition and reduce premiums.  “When health insurers are able to compete to provide a variety of coverage options, everyone benefits, including patients, doctors, and hospitals,” said Cramer.
  • H.R. 1101, the Small Business Health Fairness Act of 2017, allows small businesses to join together in association health plans across state lines through trade associations to become larger purchasers of health insurance. This puts small businesses on an equal playing field with unions and larger corporations, enabling them to have a greater ability to negotiate lower health care costs for their employees.  “This legislation makes it easier for small businesses to offer their employees access to quality, affordable health care coverage,” said Cramer.

There are numerous organizations supporting the AHCA including the National Right to Life Committee, the Susan B. Anthony List, the Catholic Medical Association, the Association of Mature Citizens, and Americans for Tax Reform. The following groups also support the AHCA:

Independent Women’s Voice; National Federation of Independent Business; Blue Cross Blue Shield; Anthem, Inc.; National Association of Manufacturers;  National Taxpayers Union;  Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council;  American Legislative Exchange Council; One Nation Health Coalition;  National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors; ERIC, the ERISA Industry Committee;  International Association of Franchisers; National Restaurant Association;; Medical Device Manufacturers Association; Healthcare Leadership Council; Advanced Medical Technology Association; National Business Group on Health; HR Policy Association; American Benefits Council;  Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA); American College of Cardiologists; American College of Radiologists; National Retail Federation; American Center for Law and Justice; Faith and Freedom Coalition;  Center for the American Experiment; Council for Citizens Against Government Waste; Institute for Liberty; Log Cabin Republicans; Market Institute; Concerned Women for America; Six Degrees Project; Obamacare Repeal Coalition; America’s Health Insurance Plans; AdvaMed; Taxpayers Protection Alliance; Employers Coalition;  Associated General Contractors; National Roofing Contractors Association; Employers Council on Flexible Compensation; Health Savings Accounts Council; Health Leadership Council; America’s Health Insurance Plans; and U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

The bill will now move to the U.S. Senate for further consideration.

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