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Op-ed: Obamacare threatens Utah families' future

Published February 8, 2014 1:01 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Naomi is like many Utahns. A mother of three young children from Kanab, she wondered how the President's health law – Obamacare – would impact her family.

Her answer? As a result of Obamacare, Naomi's family's health care premiums increased more than $400 per month, which means that their premiums will cost a little less than what her family pays for the mortgage on their home.

As Naomi said to me, "this increase for health care will be damaging to my family and our future."

Sadly, Obamacare is threatening the financial futures of families across our state and all over the country. There's a better way.

I've introduced a number of health care ideas over the years, and just this week unveiled a proposal with my colleagues Sens. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and Richard Burr (R-N.C.) called the Patient Choice, Affordability, Responsibility, and Empowerment (CARE) Act. According to an analysis by the non-partisan Center for Health Economy, our proposal will save almost $1.5 trillion over 10 years and reduce premiums compared to Obamacare, all while covering about the same number of Americans.

The first step of our proposal is simple: repeal Obamacare. The only way to truly reform our health care system is to scrap the disastrous law.

From there we start with the biggest barrier to health care in our country: skyrocketing costs.

As in Naomi's case, the rising costs under Obamacare are crimping family budgets and putting a further drag on our economy. Our plan would give her and millions of Americans like her affordable options by harnessing the power of the marketplace – not through Washington-directed mandates.

ObamaCare is struggling to sign-up young people because the law's new mandates, taxes, and regulations make insurance policies too expensive for many Americans.

For example, maybe a 25 year-old male mechanic from Bluffdale just wants catastrophic care and not a plan that includes pediatric dental coverage. He should be able to purchase just that, and our proposal would give him that option.

We also include common-sense consumer protections, like making sure patients with pre-existing conditions have access to affordable coverage and children can stay on their parents' insurance through age 26. We also include medical liability reforms to help stop the costly practice of defensive medicine and reduce the distortions in the tax code that actually increase the cost of health care in our country, and the proposal allows small businesses to band together to leverage their purchasing power.

Our proposal also gets rid of lifetime limits – meaning insurers won't be able to put a cap on total benefits to be paid out over the patient's lifetime, eliminating a patient's fear of maxing out their health coverage.

The Patient CARE Act also includes opportunities for families earning up to $71,000 (or 300 percent of the federal poverty level) to get a tax credit to purchase the insurance of their choosing.

Importantly, we include key structural reforms to Medicaid, a joint state-federal program that's threatening state budgets. Doctors are increasingly turning away Medicaid patients because the reimbursement rates are so poor, leaving our disadvantaged often with terrible health care. Instead of expanding the broken Medicaid system, the Patient CARE Act would give those on Medicaid the option of purchasing private health insurance, which is often more frequently accepted by quality doctors.

The bottom line is that Obamacare is broken and the Patient CARE Act provides the real reforms to our health care system that Utahns and Americans everywhere deserve. I look forward to working with Utahns, my colleagues in the Senate, and industry stakeholders to build consensus and implement these ideas.

Orrin Hatch is Utah's senior U.S. senator.