June 12,2015

Why one sentence can't fix the health law

By Sen. Orrin Hatch

June 12, 2015


Regardless of how the U.S. Supreme Court decides King v. Burwell - a case regarding the Obama administration’s issuance of health insurance subsidies in violation of their own law -  the negative consequences for patients and taxpayers will continue absent thoughtful, patient-centered reform.

The latest numbers don’t lie. Earlier this month, the administration announced proposed rate hikes of 10 percent or more for health insurance plans enrolling more than six million people in 41 states. This sizeable premium increase on top of prior hikes threatens the financial health of both American families and taxpayers generally, and is evidence that the health care law failed to hold up to the president’s key promise to lower costs. 

Over the last few years, Americans have been disappointed as many of the law’s other promises have fallen short at nearly every turn. Millions of Americans lost their insurance plans and their doctors, had to navigate a failed website that jeopardized their private information, were made to purchase plans they didn’t want, and many later received incorrect tax documents followed by a surprise tax bill.

Given this overwhelmingly poor track record and the billions of taxpayer dollars spent on such failures no one can credibly call the health law a success.  A law with fundamental problems of this magnitude can’t be championed with a straight face. And the law’s fundamental problems cannot be fixed with only a scalpel.

Earlier this week, the president said that if the Court rules against the administration in the upcoming subsidy case, “Congress could fix this whole thing with a one-sentence provision.”

I wholeheartedly disagree.

The never-ending negative side effects of ObamaCare are so convoluted and intertwined that one sentence can’t fix this latest problem without continuing the others.

Only a thoughtful approach that puts patients first – not Washington – can reverse course for the American health care system.

In the coming weeks, if the Court confirms that the administration broke its own law, millions of Americans will once again face another devastating consequence of Obamacare.  This time, the result of the administration’s irresponsible actions threatens to disrupt the health insurance of American families from coast-to-coast.

Fortunately, Republicans have a transition plan to protect these patients.  There is wide consensus that we must protect Americans from further consequences of Obamacare‘s broken promises and the administration’s illegal actions.

Like many Republicans in Congress, I support providing temporary financial assistance to help those who could be hurt by the King v. Burwell ruling keep their insurance if they want it. 

At the same time, I will work to give states and individuals flexibility and freedom from ObamaCare’s burdensome mandates.  Such a transition plan should build bridge away from ObamaCare and toward a place and time when we have an administration that will work with Congress to forge patient-centered reform. 

These ideas aren’t platitudes. Responsible governance requires forethought on how to protect American families from more negative consequences of ObamaCare. Republicans in Congress have been working for months on policy solutions to ensure a workable transitional plan is ready when the Court comes down with their ruling.  

Similarly, despite the claims of ill-informed critics, Republicans in both chambers have worked together to put forth real, substantive alternatives that would replace the president’s health care law with reforms that would increase patient choice and reduce Washington’s role in healthcare.

These ideas, put forth by Republicans, are designed to protect the freedom and flexibility of hardworking American families to obtain affordable insurance that fits their needs without the continued complications, costs, and consequences of ObamaCare.    

The Court’s upcoming ruling is yet another reminder of how the health law continues to cause problems more than five years after it was signed and why it is necessary to chart a different course on health care for American patients and taxpayers.  Republicans will continue to do so no matter how the Court rules.

Republican Orrin Hatch represents Utah in the United States Senate. He serves as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. Hatch is a member of the Senate working group to formulate a post King v. Burwell legislative solution, and the author of the Patient CARE Act, a legislative plan that repeals ObamaCare and replaces it with common-sense, patient-focused reforms that reduce health care costs and increase access to affordable, high-quality care.