Make no mistake, our country’s health care system is on an unsustainable path, and because of the complexity of this issue it is unlikely we will ever have complete consensus on how best to approach reform. With the failure of Senate Republicans to adopt their own reform plan, it is incumbent upon responsible members of both parties to devise incremental changes to lower costs and increase availability of insurance.
Our national debt is about $20 trillion, and it is on pace to rise to $29 trillion within the decade. One of the biggest drivers of this debt is health care. Solutions to huge challenges like this are most often not decided overnight, but that does not diminish the need for immediate action. This is why I joined the bipartisan House Problem Solvers Caucus, where we have been laser-focused on building bipartisan consensus on commonsense improvements to our health care system — and that starts with the recent release of our caucus’s proposal to stabilize the individual insurance market.
The 44 Republicans and Democrats of the Problem Solvers Caucus came together to deliver a set of principles to address the reality that the insurance coverage crisis is a looming health care disaster for millions of Americans. These principles include bringing Congressional oversight to cost-sharing reduction payments so there is transparency and accountability to the program; limiting the risk of extreme premium increases, especially for those with pre-existing conditions, by creating a fund used to stabilize premium increases during times of stress on the healthcare market; and limiting the burden on small businesses by increasing the employer mandate threshold from 50 employees to businesses of 500 employees or more. Previous policy served as a perverse incentive by discouraging business growth beyond 50 employees and cutting wage-earning hours for full-time employees.
The proposal would also repeal the medical device tax — a tax that is directly passed on to consumers and contributes to rising premiums. Finally, the proposal tackles premium relief by outlining and providing guidelines for states to improve buying power in the insurance market by teaming up for regional compacts. This will not only lower premiums by bolstering buying power but increase the number of options — something critically important as a third of U.S. counties are monopolized by a single insurance provider.
These incremental improvements to our nation’s health care system will not only provide premium relief for individuals and families, they will also help spur economic growth by relieving some of the unnecessary regulatory burdens on our nation’s number-one job creator, small business.
There is clearly a deep and emotional divide in practical and philosophical approaches to healthcare reform. I believe that both sides can agree that we need to do better by our constituents in making health care more affordable and available, while being cognizant of the need to get our nation back on a path to fiscal sustainability.
Despite the political polarization which exists today, I believe we must find reasonable compromise measures which can pass Congress to prevent a continuous spiral of health insurance costs on American families.
John Faso represents New York’s 19th District in the U.S. House of Representatives.