WASHINGTON, D.C. | March 8, 2017
For years, Americans across the country have demanded meaningful health care reform and relief from soaring costs. Instead, what they got was a fundamentally flawed law that is collapsing as we speak.
Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi recently claimed Obamacare has “succeeded in every possible way.” But most families would disagree.
Obamacare premiums are increasing by double — even triple — digits in some states. Millions of families have seen their health care plans canceled. More and more individuals, including many in my home state of North Carolina, are finding they have access to only one insurance provider.
Small businesses and their employees would also beg to differ with claims made by the Democrat Leader. Obamacare has forced an estimated 10,000 small businesses to close their doors, cost $19 billion in lost wages for small business employees, and destroyed 300,000 small business jobs. And since 2008, 36 percent of small businesses with fewer than 10 employees have stopped offering coverage.
These are the predictable consequences of a government takeover of health care that took freedom out of the hands of patients and their doctors; forced individuals to purchase one-size-fits-all health coverage that many do not want or need; and made it harder for small businesses to provide for their employees.
This law has failed the American people, and House Republicans are demanding better. We will deliver on our promise to repeal Obamacare and replace it with responsible solutions that are patient-centered, not government-driven. While our colleagues on the Energy and Commerce and Ways and Means committees continue their work on this important effort, this committee will as well by advancing free-market reforms, particularly relating to employer-provided coverage.
Today we are taking the next step in that process by considering three bills that would empower employers to help workers access affordable health care coverage. As we all know, the majority of Americans obtain health insurance through their employer. But providing employer-sponsored insurance is increasingly difficult in the face of regulatory obstacles and onerous mandates.
Still, employers of all sizes are developing creative ways to contain health care costs and promote a healthy workforce. We should do everything we can to foster innovation taking place in the private-sector. Unfortunately, misguided federal policies often do more to limit, rather than support this promising progress.
For example, one of the tools employers have adopted in recent years to provide workers with greater control over their health care dollars is employee wellness programs. There has long been bipartisan support for these popular programs. In fact, one of the only bipartisan provisions of Obamacare allowed employers to discount health insurance premiums for employees who participate in a wellness plan.
However, the Obama administration took steps to undermine those plans by issuing restrictive new rules and pursuing litigation against employers. This regulatory confusion and legal uncertainty can have a chilling effect on the ability of employers to reward workers for healthy lifestyle choices. That’s why I introduced the Preserving Employee Wellness Programs Act. As Chairman Byrne will soon explain in more detail, this bill will provide employers with the certainty they need to offer wellness programs to their employees.
Employers are also facing uncertainty when it comes to self-insured health care plans. With this option, employers have more flexibility to control costs and are able to customize benefits to the unique needs of their workforce.
However, in recent years, Democrats in Washington, D.C. signaled these plans are just one regulation away from being at risk. Rep. Roe’s bill, the Self-Insurance Protection Act, would ensure workers and employers can continue to benefit from this cost-effective health plan model.
Finally, we will consider legislation that will make it easier and more cost-effective for small businesses to offer health care benefits. The Small Business Health Fairness Act will remove legal roadblocks preventing small businesses from banding together through association health plans.
As a result, this bill will put small businesses on a more level playing field with labor unions and larger companies. Representative Sam Johnson has championed this important effort for years, which would lead to lower health care costs for small business employees.
All three of these proposals reflect a few shared principles. Families should have the freedom to choose the health care plan that meets their needs. Americans need more affordable health care options, not fewer. Health care decisions should rest with patients and their doctors — not government bureaucrats. And instead of prescriptive mandates, we should ensure employers have the tools they need to help their employees afford health care.