The only true fix to the Affordable Health Care Act is to repeal it and replace it with smarter market based reforms. That from Congressman Diane Black, who was in Smithville Monday.
While Obama administration officials say they expect to meet the President's goal of having the troubled website HealthCare.gov working for the "vast majority" of users by November 30, Congressman Black told WJLE Monday that she is still pushing for an alternative.
Congressman Black is co-sponsoring a bill called the American Health Care Reform Act, which would repeal Obamacare and then focus on reducing health care costs and increasing access by allowing Americans to purchase health insurance across state lines. "The bill is from our Republican Study Committee that would look at using market based patient centered principles in reforming health care. The bill would actually repeal the entire Obamacare (Affordable Health Care Act). The reason for this is that we believe we can do the kinds of things that need to be done like pre-existing conditions and helping to take care of people who truly cannot afford or don't have access to insurance. We can do that in a lot more efficient way where the individual actually has more choice and is patient centered for them and market based," said Congressman Black.
The legislation, co-sponsored by Congressman Black, would also put in place common-sense medical malpractice reform that would limit lawsuit abuse in the health industry and help lower costs associated with doctor and hospital visits.
"Our plan would protect individuals with pre-existing conditions by bolstering state-based high-risk pools and extending existing guaranteed availability protections under HIPAA. We expand access to health savings accounts and level the playing field for families and individuals by giving them the same tax deductions for health care costs that businesses and employers enjoy," she said.
"Obamacare is failing to live up to even its most basic expectations and is creating havoc on our health care system and exposing Tennesseans and Americans across the country to dropped coverage, reduced access and dramatic premium increases. This cannot sustain itself and must be stopped. There is not a day that goes by in my office that we don't hear a new story about either someone losing their healthcare because their employer said I'm just not going to do this anymore and I'd rather pay a fine, or their rates going up. This is what we're hearing a lot of. They're getting rates in the mail from their insurance companies. Some of those rates are going up by 200%. We also hear from people who are losing their jobs where companies want to stay under their fifty employees so rather than have fifty or fifty five employees, they are making employees either part time and in some cases employees are losing their jobs. So a lot of negative impact has come with this health care bill (Obamacare). We believe this can be done (healthcare reform) and these problems and situations we have could be solved without the government taking over one sixth of the economy," said Congressman Black.
During her visit to Smithville Monday, Congressman Black stopped by Middle Tennessee Natural Gas. "I wanted to come and talk about what happens here in the utility district. The amount of folks who are served here is remarkable and to make sure that as an official on the federal side I am doing whatever I can do to help make sure they can serve their customers in an efficient way," she said
Congressman Black also paid a visit to DeKalb Community Hospital and DTC Communications.
During a brief interview with WJLE, Congressman Black said exploring how to make the tax code simpler and more fair for families is another issue she is seeking to address in legislation called the Student and Family Tax Simplification Act. This legislation consolidates four existing education provisions — the Hope Credit, the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC), the Lifetime Learning Credit, and the tuition deduction — into a single, modernized and strengthened AOTC.
"We would like to be able to take a 1986 out of date tax code and bring it up to date by having something fairer, flat, and simpler where we bring down the rate so that money can go back into the economy. That's another thing we are concerned about is the economy and the amount of jobs. When people have money in their pockets they spend that money and when they spend that money, it creates more jobs and it helps to grow revenue so that we can get out of this situation with our debt and deficit spending. That all kind of flows together. If you do the tax reform, more jobs are created, there's more money in people's pockets, and it raises their quality of life and at the same time it helps to raise revenues so we can grow our way out of this debt and deficit spending.
As outlined in the legislation, the new AOTC, which would be permanent and partially refundable, would:
•Provide a 100-percent tax credit for the first $2,000 of eligible higher education expenses and a 25-percent tax credit for the next $2,000 of such expenses (for a maximum credit of $2,500).
•The first $1,500 of the credit would be refundable, meaning that families could receive the benefit regardless of whether they have Federal income tax liability.
•The credit could be used to offset expenses for tuition, fees and course materials.
•The credit would be available for up to four years of post-secondary education at qualifying four-year universities, community colleges, and trade and vocational schools.
•The credit would begin to phase out for families with income between $86,000 and $126,000 (half those amounts for single individuals), ensuring that the credit provides the greatest benefit and value to low- and middle-income families.
"Streamlining the number of education provisions and retooling those that are most effective has another benefit, too – it allows us to simplify the code and reduce some of the confusion that exists today. As a result, students can spend less time figuring out how to finance the cost of a higher education and more time developing the skills they need to succeed in a knowledge-based economy. It ought to be easier for any family to plan, save and invest in education. Our bipartisan bill makes common-sense reforms to make the tax code simpler and fairer when it comes to helping Americans afford the cost of a college education," she said.
Congressman Black said she is also concerned about an agreement between Iran and several world leaders including the United States that seeks to limit Iran's nuclear program in exchange for lighter economic sanctions. "I'm very concerned about it. I haven't gotten into all the details but I'm very concerned that there would be a deal made that doesn't seem to be a good deal for the United States or even the world where we have Iran that is enriching this fuel for nuclear energy. They (Iran) keep talking about how they want to use this (nuclear) for energy. They're sitting on the biggest pile of natural gas of any country in the world so why are they doing nuclear? They have not abided by the resolutions that were set up by the United Nations. We know they have broken their promises there. What makes us think they're going to keep their promises now when they have broken their promises before? If we release those sanctions then there is no leverage. It seems like we're giving up a lot and getting really nothing for it," she said.
The fact that Israel, the United States' strongest ally in the region, is opposed to this agreement is also cause for concern , according to Congressman Black. "I have had the opportunity to visit Israel and meet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. What they have shown us behind closed doors is classified but what they know is very concerning so at this point we don't need to release those sanctions and allow Iran to move forward with their nuclear development," said Congressman Black.
(PICTURED ABOVE: MTUD Vice President of Human Resources and General Counsel Mike Corley, Congressman Diane Black, and MTUD Executive Vice President and CEO Jim Hodges)