Congressman Jeff Fortenberry

Representing the 1st District of Nebraska

Fort Report: Health Reform: Chapter Two

May 8, 2017
Fort Report

As I prepared to vote Thursday, I asked a Nebraskan visiting my office what he thought about the new health care bill. He said, “It’s a start."

I agree. The bill is a “start” to creating a health care system that all Americans deserve. My goal in health care repair remains the same: ensuring lower costs, promoting better health, and protecting vulnerable persons.

In Nebraska, health care costs rose over the past year 33% in the individual market, and up to 50% on the health care exchange, and our state may soon be left with only one insurance provider. Twenty-eight million Americans currently have no insurance. For many others, insurance with massive deductibles means accessing benefits is difficult.

While this new bill is complex and has created anxiety, saying no to change would lock us into a system with significant and worsening problems. This is fundamentally unfair to Nebraskans. Moreover, with insurance exchanges in trouble, and roughly 1200 United States counties with only one health insurance provider, it is unfair to all Americans.

I realize that the possibility of change causes understandable concern for persons who prefer the current system. At the same time, others are facing an awful choice: do I pay for increasingly unaffordable insurance, or pay for my other basic needs?

Every bill has its pluses and minuses. For example, I believe we ought to hold harmless anyone currently receiving subsidies so there is protection against any adverse economic effect. Important protections are in the House bill. However, offering this assurance will give more confidence while our current system transitions. I expect the Senate to work on this important provision.

During the legislative process, new monies were added to help meet the needs of the disabled and the low-income elderly. A very critical amendment created a new, innovative federal re-insurance model for those with preexisting conditions, so they will pay a similar price to those who are healthy. Finally, states will receive significant funds to stabilize insurance premiums and coverage and hopefully innovate for better health outcomes.

One of the accusations that will be launched against the American Health Care Act (AHCA) and one of the things I urged during the deliberations was for a CBO-like (Congressional Budget Office) analysis before Thursday's vote. While that was not forthcoming, one available study suggests that a 60-year-old who buys their own insurance would see as much as a 45% decrease in their health insurance bill.

The House bill now goes to the United States Senate, where it will be debated and likely changed, and then back to the House again. Contrary to some sources, as a member of Congress, I would be subject to this legislation should it become law. In a separate bill—passed before the AHCA went for a vote—members of Congress voted to subject themselves to the same rules. I was a co-sponsor of that bill, which was unanimously approved.

I want to thank everyone who has contacted my offices. Healthcare is a very personal matter that directly affects life, family, and well-being. On Thursday, I had one choice: yes or no. From my perspective, doing nothing would have been irresponsible and an abdication of my duty to you. My choice was yes—with a steadfast commitment to continuing the work of lowering costs, providing better health delivery, and protecting those who are suffering.