By Gov. John R. Kasich
January 19, 2017
IDEAS
John R. Kasich is the Governor of Ohio.

With control of both the White House and Congress for the first time in more than a decade, Republicans now have the means to bring real and long-needed improvements to national health care policies that have been the source of significant difficulties and debate for far too long. The substance of those changes — and the way in which they are pursued and enacted — can go a long way toward helping the country move forward together.

I have always opposed Obamacare and consistently called for it to be replaced with more conservative, market-driven reforms that actually control health care costs. At the invitation of Republican leaders in Congress, I recently submitted a number of recommendations for consideration as they work to undo the harm caused by Obamacare’s expensive and burdensome federal takeover of our health care system.

Congressional Republicans have already begun taking steps to repeal Obamacare, and I urge them to avoid committing the same sins that the Democrats did when they created the law. Rather than shoving a bad law through Congress on party-line votes, Republicans can, and must, do better. For the millions of Americans who have gained health coverage since 2010, it’s safe to assume that their idea of fixing Obamacare does not involve ripping away their own health care coverage without a responsible alternative in place.

There are simple solutions to improving our country’s health care policy. I support efforts to replace the individual mandate and guaranteed issue with policies like continuous coverage protections, relaxing the individual market age rating requirements, and dialing back essential health benefit requirements. These are just a few reforms I believe should be considered and hope Congress will pursue.

When it comes to Medicaid, each governor faces unique challenges. When I took office in 2011, our state faced an $8 billion budget shortfall and our Medicaid program was growing at an unsustainable rate. Since then, we’ve balanced our budget and replaced our fee-for-service Medicaid program with private sector managed care plans. In doing so, we significantly reduced the annual growth of our Medicaid program and the bureaucracy needed to manage it. Stronger management of the system made it possible for Ohio to become one of 31 states to extend Medicaid coverage to 700,000 previously uninsured, low-income Ohioans, many of whom are veterans, mentally ill or struggling with addiction.

According to a recent assessment of Ohioans who gained coverage through Medicaid expansion, a majority now find it easier to find or keep a job, manage their health to avoid costly trips to the hospital down the road, and even find it easier to put food on the table. Our state has demonstrated we have the ability to manage our program in fiscally responsible ways, and we strongly urge Congress to grant us the flexibility to retain coverage for adults impacted by expansion. These Ohioans, their families and the communities they live in are counting on Congress to get this right.

Finally, our country will never truly fix the rising cost of health care unless we stop paying for volume rather than value. In Ohio, we’re advancing reforms that actually pay doctors for providing better care, not just more care. These are the real solutions that will reset competition within the health care market, control costs and improve health outcomes. Like Ohio, many other states are embracing payment reform and this work should be encouraged as Congress contemplates what to retain from the Affordable Care Act.

As members of Congress work quickly to repeal and replace Obamacare, they must always put Americans’ best interests first. Most certainly that means finding ways to correct the law’s negative impacts, promoting more competition within our state insurance markets by limiting burdensome regulations and providing much needed relief to small business owners and individuals struggling to pay for care. It’s now time to move forward with care, but determination.

Congress should not hastily slap together a repeal plan without a proper replacement. That’s a cure that could be worse than the disease. Obamacare not only hurt the economy, it also divided the nation. Let’s take this opportunity to heal both.

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