Like so many people across the country, I breathed a sigh of relief when Trumpcare didn’t reach the president’s desk this summer. But legislation isn’t the only way the current administration has tried to undermine families’ health care and raise their costs.
In fact, if Congress doesn’t act soon, patients and families will face higher premiums and fewer choices next year as a direct result of President Donald Trump’s attempt to score political points by, as he says, letting the health care in our country “implode.”
Here’s why: The Affordable Care Act included efforts to reduce out-of-pocket costs for low-income people, but Trump has threatened time and time again to cut off these cost-cutting payments. Experts have said that without these payments, premiums will skyrocket and insurers will flee the marketplaces, limiting families’ coverage options. And as we’ve already seen, uncertainty alone has led to increased premiums and fewer plans in the exchanges.
This kind of damage is completely unnecessary. In fact, because these cost reduction efforts are already the law of the land, Trump can start fixing the problem now, just by committing to do everything in his power to prevent premium spikes.
Unfortunately, he hasn’t — and that is why so many Democrats and Republicans nationwide want Congress to come together instead to stabilize markets and protect families’ health care and bank accounts.
This is an important step. For far too long, Republican leaders have been so focused on repealing the law and fighting President Barack Obama that they have refused to join us at the table to work on actually reducing costs and improving care. But with bipartisan hearings underway in the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, I am hopeful that this can change.
4 steps to success
Here is how we can succeed:
First and foremost, we need to focus on solving problems, not scoring political points. Rather than wasting time on issues that divide us, we should prioritize finding common ground and moving the ball in the right direction.
Second, and relatedly, I will reject any effort to use this process as a back door to pass parts of Trumpcare that would erode protections for people with pre-existing conditions.
Third, we need a multiyear solution to offer certainty to patients and families and to truly help prevent premium increases.
Fourth, providing certainty around cost-sharing reductions is a necessary part of any agreement, but we shouldn’t stop there. In addition to longer-term solutions such as including a “public option” on the exchanges, Democrats have put forward bill after bill to shore up markets right away.
It’s not just Democratic senators who are taking a broad look at how to stabilize markets and lower costs. Governors from both sides of the aisle are, too. Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a Republican, and Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, have put forward a number of ideas, which should inform our discussions in the Senate.
Getting anything done in Congress these days is difficult, but I am hopeful that we can work together to find common ground. We have a rare opportunity for bipartisan progress on health care reform in just a matter of days. Let’s take it.
Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., wrote this opinion piece for The Washington Post.