Blunt: Changes needed for health care plan to work

Never a fan of the federal health care law commonly called “Obamacare,” U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt told Missouri reporters again Thursday morning he thinks “the biggest enemy of Obamacare would be Obamacare.”

During a telephone news conference, the Missouri Republican wondered if the continuing comments about problems with the national website, www.healthcare.gov, and the Obama administration’s sometimes faltering efforts to get it working correctly are “maybe, an indication of how many other unanticipated problems there are out there.”

He noted many people are complaining that their current policies are being canceled, with much more expensive replacement coverage.

“I’ve asked Missourians to visit our website, Blunt.Senate.gov, to share their stories,” Blunt said. “And, if their stories are good, I want them to share those, too.

“If they’ve really found a plan that is a better plan for them, that saves money, I’d like to hear about it.”

Some supporters of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) have said the insurance industry is responsible for the problems with canceled coverage and higher-cost replacements.

But, Blunt said: “The regulation itself that actually was designed to implement the law set an unreasonable expectation. … It was a system that was designed to fail.”

He said insurance companies shouldn’t be blamed or victimized.

“The two fundamental flaws here are the idea that you just get your insurance from a regular carrier, irrespective of your current health situation,” Blunt said, “and that, somehow, that would be made up for by lots of young, healthy people buying insurance at higher rates than they’ve ever seen before — and a penalty that’s not high enough to, frankly, drive behavior.”

From the beginning, President Barack Obama and the health care law’s supporters have said its chief goal is getting people insured who aren’t covered now.

But Blunt and others have argued that Congress should have passed measures to improve the current health care system.

“I think it’s wrong to say that the current health care system was serving every need we needed to serve,” he explained. “But it would be right to say it was the best health care system in the world — and let’s be sure we don’t lose that as we move forward.”

He’s been saying since before Congress passed the current, controversial ACA in 2010 that “the more competitive that (health care) market could be, the better off we could be. You know that I’ve advocated, for at least six or seven years now … that you should be able to buy any insurance policy that you could find, that was available.

“If you could find it on the Internet and it was approved by any state, you should be able to have that as one of your options — we could have expanded the marketplace rather than contracted and further defined the marketplace.”

But the insurance industry “always fought that because they liked the restricted, state-by-state marketplace,” he said.

Other reforms Blunt and other Republicans couldn’t get added to the health care law included “medical liability reform, buying across state lines, more transparency, fair tax treatment (and) high risk pools that serve more people.”

Where the ACA mandates policies cover a multitude of needs, including hospitalization, maternity coverage and mental health services, Blunt said people should be able to choose the kind of coverage they want and need.

“If you define the coverage in ways that make it so expensive that people don’t have it, have you achieved the goal or not? And I’d say the answer is, no you have not achieved the goal,” he explained.

Because of the continuing problems with the current law, he added, “I believe there will be a significant number of people two years from now who don’t have coverage, who had coverage (now). And the fault of that will be the so-called Affordable Care Act.”

Blunt said that, as more people get concerned about the law’s problems, “There is a chance here that what may happen (is) that there is a real opportunity to look at this all over again — and that would be the better thing to do.”

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