Area congressman explains next steps of Obamacare repeal


ABILENE, Texas - With Republican control of the U.S. House, Senate, and presidency soon to be a reality, many want to know what, if anything, will replace the oft-criticized Affordable Care Act.

Newly elected to the U.S. House, Rep. Jodey Arrington of Texas District 19 spoke with KTXS about the next steps after Congress passed a budget reconciliation that will defund key parts of ACA, also known as Obamacare.

House Speaker Paul Ryan says Obamacare will be repealed and replaced at the same time.

"It's still going to be there until we make the changes, either legislatively or through Health and Human Services," Arrington said. "Not all of Obamacare will be turned off through reconciliation."

Arrington said the budget reconciliation will have at least one immediate effect when it's signed by the president.

"The individual mandates [and] employer mandate would be effectively turned off," Arrington said. That means you won't be penalized for not having health insurance, and insurance requirements for small business owners will be changed.

Republicans will be phasing in the rest of their reforms over time, Arrington said. He added that the party won't completely know what changes they'll be able to make until administrative appointments are made. He said he hopes the appointment of Rep. Tom Price of Georgia, President-elect Donald Trump's nominee for Health and Human Services secretary, is confirmed by the Senate to speed up the replacement process.

Arrington said that he thinks the vast majority and principle design of Obamacare is flawed, but that Republicans will keep some elements of the reform bill.

"I think pre-existing conditions is something the government should participate in and intervene because it's appropriate," Arrington said. "Markets don't solve every problem, that's why we call in the Constitution for the general welfare of the people."

Going back to his first speech on the House floor, Arrington called attention to rural hospitals in danger of closing. Eighty hospitals in rural counties have reportedly closed down since 2010, and Arrington said hundreds more are in danger of closing.

We took a look at the numbers and found that none of those 80 hospitals were in his congressional district.

Arrington took the party-line stance that regulations in Obamacare are the primary cause for rural hospitals' woes. However, he did say that wasn't the only problem facing those facilities.

"Sequestration has forced reductions across the board in reimbursement for Medicaid and Medicare, so one way is to [increase] that back to pre-sequestration levels," Arrington said. He did add that he wasn't "100-percent convinced" those rural hospitals wouldn't be sustainable solely by easing regulations.

When asked about the high rate of uninsured people in his district--more than 15 percent of the district's roughly 725,000 residents don't have health insurance, compared to the national average of nine percent--Arrington said he thinks the states themselves should find the solution.

Texas refused federal funding for the expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare. Arrington said the requirements laid out by the law were too uniform to work well with every state's unique circumstances. He said when he worked with healthcare at Scott Laboratories in Lubbock, he took issue with some Medicaid subscribers not paying copays.

"I'm fundamentally against getting something for nothing," he said.

He advocated for a tailored plan with better usage of state resources to help the most indigent and said he hopes to reduce the number of people who rely on emergency room services as their only means of healthcare.

"It's not as if Republicans, or me in particular, are against helping people who can't afford health care, it's that we don't have all of the resources in the world."

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