Congressional Republicans began the process to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act last week and Rep. Dave Brat, R-Va., says the party needs to keep moving with urgency towards fulfilling the GOP’s top campaign promise.
“We have a once in a century opportunity for real to get this right. Medicare and Social Security are insolvent in 15 years if we don’t get this right. The kids will be left with nothing,” said Brat, a former college economics professor. “I taught those kids for 20 years at the college level. That’s why I got into this business, to make sure we get this right.”
“We promised the American people this repeal and replace. It’s our number one promise since 2010,” said Brat.
Brat says some people are mistaken in believing that the votes Congress took last week already repealed the law.
“All we did last week was have the budget resolution vote. You have to have a budget to move forward on what’s called reconciliation,” said Brat. “Reconciliation is what allowed Obamacare to be passed in the first place with just 51 votes in the Senate.”
“Now Republicans are going to use the same reconciliation process to repeal and replace,” said Brat.
Much of the talk on the GOP side centers on whether to have the repeal take effect in two or three years. Brat hopes it’s much sooner than that.
“Some folks are getting a little wobbly. The problem with the two-year is that will occur as our re-election occurs. So politics is going to get mixed in with policy and that’s never a good model to do what’s in the best interest of the country,” said Brat.
He says waiting three years to trigger he repeal is an even worse idea since the 2020 presidential race will already be underway.
Brat says some congressional Republicans are getting skittish about moving so quickly and passing a repeal without a formal replacement attached.
“The details of that have not been worked out to put it mildly, so there’s a little angst from all sides on that. What’s the repeal going to look like? What’s the time frame? Is it going to be done in two years or three years and what’s the replacement?” said Brat.
Brat dismisses claims by Democrats that repealing Obamacare will take coverage away from up to 30 million Americans, calling it “nonsense.”
“People are nervous about being left in the lurch. They shouldn’t be. There’s all sorts of plans out there that show we’re actually going to end up with a better product,” said Brat.
What is unsustainable, says Brat, is the soaring cost of health care for Americans right now. He says the typical family pays $17,000 in premiums a year for coverage while still confronting much higher deductibles. He is working with Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., on expanding Health Savings Accounts. Brat says allowing people to choose simple catastrophic plans while building up their Health Savings Accounts would provide peace of mind while also showing people the exorbitant cost of health care.
Brat also says ideas like allowing people to pool together can bring down costs.
As Republicans throw out different ideas, Democrats often allege that seven years after Obamacare was passed, Republicans still don’t have an alternative.
“The Democrats say we don’t have a plan. That’s true. We have nine of them,” said Brat, who doesn’t expect the GOP to take long in compiling a replacement.
He says it’s the Democrats who have their heads in the sand.
“The entitlements, Medicare and Social Security, are going insolvent and not a word from the Democrats’ side on these major issues, when the kids will end up with no systems whatsoever in 50 years. Not a word, just crickets,” said Brat.
But the start of the repeal and replace effort also has Republican critics. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. and other Republican fiscal hawks are pointing out the budget used to trigger the reconciliation process blows a $9.7 trillion hole in the budget and adds greatly to an already out of control national debt.
Brat, who voted for the resolution, says Paul and his allies are technically correct.
“They’re right. We chose the current CBO baseline and it blows huge holes in the budget. I think that was done to offer the Senate a little bit of latitude to get the vote right here,” said Brat.
But Brat, a member of the House Budget Committee, says GOP budgets will fix that in the coming months.
“We’re going to do another budget in four months and that one will get back to normal balancing in ten years, maybe sooner than that,” said Brat. “That’s the hope of some of us.”