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Morgan Griffith: Real health reform still needed

morgan griffithMore than 10 years have passed since Barack Obama, then a senator from Illinois and a presidential candidate, promised at high school in Bristol that his health care plan would lower insurance premiums by an average of $2,500 per family.

He became president and enacted Obamacare. Certainly, enough time has passed to judge whether his plan succeeded or not. Clearly, it has not.

This fact is reiterated to me all the time by constituents frustrated by their ever-increasing premiums and copays. A study just released by the Kaiser Family Foundation provides yet more data indicating the high costs of health insurance.

Looking at premiums at a county-wide level, the Kaiser study finds that the burden falls on older, middle-class Americans in particular. If you were to look at the jurisdictions of Virginia’s Ninth District with data available in the study, you would find that 60-year-olds earning a $50,000 income would have from 21-24% of their incomes go to premiums for the cheapest plans they find on the health insurance exchanges.

Surely, a middle-class older adult having to pay nearly a quarter of his or her income toward health premiums (which do not include other out-of-pocket health costs like copays and deductibles) cannot be part of a system worth defending.

The painful unaffordability of health insurance was on my mind during a recent hearing of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health, on which I serve. The hearing was supposedly about strengthening the health care system, but the proposals offered by the Democrat majority would double down on the failures that plague the system today.

A picture of the problems was offered by one of the witnesses invited by the Democrats, California health exchange official Peter Lee, who observed that premiums have risen for customers of the federal health insurance exchange by 85% since 2014.

Although we heard a diagnosis of the problems afflicting health care in America, the proposals offered by the majority don’t go far enough. We heard testimony that if their reinsurance proposal passed, premiums would decrease by 7%.

Interestingly, this plan is similar to a piece of the broader House Republican bill to replace Obamacare and bring down costs. Democrats derided that bill at the time.

And of course, that 7% would be welcome, but as a standalone proposal, it is far less than what is needed after that 85% increase, especially compared to the $2,500 reduction in premiums promised by then-presidential candidate Barack Obama in 2008.

Families and the middle class need real relief from high premiums, copays, and deductibles, not just tweaks to slightly reduce premiums from their current peak.

The last Democrat experiment in health care was built on false promises which they knew, or should have known, would never work. That plan continues to hurt most Virginians. Just as government-run socialized medicine would.

As we consider the present state of health care, I am ready to work with anyone, Democrat or Republican, who will engage in good-faith health reform efforts based on realistic solutions to lower costs and offer better choices.

If you have questions, concerns, or comments, feel free to contact my office.  You can call my Abingdon office at 276-525-1405 or my Christiansburg office at 540-381-5671. To reach my office via email, please visit my website at