VPR: Welch Joins Bipartisan Effort to Strengthen Obamacare
Following the failure by Senate Republican leaders to repeal the Affordable Care Act last week, a group of 40 House members, including 20 Democrats and 20 Republicans, has emerged with a proposal to help strengthen the health care law.
Rep. Peter Welch says it's critical for Democrats to admit, right at the start, that there are certain parts of the law that need to be changed.
"Democrats have to acknowledge, those of us who supported Obamacare, that there are parts of it that don't work well and we've got to repair them,” said Welch. “And if we can find Republicans who are willing to say that there are some good things in Obamacare we can work together."
The proposal is designed to stabilize the individual health care market. It creates a reinsurance pool for very sick patients, it establishes a long term commitment to federal subsidies for low and middle income people and it calls for more flexible enrollment policies.
Welch says the plan marks a critical development in the national health care debate.
"What this represents is the first bipartisan commitment on a concrete plan to fix a component of the Affordable Care Act,” said Welch. “It's the first time that we haven't been arguing about repealing versus improving and that's promising."
Sen. Patrick Leahy says he's meeting with both Republican and Democratic senators to help lay the groundwork for legislation to improve the accessibility and the affordability of health care in this country.
"What I want to do is say set aside labels, let's get the best men and women in the Senate in both sides and sit down and find the things we agree on,” said Leahy. “I suspect there are significant things we could agree on and vote for those."
Leahy says it shouldn't be a surprise that the Affordable Care Act needs to be adjusted because he says even programs like Social Security and Medicare required some changes after they were first put into place.
"People found there were ways that had to be done to improve them,” said Leahy. “Nobody would suggest we do away with Social Security, nobody would suggest that we do away with Medicare, we can do the same with the Affordable Care Act."
Gov. Phil Scott has been very critical of efforts by Senate Republican leaders to repeal and replace Obamacare. He says he's encouraged by the new bipartisan development in the U.S. House.
"I'm heartened by the outreach of those bipartisan House members to try and get something done,” said Scott. “You know it's the only way it's going to work."
Scott has joined a bipartisan group of 11 governors to encourage Republicans and Democrats in Congress to work together on this issue.
Scott says he hopes the plan will also give individual states more flexibility to develop innovative approaches to health care.
He points to Vermont's pilot payment reform program for roughly 30 thousand Medicaid patients as an example of what he means.
"We're seeing some benefits from that and that may be leading to a different type of initiative for health care altogether,” said Scott. “So I think having that ability and other states having that same ability will lead us all to a better product."
Sen. Bernie Sanders has also been very active on health care issues this summer. Sanders is traveling around the country in an effort to develop support for a single payer plan that he expects to unveil later this month. That proposal would allow anyone, at any age, to sign up for Medicare.