For Glenn Thompson, there are only two options at this point in regard to the Affordable Care Act.
“We either repeal and replace, or we allow it to implode, which is going to hurt a lot of people,” U.S. Rep. Thompson, R-Howard Township, said in a telephone interview with the CDT this week.
But it’s already been hurting a lot of people, he said, citing average increases of 25 percent in premiums in the past year for millions of Americans. And that doesn’t count the “significant” increases in deductibles.
The health care law, which was passed in 2010, was one of President Barack Obama’s signature accomplishments. Republicans have voted numerous times to repeal the law.
“I believe that we have to take action and that involves really providing for a health care system that heals and provides access to health and healing for all Americans,” said the congressman, who’s serving his fifth term representing Pennsylvania’s 5th Congressional District.
Thompson said 4.7 million Americans have been kicked off their health care plans because they didn’t qualify under the mandated health care program.
In addition, he said, almost one-third of the counties in the United States only have one insurer because there’s been so much consolidation and insurance companies that have left the market because of the ACA.
The ACA has also added 11.8 million people to Medicaid, he said, adding that most people don’t realize that the program has traditionally been underfunded.
“Access to care really wasn’t expanded by providing coverage through Medicaid. New individuals who now benefit from that coverage ... they’ve compounded the barriers to quality care,” he said.
Thompson said he supports keeping aspects of the ACA, such as affordable coverage for people with pre-existing conditions and young adults being able to stay on their parents’ health insurance until they’re 26.
In terms of whether there would be a delay between the repeal and replacement, Thompson said, “You have to have a transition time, otherwise you will negatively impact what has been a diminishing number within the health insurance market. So this is going to have to take time — this transition — in order to deal with this.”
In a Republican plan, he said he’d like to see people be allowed to purchase insurance across state lines to generate more competition and choices.
Medical malpractice reform is needed because those cases contribute to the escalation of health care costs, he said.
He’s also opposed to lifetime limits in terms of medical benefits.
In his three decades as a health care professional, the most “egregious” instance of this was in relation to mental illness.
“Some of the most chronic, recurring illnesses that you could ever have and yet they had a lifetime number of days that you could seek inpatient admission,” he said.
Prior to the ACA being passed, Thompson said he co-sponsored the Empowering Patients First Act but Democratic leadership at the time wouldn’t schedule a vote on it.
“I think the most important part of this is we’re actually having the discussion. I can honestly tell you there was no discussion when (the ACA) was literally rammed through, and I think that’s why it’s dying, it’s flawed and why it will implode if we take no action whatsoever. So we’ve been trying to facilitate a discussion that is bipartisan,” he said.
But even more important, Thompson said, is to include the people he represents in the discussion.
He’s been getting a lot of calls, he said, but that’s normal and it’s part of the process.
The content of the calls change based on what’s going on, what people see in the news and what rhetoric people hear, but the phones are constantly ringing, Thompson said.
He added that he appreciates the opportunity to talk to his constituents and encourages people to schedule an appointment to sit down with him at one of his offices, which he said is the best way to communicate rather than having something like a town hall.
“I would like to think I’m probably one of the most accessible members of Congress for having an actual conversation,” Thompson said.
Contact U.S. Rep. Glenn Thompson
Bellefonte office: 353-0215 (3555 Benner Pike, Suite 101)
Titusville office: 827-3985 (127 W. Spring St., Suite C)
Washington, D.C., office: 202-225-5121
Request a meeting online: https://thompson.house.gov/contact-me/request-meeting