Wittman on Lowering Healthcare Costs

Weekly Update: Lowering the Cost of Care
By Rob Wittman
July 31, 2018

It is clear the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is failing and must be fixed. The ACA promised to lower costs, increase access to care, and expand healthcare choices. It has failed on all three.

Healthcare premiums are on the rise yet again. This is unacceptable. Last week, the House was hard at work passing legislation that will lower healthcare costs – specifically the cost of medication and premiums.

Over-the-counter medications are often the frontline treatment for many common illnesses or for maintenance of chronic disease. The House passed H.R. 6199, which will provide relief from the ACA tax on over-the-counter medications and would modernize health savings accounts (HSAs). This legislation will allow the use of HSA funds for over-the-counter medications in addition to medication prescribed by a doctor. These over-the-counter medications are crucial in preventing both long and short-term health problems before they reach the point of hospitalization, further driving up the patient’s healthcare costs. The passage of H.R. 6199 allows us to tear down this barrier, currently included in the ACA, to preventative medicine and build a healthier community.

HSAs give families more control over their healthcare spending by allowing enrollees in certain healthcare plans to save tax-free and use those funds to pay for qualifying medical expenses. For many middle-income families, they make a prescription or treatment that was just out of reach more affordable. The House passed H.R. 6311, which will expand access and use of HSAs and lower premiums on care. Under current ACA law, tax credits are only available to offset the cost of bronze, silver, gold or platinum health plans that are sold on the government-run health insurance exchange; catastrophic plans, which are the lowest cost premium plans available, are not eligible for these tax credits. H.R. 6311 would increase consumer choice by allowing the premium tax credit to be used for qualified plans offered outside the government exchanges and healthcare.gov. This legislation also delays the ACA tax on health insurers for an additional two years, providing relief from the premium increase caused by this tax.

Finally, the House passed H.R. 184, the Protect Medical Innovation Act, which would repeal the medical device tax. The medical device tax was put into place by the ACA and imposed an excise tax (2.3%) on the manufacturer, producer, or importer of certain medical devices. Traditionally, excise taxes are reserved for sales on products such as alcohol and tobacco. The ACA, however, imposed an excise tax on an industry that produces lifesaving and life improving devices. According to the Tax Foundation, the medical device tax lowered industry research spending by $34 million and is responsible for the loss of over 20,000 jobs from 2013-2015. Fortunately, this tax has been delayed by Congress twice, but this legislation gets rid of it for good.

I am fighting for a better healthcare future for all Virginians, where doctors and patients can be in control of their own healthcare decisions and everyday American families have the option to see a doctor of their choice. It is critical that we continue to lower the cost of healthcare and ensure all Virginians can access coverage. The reforms the House passed last week will empower individuals and families to make decisions for themselves based on what best fits their needs, wants, and budget.