Toomey addresses replacing Obamacare

    U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey says he anxious to get started on repealing Obamacare.(Lindsay Lazarski/WHYY)

    U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey says he anxious to get started on repealing Obamacare.(Lindsay Lazarski/WHYY)

    Pennsylvania’s Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey said he looks forward to the prospects for policy change with a Republican president coming to the White House to approve legislation passed by a Republican Congress.

    Toomey met with reporters Thursday to talk about his agenda following his narrow re-election victory Tuesday.

    Toomey said President-elect Donald Trump can do a lot quickly by revoking some of President Obama’s executive orders on environmental regulation and a host of other issues.

    Legislation, he said, will take more time, but he’s anxious to get started on repealing Obamacare

    Acknowledging that millions of people now get insurance through the Affordable Care Act, Toomey said, “We can’t pull the rug out from under people all at once. We can’t leave people stranded in some way, so there has to be transition.”

    A transition to what?

    Toomey said he and his colleagues have ideas, but “don’t expect a Republican version of Obamacare. Don’t expect a Republican 2,000-page bill that has a government takeover of health care in a different way.”

    What does a new plan look like?

    “What I want is for individuals to be in control of their health care,” Toomey said, “for insurance companies to have to compete, for there to be robust competition across a wide range of products and services.”

    “I’m interested in ways people can have portability of their health insurance, renwability of their health insurance,” he said.

    In other words, give consumers real choices, real information, and real competition among providers and good things will happen.

    Toomey talks often about the crushing burdens of government regulation.

    I asked him if insurance companies should again be permitted to deny coverage based on pre-existing conditions.

    “People who have especially chronic, expensive health care issues have to be able to find a way to afford this,” he said, adding that those patients are a small part of the population.

    One idea, he said, is to put them in a high-risk pools with special insurance coverage that, he acknowledges might need a government subsidy.

    “Government massively subsidizes health care today,” Toomey said. “Medicaid is almost free health care for people who qualify. Medicare is heavily subsidized, so there will be subsidies, but we can deal with that without having this draconian government takeover of the entire sector.”

    There’s a lot more to crafting health care policy than he or anyone else could cover in a 15-minute news conference, so his exchange with me and Laura Olson of the Morning Call left me looking forward to the coming debate.

    A lot of health policy analysts believe more competition is needed in much of the sprawling health care industry, but there are some problems markets don’t easily solve — such as providing care to the working poor.

    It will be interesting to watch this debate unfold next year, and I’m sure Republican congressional leaders will find it’s a whole lot easier to complain about Obamacare than to craft a new system.

    And while they’ll get plenty of helpful ideas from all the interested parties in the health care system, I think they’ll also feel some heat from constituents who benefit from the Affordable Care Act.

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