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PRESS RELEASE: Heartland Institute Experts React to Failure of ‘Skinny Repeal’ of Obamacare

July 28, 2017

‘America doesn’t have to wait for Congress to get its act together. Some of the most onerous parts of Obamacare were foisted upon us by executive dictate from the Obama administration, and we can reverse the damage in the same manner.’ – Tim Huelskamp

stethoscope and insurance docs

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) attempt to repeal at least some of Obamacare failed early Friday morning, when Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) cast the deciding vote to defeat the “skinny repeal.” The bill would have eliminated the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act (ACA), suspended the employer mandate for eight years, eliminate the medical device tax for three years, and increased the contribution limit to Health Savings Accounts.

The following statements from health care policy experts at The Heartland Institute – a free-market think tank – may be used for attribution. For more comments, refer to the contact information below. To book a Heartland guest on your program, please contact Media Specialist Billy Aouste at and 312/377-4000 or (cell) 847/445-7554.

“This failure is certainly a huge disappointment, but hardly surprising. After seven years of suffering under Obamacare because of the Democrats, congressional Republicans now share some of the blame.

“However, America doesn’t have to wait for Congress to get its act together. Some of the most onerous parts of Obamacare were foisted upon us by executive dictate from the Obama administration, and we can reverse the damage in the same manner. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price should immediately begin granting maximum flexibility to individual Americans, our businesses, and the 50 states to begin restoring choice and freedom to our health care system.

“The Heartland Institute stands ready and willing to help the Trump administration in these efforts and has already been working with leaders in dozens of states to adopt policy solutions that empower, not punish, Americans.”

Tim Huelskamp, Ph.D.
President, The Heartland Institute

Dr. Huelskamp represented Kansas’ 1st District in the House of Representatives from 2011 to 2017.

“This was not a failure of ‘the Republicans.’ It was a failure of the seven dishonest traitors who voted against the Rand Paul repeal and the three who killed Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s last option. Voters need to take vengeance on those RINOs and against the 25 Senate Democrats who refused to help clean their harmful mess, which has reduced the standard of living for the American people.”

Peter Ferrara
Senior Fellow for Entitlement and Budget Policy
The Heartland Institute

Mr. Ferrara is the author of Power to the People: The New Road to Freedom and Prosperity for the Poor, Seniors, and Those Most in Need of the World’s Best Health Care (2015), and The Obamacare Disaster (2010).
“John McCain's dramatic ‘no’ vote on the Senate floor further revealed the truly sad state of Congress. Despite promising for seven years to repeal Obamacare and institute pro-liberty health care reforms, Republicans have once again failed to live up to their pledges.

“Not even the watered-down, pathetic ‘skinny bill’ could manage to garner enough support to continue moving the process forward. Instead, Americans are now being told by a select few Republican senators the only way forward is to compromise with leftist Democrats on an Obamacare ‘fix,’ which is akin to asking an arsonist to help put out a fire.

“Hopefully, Americans are now aware of what has always been true: The best hope for reforming government will never be found in Washington, DC, where 90 percent of the city’s residents spend their days worshiping government idols in multi-billion-dollar bureaucratic temples. Only in state houses and local communities will Americans find refuge from Washington's incompetence – if the Trump administration empowers the states with the ability to chart their own course. If the Trump administration fails on this count, the march to single-payer is inevitable.”

Justin Haskins
Executive Editor, Research Fellow
The Heartland Institute
“Repeal of Obamacare, the promise of all elected GOP members of Congress when running for office, has seemingly been killed in their negligent hands. But alternatives live! State governments can act to give their own citizens greater access to health care choices and better health care services – though the process still starts in Washington, DC.

While Congress has failed to act, the Trump administration and Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price can give states greater flexibility to experiment with how to offer Medicaid services to the poor. This program provides states with federal funds that come with costly red tape and mandates attached. States need to cover part of the cost of Medicaid services as well, which seriously strain state budgets. The Trump administration can waive many mandates by simply giving states block grants of their federal Medicaid funds. The states would then be able to experiment with better ways of delivering services. A few states already have such grants.

“States could also create health savings accounts for the poor. This would give recipients an incentive to shop for services, which would both hold down their costs and allow them to seek the specific treatments they need. Rhode Island has had block grants since 2009. The results have been impressive. Costs have been reduced as have waiting times for long-term care.”

Edward Hudgins
Director of Research
The Heartland Institute
“It’s time for President Trump to issue an immediate executive order forcing every member of Congress to use the same health care plan as the rest of us. Let John McCain come off his high horse and live under the rules of Obamacare. Make Congress live by same rules as the rest of us.

“I wonder if McCain would have voted against the repeal if he had to live under Obamacare? I wonder how quick and successful his brain cancer surgery would have been if he had to use the Obamacare plan? Would he have waited six months in line, like the rest of us? Would he have had a gigantic deductible? Would they have even allowed a surgery, or would a ‘death panel’ advise no surgery for an 80-year-old with brain cancer? Let’s find out.

“President Trump should immediately issue an executive order to put every member of Congress in the exact same boat as rest of us. I’m interested in how quickly they’d vote against the repeal of Obamacare then.”

Wayne Allyn Root
Former Libertarian Vice Presidential Nominee
Policy Advisor, The Heartland Institute

Wayne Allyn Root is the host of “WAR Now: The Wayne Allyn Root Show” on USA Radio Network and Newsmax TV.
“The key element now will be to avidly avoid doing anything to prop up Obamacare. Although they will try and will be supported by all sorts of celebrities and media, congressional progressives cannot honestly blame the Republicans for the impending failure of the Affordable Care Act, as not a single Republican ever voted for the legislation. They will try to blame President Donald Trump for not continuing to break their own law in order to make it possibly work better, as Obama would regularly do for them. But that’s a weak argument.

“Will the bedraggled Republicans in Congress at least finally start breaking out of the brainwashing we have all been subjected to, that somehow insurance is synonymous with medical care? It’s long past time to dispel that progressive lie, and instead bring our focus on affordability and access to medical care, which is the complete opposite of subsidizing insurance for everyone. Congress needs to focus on getting out of the way of free-market entrepreneurs – who are creating the real solutions for Americans – as Obama’s legacy dies the death of all programs created by narcissistic statists.”

John Hunt, M.D.
Chief Medical Officer, Liberty Healthshare
Policy Advisor, The Heartland Institute
“Many Republicans do not want to repeal Obamacare. Sen. McCain, who probably has the least to lose, conveniently returned in time for others to avoid taking the heat for the betrayal. The biggest barrier to repeal is probably state governors who are hooked on the Medicaid expansion, such as Republican Gov. Doug Ducey of Arizona. The huge federal subsidies to the ‘expansion’ population circumvent state fiscal constraints imposed by inability to print money. In Arizona, nearly $400 million, supposedly intended to provide medical care to the poor, was transferred to other state agencies between 2012 and 2016. And managed-care contractors made more than $250 million in pre-tax profits in just one year. Administration at the contractor level also devours nearly $1 billion a year (in addition to administration at state government and provider levels).

“Medicaid is a cash cow for the managed-care cartel. The poor, who may receive as little as 20 cents worth of care per $1 in revenue, are merely a pretext. It’s the biggest part of Obamacare’s fake insurance. All states need to do a forensic audit of the program. The Trump administration needs to end the congressional exemption from ACA and the illegal cost-share subsidies. Patients and physicians need to go out of network and stop enabling the system.”

Jane M. Orient, M.D.
Executive Director
Association of American Physicians and Surgeons
“When 50 Republicans can’t agree on something as simple as eliminating the individual and employer mandate, eliminating an unnecessary medical device tax, and increasing contributions to health savings accounts, they have shown a complete inability to govern on one of the primary issues they were elected in the first place, especially after many of them were willing to vote for much further repeal when it had no chance of being signed into law.

“The terrible and failed strategy of Majority Leader Mitch McConnell – combined with the complete betrayal by Republican senators to their constituents, particularly Sens. John McCain and Lisa Murkowski – have left little reason for Republican voters to head to the polls in the future. If a Republican majority can’t even pass something as simple as a repeal of the mandates and HSA expansion, what do they possibly stand for at this point?

“Make no mistake, though, the ACA will fall regardless of any repeal vote, because it is financially unsustainable. But several Republican senators have shown that not only do they favor the coverage expansion the ACA theoretically provides, they also support the demand under threat of law that you participate, regardless of your level of interest or need. I can think of few policies less conservative than that.”

Scott Ehrlich
Chief Operating Officer, DTC Perspectives
Policy Advisor, The Heartland Institute
“As the NASA saying goes, ‘Failure is not an option.’ Not passing something to fix the multitude of problems with the ACA will be devastating. Premiums will continue to rise, healthy people will look to non-exchange options they can afford like health care sharing ministries, which means that the majority of people covered on exchange plans will be either mostly subsidized or extremely sick and high risk. This will result in a cost spiral that will be disabling to our capacity to care for patients, as well as a major negative impact on the economy and the national debt.

“Patients who supposedly are insured will face ever-increasing out-of-pocket costs that will become so unaffordable they will just avoid getting care, which means they will end up at emergency rooms, the most costly form of care we have. Taxes will have to be increased dramatically to cover the subsidy costs and to keep the status quo. I guess we will find out if health care reform is ‘too big to fail.’”

Brian R. Forrest, M.D.
CEO and Network Manager, Access Healthcare Direct
Policy Advisor, The Heartland Institute
“Early this morning, in a dramatic showdown, GOP leaders in the Senate failed to keep their promise to the American people. Meanwhile, hardworking Americans woke up this morning and still needed access to affordable health care. While there will be plenty of finger pointing, the fact remains that had this bill passed, it would not have resolved the problems. Bureaucrats and politicians in Washington, DC continue to believe they can solve the problems in health care. However, this morning’s vote only emphasizes the reality Washington, DC is the problem, not the solution.”

Lee S. Gross, M.D.
President, Docs 4 Patient Care Foundation
Policy Advisor, The Heartland Institute
“The government has no business interfering with health care in any regard whatsoever. If the men and women in Congress had to live under the same health care rules they want to impose on the rest of us, we would see freedom of choice as the main subject.”

Alexandra York
Author and columnist, Newsmax
Policy Advisor, The Heartland Institute
“Vulnerable Americans, job providers, innovators, and even insurance companies deserve better than this health care charade. Our health care system is propped up by an insidious framework that rewards bad behavior, bad decisions, and bad motives. We need to slam the restart button on health care and manifest a system that puts individuals in their own captain’s seat – one that incentivizes smart and healthy decision-making and helps us elevate our society, not drag it down. Obamacare was a death sentence for our health care system and everything that has happened since its one-party passage has proven its opponents were right. But if members of Congress don’t get their act together and fix this thing, none of that will matter.

“Late last night, when I saw the vote, I was outraged for all the Americans hurt by Obamacare and for those who are uncertain of what the future holds, because this is not governance, it is politics. The Democrats obstructing any attempt to fix Obamacare – as well as the Republicans who have aided and abetted their efforts to tank any attempts to fix Obamacare – will be to blame when more people cannot afford the coming rate hikes and our health care system collapses. If we do not fix Obamacare soon, more people will continue losing the plans they like and can afford because of the constant double-digit rate hikes and consolidation, and they will continue to be forced to pay more and more for less and less.”

Jonathan Lockwood
Policy Advisor
The Heartland Institute
“What is going on with health care lawmaking by Congress proves once again the wisdom of our Founding Fathers. Notice that they never created constitutional space for Congress to make national laws regarding the provision of individual medical care. The federal government’s usurpation of the rights of states and individuals dates at least to the creation of Medicare and Medicaid. This usurpation, has effectively made it impossible to create or maintain a functional, accessible, and affordable care system. The fact that a one-party government supposedly more interested in marketplace solutions is unable to pass even minor reforms proves my case. Politics will not allow it.

“To think politicians can create a top-down managed medical care system is foolhardy. If, on the other hand, they want to take one more stab at it, I suggest this amendment language, which I acknowledge is a fool’s pipedream: ‘All sections of federal law and related regulations pertaining to the delivery of and payment for health care are hereby rescinded.’ And it should be made effective as soon as possible. Our challenge now is to find ways to carve out and protect private medical and mental health care for patients who want it and physicians who want to provide it.”

Dave Racer
Policy Advisor, Health Care
The Heartland Institute
“Citizens should have the right to insure themselves for health services or not. They should have numerous levels of health insurance choices from catastrophic care to insurance for health maintenance. Policies and coverages should not be limited to a state or county. Health savings account limits should be increased, and any money left in them should be inheritable. Premiums for individual health policies should be tax-deductible. Non-citizens should be able to buy health insurance while in the United States. People born with pre-existing medical health problems can be covered on their parents’ policies. These policies will drive the price of health care down.”

Michael Warder
Vice Chancellor (retired), Pepperdine University
Principal, The Warder Consultancy
“It’s hard to fathom why these common-sense proposals did not pass. These represented the bare minimum of what Congress should have done. It amazes me the proposal did not generate support from moderate Democrats, whose constituents also suffer under these costly mandates. This also signifies trouble ahead from the standpoint that from now on, the difficult decisions will pass or fail on strict party line votes.”

Devon Herrick
Policy Advisor, Health Care
The Heartland Institute
“Of course we were disappointed in the inability of the Republican controlled Senate to pass any iteration of a repeal of Obamacare. I am sure the insurance companies and hospitals are thrilled that their endless supply of taxpayer dollars will continue to flow to them, whether or not it reaches down to care for those who need it the most.

“Practicing physicians will continue to sound the alarm while they take care of patients one at a time, many pulling out of the ‘system’ altogether. We will continue to advocate for patients who thought they were covered but found that their Medicaid card failed them when they needed it the most. Psychiatry, pain management, and elective surgery are the areas where we have to scramble to get patients care at the Zarephath Health Center, our non-government free clinic in New Jersey.

“Perhaps the lawmakers need to see more of pain they have caused before they act to get rid of the Affordable Care Act. But until then, we have to continue to speak out the truth.”

Alieta Eck, M.D.
Policy Advisor, Health Care
The Heartland Institute
The Heartland Institute is a 33-year-old national nonprofit organization headquartered in Arlington Heights, Illinois. Its mission is to discover, develop, and promote free-market solutions to social and economic problems. For more information, visit our website or call 312/377-4000.
Tim Huelskamp served as president of The Heartland Institute from 2017 to 2019.
Peter Ferrara, J.D., is a senior fellow at The Heartland Institute and an advisor for entitlement reform and budget policy at the National Tax Limitation Foundation.
Justin Haskins is the director of the Socialism Research Center and editorial director at The Heartland Institute. @JustinTHaskins
Edward Hudgins is a senior fellow for The Heartland Institute.
Wayne Allyn Root has been branded by media across the globe as “the Capitalist Evangelist. He is a policy advisor to The Heartland Institute. @WayneRoot
Dr. John Hunt, M.D., is a pediatrician, pulmonologist, allergist, entrepreneur, non-profit founder, author, and libertarian.
Jane M. Orient, M.D. is executive director of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons and president of Doctors for Disaster Preparedness. @jorient
Scott Ehrlich is currently the Chief Operating Officer of DTC Perspectives, a company focused on improving healthcare communication with consumers to help them make better informed healthcare decisions. He is a Policy Advisor at The Heartland Institute. @Debatinghealth
Dr. Forrest is Founder and CEO of Access Healthcare Direct, a national network of Direct Primary Care Practices. @innovadoc
Dr. Gross serves on the board of trustees of an HCA hospital, the president of his county medical society, as a delegate to the Florida Medical Association, and the president of the Docs 4 Patient Care Foundation. @drleegross
Alexandra is the founding president of American Renaissance for the Twenty-first Century (ART), a NYC-based 501 (C) (3) nonprofit educational foundation devoted to a rebirth of beauty and life-affirming values in all of the fine arts.
Jonathan Lockwood is public relations and public policy professional and a policy advisor to The Heartland Institute. @JNTHN_LCKWD
Dave is the President of DGRCommunications, Inc., providing research, writing, publishing, and communication services for a diverse group of individual and corporate clients, and is the founder and CEO of Alethos Press, a book publisher.
Michael Warder was appointed Vice Chancellor of Pepperdine University in Malibu, California on April 2005, and retired from that position in 2014. He is the principal of The Warder Consultancy. @mikewarder1
Devon Herrick, Ph.D., worked for the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA) until it ceased operations in July 2017. He is a policy advisor to The Heartland Institute. @DevonHerrick
Alieta Eck, M.D. graduated from the Rutgers College of Pharmacy in NJ and the St. Louis School of Medicine in St. Louis, MO. @AlietaEck