By Reps. Frank Lucas, Tom Cole, Jim Bridenstine, Markwayne Mullin, and Steve Russell
Obamacare has failed Americans all across the nation. But Oklahoma in particular is a case study for its failure and the negative impact on insured individuals. As a state that saw 2017 premiums increase an average of 76 percent and as one of only five states with just one insurer participating in the federal exchange, you could argue that Oklahoma has been hit the hardest by Obama's failed health care policy. All five of our congressional districts have constituents who are adversely impacted by Obamacare.
A small business owner in Oklahoma City believes that Obamacare is negatively impacting his business. Graciously, he has always paid for half of his employee's health insurance premiums. In three years under Obamacare, this employer's out of pocket expenses have more than doubled. Obamacare has given him two choices: drop the health insurance benefit and potentially lose quality employees, or go out of business.
A mother of three was an accountant before quitting to raise her family and help her husband start his small business, so when Obamacare came along, she knew how to analyze their options. She made the rational decision to pay the fines, save the value of premiums and high deductibles, and effectively self-insure. Under Obamacare, she became uninsured, and she will be thousands of dollars ahead -- as long as she avoids catastrophic illness.
After celebrating a successful harvest, a cotton farming family in southwest Oklahoma was shocked when they learned their health insurance premiums would nearly double under Obamacare. All of their concerns about issues like EPA's Waters of the U.S. rule or the continuation of certain Farm Bill provisions suddenly paled in comparison to Obamacare. They're now worried that the sudden spike in expenses for their family, not to mention a $6,000 deductible, threatens the future of their farming operation.
One couple in rural Oklahoma was forced to sell their small business a few years ago due to the husband's sharp decline in health. When they signed up for Obamacare, the most affordable option was a $6,000 deductible and a $1,200 copay. Even worse, the prescriptions they need to fill are "Tier 4," the section that has the highest copay. All doctors and hospitals under their plan are far from their home and it is almost impossible to schedule a timely appointment with a doctor when they find themselves ill.
A Southern Baptist pastor in eastern Oklahoma is well taken care of by his church, except they do not provide health insurance. His family's previous health care plan was cancelled in December, so he used Healthcare.gov, which failed to function properly, and was left with a plan that more than tripled their premium. A steadfast believer, the pastor is left with only the belief that God will provide for his pregnant wife, two year old son, and the baby on the way.
Sadly, these stories represent only a sliver of the number of Oklahomans feeling the ill effects of Obamacare. More and more Oklahomans are grappling with the crippling consequences of a failed health care law that is anything but affordable. It doesn't take long to find a neighbor, a friend, or a community member who is suffering the ill effects of Obamacare. More than 4.7 million Americans were kicked off their health care plan after being promised that they could keep it. Sixty percent of Americans have seen an increase in their deductibles in addition to the average 22 percent increase in their 2017 premiums. The burden Obamacare placed on families, employers, and individuals never seems to end.
Thankfully, House Republicans want to make sure the Obamacare buck stops here. Our goal is to bring the American people more choices and lower costs, without mandating your plan or your coverage. By opening a free market to encourage competing plans and options, Americans can return once again to a health care market that provides access to affordable and reliable health insurance for Americans everywhere, particularly in our home state of Oklahoma.