The bill recently approved by the U.S. House to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act doesn’t make health insurance more accessible, according to U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Bowling Green.
Paul briefly spoke to reporters Monday following a private insurance provider roundtable at Van Meter Insurance of the Houchens Insurance Group. The roundtable was closed to the media, and Paul spent less than five minutes answering reporters' questions after the meeting.
The American Health Care Act passed the House earlier this month by a 217-213 margin. A previous attempt by Republicans to pass a bill in March failed to reach a vote in the House because of lack of support, and the version ultimately passed by the House is expected to undergo significant changes in the Senate.
“The thing that I think most of us want is we want more people to have insurance at a lower cost, and figuring out how that happens is a complicated feat,” he said. “I don’t think the House bill necessarily does that. I think what we need to do is empower the consumer.”
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Under the ACA, Paul said he’s concerned about people who have to buy insurance on their own, such as a local plumbers, carpenters or farmers who work for themselves, he said.
“So what I’m really looking for is if you have to buy insurance by yourself, I’d like to let you join a group, like a buying co-op, so you could get lower prices,” he said, describing what he discussed in the roundtable.
Paul also addressed high-risk pools, an approach the House bill uses to contain high health care costs for people with pre-existing conditions but that has been the target of criticism.
“If you take a bunch of sick people, like 1,000 people that are very sick and their health care costs are, say, $1 million a year … if you’ve already predicted that they’re going to cost $1 million next year, you can’t really insure against that,” he said. “Now, I’m not saying we can’t help, but I’m not so sure I’d buy insurance.”
Paul said group insurance, such as plans offered to workers at the GM Bowling Green Assembly Plant, presents a more viable option for keeping costs down.
“It kind of works in a group insurance place,” he said. “What we have to do is figure out how to get it to work in the individual market where people have their own small business, and I think that’s what the real problem is.”
President Donald Trump is releasing details of his 2018 budget this week. Medicaid and food stamps are among the programs slated for cuts.
“We have to look at all spending if you want to balance the budget,” Paul said, explaining that entitlements make up about $2 trillion out of the $3.8 trillion the government spends.
“If you exclude Medicare and Medicaid from that, it virtually becomes impossible to ever balance your budget,” he said.
Paul added that it’s not enough to eliminate about $1 trillion of military and non-military discretionary spending.
“If you eliminate that completely, but don’t look at the entitlements, you still never balance your budget,” he said. “So really you have to look at everything.”
If the government chooses to freeze spending at its current level, Paul said “you balance the budget within seven years.”
“But you have to look at everything and that does include the entitlements as well,” he said.
During a recent trip to Saudi Arabia, Trump signed an arms deal of about $110 billion immediately, plus another $350 billion over the next 10 years, according to The Associated Press.
“My concern with selling weapons to Saudi Arabia is that it sort of, I think, leads to an arms race,” Paul said. “We have sort of a 1,000-year-old war in the Middle East between Sunni and Shia (Muslims) and the Saudis are involved with an aggressive war in Yemen, so I’m not really in favor of selling more weapons to Saudi Arabia right now. A lot of civilians have died in that war, and I think it’s a mistake.”