Members of Congress might be shifting their focus to tax reform after the Senate failed to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, but U.S. Rep. Andy Barr, R-Lexington, hasn’t given up hope on health care yet.
“This is a rescue mission,” Barr said Thursday morning at the Lexington Forum. “And we’ve got to be persistent on health care because, let’s face it, despite the Senate’s failings last week, the problem is not going away.”
Barr said he would support a bipartisan effort to address issues with the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, particularly the high costs and lack of options associated with the bill.
He gave a list of reforms that he would need to vote yes on the bill, all of which were included in House Republicans’ replacement bill for Obamacare but many of which would be unlikely to get bipartisan support.
“We want a bipartisan solution, we want them to send something back, we want to work,” Barr said the University of Kentucky’s Boone Center. “But I am not a yes until it solves the problems.”
Barr says there are several problems with the Affordable Care Act, and that any new bill he voted for would have to lower cost, increase choices, include pre-existing conditions, repeal the employer and individual mandates, and repeal the taxes associated with the bill.
“It used to be that the employer used health care as a benefit to attract an employee,” Barr said. “Now, Obamacare has made it an adversarial relationship between the employer and the employee.”
Barr also views the effort to replace the Affordable Care Act as a way to cut back on federal Medicaid expenses. He said the national debt is one of the greatest threats to our country.
“Here we had a chance to enact the most transformational entitlement reform in American history,” Barr said. “Medicaid is one of the drivers of the debt.”
Spending on Medicaid, Medicare, the Children’s Health Insurance Program and the Affordable Care Act made up 25 percent of the federal government’s budget in 2015, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
Barr’s continued support of the unpopular health care bill is an early talking point in the Democratic primary to run against him.
Both Lt. Col. Amy McGrath and state Sen. Reggie Thomas, D-Lexington, have criticized Barr for supporting the bill, citing the Congressional Budget Office report that it could cost millions of Americans their health insurance.
Barr, who has more than $1 million in the bank for his re-election campaign, said he isn’t concerned with what the Democrats are saying right now.
“Competition is good,” Barr said. “Competition is what drives American free enterprise, it’s what drives us to be the most prosperous country in the world, and it should be the exact same in politics. So I welcome a robust debate, but right now is really not a time for politics.”
President Donald Trump has expressed his disappointment on Twitter that the Senate failed to pass a bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.
“Unless the Republican Senators are total quitters, Repeal & Replace is not dead!” Trump tweeted last week. “Demand another vote before voting on any other bill!”
Barr continues to hope for a new health care act, but he’s also focused on the next legislative battle: comprehensive changes in the tax Code. Among other changes, he said, he’d like to see the corporate tax rate go from 35 percent to the low 20s.
“I’m more optimistic about tax reform than health care reform,” Barr said. “I think you’re going to see a greater appetite and an easier path forward for tax reform.”