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Waco Tribune: Flores: Obamacare repeal top priority in new Congress

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Washington, January 10, 2017 | comments
As President-elect Donald Trump prepares for his Jan. 20 inauguration and the GOP readies to control both the executive and legislative branches of government, the future of the Affordable Care Act is the “big, hairy issue,” U.S. Rep. Bill Flores, R-Bryan, said Tuesday.

Flores, who started his fourth term representing the 17th Congressional District last week, said he hopes President Barack Obama’s signature health care legislation will be repealed and replaced this year.

“If I had all my druthers, what I’d like to do is see repeal and replace all done at the same time so nobody can make a claim that you broke something without having the replacement product in place. . . . What we’re going to try to do is to repeal as much of Obamacare as we can under these arduous Senate rules related to reconciliation,” Flores said. “Then we’ll have as much replacement in that same vote as we can.
“An example would be expanded health care savings accounts, so that a family could save for their health care on a tax advantage basis that allows them to pay those higher out-of-pockets that they’ve been experiencing under Obamacare. That’s an example of something we could probably do under what we call ‘repeal plus.’ ”

He said other replacement elements will come later this year.

Trump told The New York Times on Tuesday that a repeal vote should happen next week, and a replacement vote “very quickly or simultaneously, very shortly thereafter.”

A successful replacement of the Affordable Care Act would have improved access and improved affordability, Flores said.

“Today we have more people covered, but the taxpayers are picking up tens of billions of dollars in extra costs to do that,” he said. “A lot of these people really don’t have coverage because what they’ve got is an insurance card. But when they go to the doctor, they find out they’ve got $14,000 worth of out-of-pockets they’ve got to pay before you have any coverage.”

Flores said a replacement plan would allow markets to produce a health care product for consumers and doctors to have holistic conversations with patients.

GOP lawmakers feel pressure to solve the issue, Flores said.

“We all feel compelled to execute our solutions we ran on and to do it as quickly as we can,” he said. “The challenge we have is there are so many issues to be dealt with so quickly that we need to make sure everybody is keeping their head down and moving forward together to execute these things. We’ve got to deal with Obamacare, the same time we’re dealing with the regulatory environment, the same time we’re trying to deal with tax reform, the same time we’re trying to deal with national security. We’ve got to be attacking all these challenges on a simultaneous basis, and we don’t have the luxury of being able to do them sequentially.”

Flores also said tax reform, border security, national security and poverty elimination are vital issues.

Energy is another of Flores’ priorities. He said visiting both small and large businesses in his district has shown him what he believes are restrictive policies that stunt job creation.

“We are going to be looking aggressively at the (Environmental Protection Agency’s) actions over the last eight years to create environmental policies that work: environmental policies that keep our environment clean but also do not destroy jobs in the process. I’d call it a much more balanced, more right-sized approach,” he said.

Flores said he will explore a 21st-century energy strategy friendly to all sources.

“The good thing for the 17th District is that I am on the two principal subcommittees (of the Energy and Commerce Committee), energy and environment. I’m pretty excited about the opportunity to change the things people have to deal with today.”

Flores said lawmakers will work with House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., for a reformed, congressionally mandated appropriations process. He said, for example, costs incurred by potential flooding damage at Lake Waco should be taken to appropriations officials, not handled by the agency responsible for the lake.

“The last six years, I was having to go sit down and twist the arms of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers,” he said. “This will put Congress back in charge of appropriations but yet not do it in a way where you have the earmark abuse you had through Republican and Democratic congresses in the decades before.”

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