Suozzi and Fitzpatrick: The Problem Solvers Caucus wants to keep what works in the Affordable Care Act and fix what doesn't
Both sides of the aisle need to focus more on what's best for the American people and less on petty differences, they write
Editor’s Note: Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pennsylvania, is serving his first term in the US House of Representatives and is a member of the Problem Solvers Caucus. Tom Suozzi, D-New York, is serving his first term in the US House of Representatives and is Vice Chair of the Problem Solvers Caucus. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely theirs.
People are sick of politics and politicians. They have had it with the finger-pointing and blame games while the world is engulfed in chaos.
We are, too.
We’re freshman members of Congress from different political parties, but we know there is more that unites us than divides us. That’s why we’re part of the Problem Solvers Caucus: a group of more than 40 lawmakers, split evenly between Democrats and Republicans, committed to – you guessed it – solving problems.
This month, after working together for weeks, the Problem Solvers Caucus announced a five-point proposal to begin the process of fixing our broken health care system. After years of attacks and counterattacks by both parties, we are resetting the conversation by outlining a set of principles aimed at stabilizing the health insurance markets and providing relief to individuals, families and small businesses.
As it stands, the Affordable Care Act is unsustainable. For too many Americans, health care is still too expensive. Premiums are rising and people are scared. This is a life-and-death issue for many Americans. They deserve to know that when they get sick, or their child falls ill, that a system will be in place to ensure they have access to high-quality, affordable health coverage. That should be the goal for any lawmaker, regardless of party.
We know that the Affordable Care Act isn’t perfect, but we need to keep what works and fix what doesn’t. The bottom line is: we need to stabilize the individual market right now – and that is what our proposal does.
First, it would bring cost-sharing reduction payments under Congressional authority, but ensure they have mandatory funding. The President has threatened to withhold these funds, which would result in devastating premium increases and out-of-pocket costs for families.
Second, we must stabilize the individual marketplace by creating a dedicated fund for states to use to bring down premiums and limit losses for providing coverage, especially for people with pre-existing conditions.
Third, our plan calls for an adjustment to the employer mandate from businesses that have 50 employees to those with 500 employees. The current mandate puts too many burdens on small businesses, making it almost impossible to grow beyond 50 employees.
Fourth, we must repeal the 2.3% Medical Device Tax, which we know is passed onto consumers and creates a bigger hole in their pocket.
Finally, our proposal will provide technical changes and guidelines for states seeking to improve their exchanges and offer better coverage for consumers.
This isn’t the silver bullet solution to our healthcare troubles, but it’s a start – and it’s the exact kind of common sense leadership that Americans are looking for. Instead of focusing on scoring political points, the Problem Solvers Caucus’ goal is simple: get things done.
We both happen to have been trained as CPAs and lawyers. We’re both freshmen members from suburban districts. One is from Long Island and Queens in New York and the other from outside Philadelphia, but we are joined by other members from all over our nation with varying backgrounds and years of service.
When we came to Congress earlier this year, each of us signed a freshman pledge to civility. That’s what being an elected official is about. We chose to set aside our petty differences, look at the big picture, and realize that we have a sacred duty to improve the lives of the people who have entrusted us with the responsibility of representing them – and our country – in Congress.
We know that this is serious business. Ramming through legislation with support from only one party is not how the legislative branch of government was meant to operate, and as we’ve seen before and we’re seeing again now, it just doesn’t work.
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We need leaders sobered by their responsibilities and individuals committed to stopping the nonsense that dominates our current national discourse and elevating the debate to the serious, responsible level our times demand.
Instead of focusing on areas of disagreement, let’s focus on goodwill and compromise where we can find common ground. We believe our health care proposal is the start of many good bipartisan conversations. It is not only our duty, but our only hope.