WORDS FROM WASHINGTON

Obamacare...three years later

This month marks the three-year anniversary since Obamacare became law. Currently, states and federal agencies are working around the clock to write and implement tens of thousands of pages of new regulations by the law's effective date of Jan. 1, 2014 - just a short nine months away.

During the last three years, the President's health care law has raised many questions and concerns among Americans.

I continue to believe, as I always have, that common-sense improvements must be made to our health care system to increase access, improve patient outcomes and reduce costs. Unfortunately, the law we are currently faced with does little to actually protect patients and, if the past three years are any indication, is unlikely to ever make health care more affordable and accessible.

Despite President Obama's promise to reduce premiums by $2,500 for every American family, many residents of Central Washington have experienced just the opposite - significant increases in insurance premiums. In fact, since President Obama was first elected, the average family premium has grown over $3,000.

The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office recently estimated the total cost of the law over the next 10 years to run $1.88 trillion - nearly double the original projection. They also reported that an estimated seven million people nationally will lose their employer-provided health coverage as a result of the law. This is despite the promise the President made that if you like your health care coverage, you can keep it.

Some people are already feeling the burden of increased taxes under the law. The law imposes 21 new or higher taxes, costing families more than $1 trillion over the next 10 years. One tax that went into effect this past January imposes a 2.3 percent tax on medical devices ranging from latex gloves and tongue depressors to artificial hearts.

I refuse to believe in the approach championed by President Obama and my Democrat colleagues, that unelected and unaccountable bureaucrats in Washington, D.C. know what is best for families in Central Washington. As such, I have consistently opposed the government takeover of our health care system and voted many times to repeal, defund and dismantle the law.

Good health care policy means putting patients first and lowering costs. I have always believed that Americans deserve access to the quality health care they need, when they need it and at a cost they can afford. Lowering costs for hard working families can be achieved by expanding health care choices, making it easier for small businesses to offer health care, ending frivolous lawsuit abuse and protecting the doctor-patient relationship from government intrusion. Creating better access and increasing competition will without a doubt improve our health care system and drive down prices - that is real reform.

I know the families in Central Washington do not want the government to be a factor in their medical decisions. That is why I continue to support common-sense reforms that will lower costs and increase access to quality medical care.

- U.S. Congressman Doc Hastings (R-Pasco) represents Central Washington's Fourth Congressional District.

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