“This is the opportunity. The time is now.”

Burgess Expresses Optimism About Health Care Reform

WASHINGTON, DC – In remarks this past Friday morning before a breakfast meeting of The Ripon Society, U.S. Rep. Michael Burgess (TX-26) expressed optimism about the effort in Congress to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

Burgess serves as Chairman of the Energy & Commerce Subcommittee on Health, which has played a key role in crafting the reform legislation currently being considered by the House.  He called the reform bill a “good product” and a “reasonable compromise,” but he also noted that the legislation was just the “starting point” in the repeal and replace debate.

To that end, Burgess opened his remarks by recalling the effort he led to repeal the Medicare Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula.  The effort, he noted, took over a decade and overcame numerous obstacles along the way.  But, he added, the effort was also ultimately successful (the SGR was repealed in 2015) and helps to put into perspective the scope of the challenge lawmakers face today.

“Everyone said I couldn’t do it and that I was foolish to keep trying,” he said of the effort to repeal the SGR.  “So the way I look at it now is that we’re now seven years past the signing of the Affordable Care Act.  We’ve got time.  Let’s think about things for just a minute.  If I were having this chat with you in October of this past year, everyone had in their mind what the future was going to be like.  In that alternate universe where Hillary Clinton had won the presidency, would we be talking about the Affordable Care Act and health care this morning? The answer is we would be.”

The difference, Burgess stated, is that instead of talking about how to increase the role of government in the health care, Congress is now talking about how to decrease government’s role while, at the same time, lowering costs and strengthening the doctor-patient relationship.

“We get to talk about whether it is possible to move to a market where perhaps there are more market forces, where there are lower premiums, and where, yes, patients can be considered part of the equation and not just the government,” he observed.  “So from my perspective that’s good.  And although people have expressed sympathy to me for what I’m doing right now, I’ll just tell you — if I had any other role right now I’d be miserable. I want to be doing this. This is the fight I asked for. This is where I wanted to be.”

Burgess spent nearly three decades as a physician prior to his election to Congress in 2002 and is now the most senior medical doctor serving on either side of the political aisle in the House.  As Chairman of the Energy & Commerce Subcommittee on Health, he is also a leading voice in the effort to develop a patient-centered alternative to the Affordable Care Act.

“I thought we had a good product from the Energy and Commerce perspective,” he said of the bill that the panel approved on March 9th.   “I do want that to be the product that is advanced.  I know there were people in that Committee that took a very tough vote on that, both on the right and on the left. I thought that the compromise that we had worked up, particularly in the Medicaid space, was a reasonable compromise.  And that’s what I would like to see going forward.”

That said, the veteran physician and Health Subcommittee head also said he knew that the debate had just begun.

“This bill that is before us, let me just stress, is the starting point,” he declared.  “It is not the ending point.  The Affordable Care Act was the ending point, remember? You couldn’t touch it. You couldn’t do anything because it was a carefully crafted thing.  Then Senator Kennedy left and we didn’t have 60 votes in the Senate so nothing could be changed.  This is the starting point. This is where things open. The Administration has things that they can do. We’ve talked to Dr. Price about some of those things that he’s got on his agenda ahead of him.

“I think the figure I heard was that there are 1,440 separate regulations that came out of HHS on the Affordable Care Act. They are tackling 10 a week over at HHS right now, trying to provide more flexibility, trying to make things more patient-centered. It will take them 18 months to plow through all of those regulations that passed or that were enacted after the Affordable Care Act passed.  But they’re doing it. They’re taking it on. And then of course, what we all talk about is the third phase — or the third bucket. The regular order stuff, the stuff that does require 60 votes over in the Senate, things we can continue to work on — not next year, not next fall, but right now. They will continue to be worked on. Our Committee will take up some of the hearings on those things in very short order.

“But let me just say — this is hard work.  It is important to take this first step. The bill that is before us is the key that gets us through the door. For seven years I have wanted, I have asked for, the opportunity to get rid of the Affordable Care Act. This is the opportunity. The time is now. Heaven help us if we don’t take advantage of that.”

To view the remarks of Chairman Burgess before The Ripon Society’s breakfast discussion Friday morning, please click on the link below:

The Ripon Society is a public policy organization that was founded in 1962 and takes its name from the town where the Republican Party was born in 1854 – Ripon, Wisconsin. One of the main goals of The Ripon Society is to promote the ideas and principles that have made America great and contributed to the GOP’s success. These ideas include keeping our nation secure, keeping taxes low and having a federal government that is smaller, smarter and more accountable to the people.