Giving CPR to the U.S. Health Insurance System
In case you missed it, I joined several of my colleagues from Georgia to author a piece in the Atlanta Journal Constitution to explain why and how we're working to resuscitate our health care system.

Take a few moments to check out our thoughts:

Giving CPR to U.S. health insurance system
Atlanta Journal Constitution

As members of Congress, we work every day to be the voice of Georgians in our nation’s capital. While we represent different areas, one message we hear as we listen to constituents is resounding: Obamacare has hurt their loved ones and livelihoods and it must go.

In 2007, President Obama said, “I will sign a universal health care bill into law by the end of my first term as president that will cover every American and cut the cost of a typical family’s premium by up to $2,500 a year.” As many predicted at the time, this has turned out to be an empty campaign promise for Georgia families.

Consider the case of Bob Joiner, an independent advisor in South Georgia. His wife, Kim, is an audiologist who works in a small practice that does not provide health care benefits. Bob and Kim exercise regularly, watch their nutrition, and are fortunate to have no health problems. They also have a 28-year-old son, Wesley.

In 2016, Bob’s monthly health care premium increased 134 percent and his son’s climbed an astonishing 190 percent. In total, their 2016 annual premiums were $4,285.56 for their son Wesley and $19,026.12 for Bob and Kim. The Joiners should have been hopeful that in 2017 they could change their plan for something more affordable, but thanks to Obamacare, that wasn’t the case. 

This year, only one Obamacare-compliant plan was accessible to them on the website. An additional policy featuring a high deductible with lower premiums was available, however, the plan was not Obamacare-compliant, leaving the Joiners subjected to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) penalty.

Before Obamacare, the Joiner family’s annual premium for the whole family was $7,428.00. At the time, they had access to multiple providers and dozens of plan designs. Unfortunately, Obamacare has brought chaos into this health care system.  

The Joiners are not alone when they explain they are unable to save for retirement or pay down their mortgage because of oppressive increases in health care costs. Patients across the country now face this grim reality because Obamacare has failed. 

Just as the Joiners saw, patient costs are skyrocketing. Last year, the Obama administration even admitted that premium hikes were coming for this year’s health care plans. It turns out the national average premium increase is an astounding 25 percent. 

Out-of-pocket costs are out of control. Deductibles are climbing for families with exchange plans and for those with employer coverage.

Consumers have less choice than before. The Collingsworth family in Statesboro was informed they could no longer purchase health insurance from their current provider and they were left with only one option. As Mr. Collingsworth said, “This is not competitive in the sense that we have viable choices in an open marketplace.”

This is the case across the country. In 2017, patients in 1,022 counties in the United States had only one insurer from which to choose. This is up from 255 counties in 2016, an increase of more than 300 percent.

Patients across the country deserve better. 

That is why we’re not just going to end the destructive mandates and penalties, we are going to replace Obamacare with a 21st century health care system that empowers patients. While applying a smooth and stable transition to ensure no one has the rug pulled out from under them, we have already started our replacement plan, which will be formed around “A Better Way.” 

Our Better Way plan provides more choices and lower costs. Our plan includes reforms that give patients the freedom and flexibility to pick the plan that meets their needs, not what Washington thinks you need. This includes the ability to shop for plans across state lines to increase competition. 

A Better Way includes commonsense protections for the Americans who need care the most. You should never have to worry about access to coverage regardless of your circumstances. Rest assured, we will work to protect patients with pre-existing conditions and coverage for young people. 

Our plan will also support the accelerated discovery, development, and delivery of cutting-edge medical advances and lifesaving treatments. Finally, a Better Way offers a three-step approach to save and strengthen Medicare. 

Our plan is in motion and we are on a rescue mission to resuscitate our health care system. We will fight to deliver a patient-centered health care system for the Joiners, the Collingsworths, Georgians, and the patients across the country that Obamacare has failed.

By U.S. Representatives Earl L. “Buddy” Carter (GA-01), Drew Ferguson (GA-03), Rob Woodall (GA-07), Doug Collins (GA-09), Jody Hice (GA-10), Barry Loudermilk (GA-11), Rick Allen (GA-12), and Tom Graves (GA-14).

From our nation's capitol CII
Tuesday, February 21, 2017:  Once I arrived back in town last night around 7:30 p.m., I headed straight to the Savannah office where I met with a group of women from our district who had participated in the Women’s March in Washington, D.C. last month.  This highly educated and highly motivated group of ten women believe they must create a society in which all women are free and able to care for and nurture their families.

Rep. Carter Meeting with Constituents
 Among the many issues that we discussed were ending violence against women, reproductive rights, civil rights and LGBTQIA issues.  I found the meeting to be productive for both the group and myself.  This morning I have a radio interview with Bill Edwards and Laura Anderson with WTKS in Savannah to discuss this week’s upcoming town hall meetings.  As I arrive at my Savannah district office this morning, my first meeting is with two constituents regarding the Affordable Care Act.  They share with me their experiences with the plan and I am glad to have their input.  Next, I meet with representatives from the Healthcare Leadership Council, a group of CEO’s from all different areas of the health care system, to discuss value and innovation in health care delivery and how we obtain stability and sustainability in the health care system.  After a meeting with representatives from the National Association of Vision Care Plans to discuss legislation that I am sponsoring, I meet with staff from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Jacksonville office who cover the southern portions of our district.  My next two meetings are with representatives advocating for the Medicare Advantage program followed by a group of six constituents who want to discuss my co-sponsorship of H.R. 586, the Sanctity of Human Life Act.  My next stop is at the Second Harvest Food Bank for a visit and tour of the facility as well as an opportunity for me to participate with volunteers and staff in packing boxes of food that will be distributed to low-income families, children, and seniors.

Rep. Carter at the Second Harvest Food Bank
 Afterwards, I head to Armstrong Center for the first of five town hall meetings that I will be hosting throughout the district in the next three days.  As many of you may have heard, this meeting was well attended and contentious at times. While I certainly understand the tension that currently exists among many citizens, I am regretful that the meeting got out of control at times.  Nonetheless, we did finish and actually extended the meeting 30 minutes past our original stop time.  My final event of the day is at the Skidaway Islands Republican Club’s Annual President’s Day Celebration where we hear from Elliott Abrams, the former American diplomat who served in foreign policy positions for U.S. Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017:  Our second town hall meeting is this morning in Jesup as we welcome about 60 people to the Coastal Pines Technical College and have a great discussion without any incidents.  Along with national issues such as the Affordable Care Act, Russia, and national security, there is much interest in environmental issues here, revolving primarily around coal ash.  After the 1 & ½ hour meeting, I head to the Jesup Exchange Club where I am the keynote speaker today.  Next, I head to Waycross where we have our third town hall meeting at their Coastal Pines Technical College facility and have another good size crowd in attendance.

Rep. Carter at the Jesup Exchange Club Meeting
 This area has a heavy agricultural presence and therefore, aside from the other current national issues, many of their questions revolve around immigration and the impact President Trump’s recent executive orders pertaining to border security might have on seasonal workers.  On my way back to Savannah, I stop in Darien where I meet with John Smith with Smith and Sons Seafood regarding the challenges facing the shrimping industry particularly the antidumping laws that level the playing field with Asian competitors.

Thursday, February 23, 2017:  I have another radio interview early this morning with Bill Edwards and Laura Anderson with WTKS as we discuss the town hall meetings that I have held thus far before heading to Sea Island for a meeting with a group of retired business executives to discuss national issues.  Afterwards, I head to the College of Coastal Georgia for my fourth town hall meeting of the week where I am greeted by a capacity crowd that at times is quite disruptive.  The issues here are much as they were in Savannah- the Affordable Care Act, Russia and immigration.  Afterwards, I meet with two members of the Brunswick-Glynn Joint Water and Sewer Commission followed by a meeting with a local constituent to discuss VA issues before I am the keynote speaker at the weekly Brunswick Rotary Club meeting.

Rep. Carter at the Brantley County GOP Elected Officials Meeting
 My fifth and final of five town hall meetings in the past three days is next in Camden County and, once again, we have a great turnout.  Aside from the current national issues, citizens in this meeting have a strong interest in military affairs as Kings Bay Naval Base is a big part of their economy.  Afterwards, I head to Folkston in Charlton County where I tour the D. James Ray Federal Prison before heading to Waynesville where I am the keynote speaker at the Brantley County GOP elected officials meeting.

Friday, February 24, 2017:  After an early morning bible study with the Band of Brothers in Garden City, I head to my Savannah office where I have the honor of presenting the Congressional Award Medal to Sophia Emmoth of Savannah for her completion of work in voluntary service, personal development, physical fitness and expedition/exploration.  After a quick television interview with WSAV in Savannah, I meet with a new constituent from Richmond Hill who has recently moved to the area before meeting with Dr. Anastase Gasana, the former Rwandan Ambassador to the United Nations, who is now an American citizen and works at Fort Stewart.

Rep. Carter at the Skidaway Island Marine Institute
 I end an extremely busy week with a visit to the Skidaway Island Marine Institute for a tour and visit to the University of Georgia Oyster Hatchery where they are doing great work in bringing back the oyster harvesting business to our state.