Washington • Utah Gov. Gary Herbert told a Senate committee on Thursday that his constituents don’t care for bumper-sticker slogans about repealing, replacing, revising or modifying Obamacare – they just want a working and affordable health care system.
The solution, he said, is to give more power to the states.
“If you will empower Utah to determine more fully its own health care destiny, I promise you that we will provide the other 49 states with proven and scalable solutions for their most complex health care issues,” Herbert told the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. “And Utah will learn from and emulate the success of others.”
Herbert also suggested tossing out the Obamacare mandate to buy insurance in favor of incentives to do so and argued against using any health care law as a vehicle for social progress.
But the Utah Republican also broke with President Donald Trump who has suggested cutting subsidies under Obamacare for health insurers as a way to kill the law. Herbert says he wants to ensure subsidies through 2019 to keep the market stable while transitioning to a new system.
“The cow is out of the barn in how we’ve done this,” Herbert told reporters after the hearing.
Herbert was one of five governors who told the Senate committee that the states wanted more control over health care and less intrusion from the federal government.
“We have a lot to be proud of, but recent federal action — and inaction — is undermining our efforts,” said Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat. “It’s time for the federal government to work with us, not against us.”
Massachusetts Gov. Charles Baker, a Republican, said Congress needs to give states flexibility in enacting health care reforms.
“Congress should establish broader parameters for insurance market reforms that include greater latitude for states to meet the unique needs of their residents,” Baker testified. “States are incubators and innovators of health care reform solutions and initiatives in both their Medicaid programs and commercial markets.”
From Herbert’s viewpoint, the Congress needs to work across the aisle to make needed reforms and end party-line votes on such a critical part of the economy that affects all Americans.
“Please allow each of the states, in their various hues of blue, red and purple, to take on the primary role of regulating their health insurance markets,” Herbert told the committee.
Instead of requiring “huge social and economic experiments” nationwide, let the states see what works and what doesn’t.
Congressional Republicans, who campaigned for seven years on jettisoning Obamacare — formally known as the Affordable Care Act — have failed to pass legislation this year to change the law.
The House and Senate, both under GOP control, have been unable to agree on a plan to repeal and replace the health care law.
Herbert says the time has come for Congress to act, and if members don’t, they should be replaced.
”I think it’s going to take probably some effort by the American public that we’re going to hold you accountable and if you’re not going to solve the problem, we’ll get somebody who will,” Herbert told reporters. “That’s a message that should go to both sides — the public has to demand some results.”
Editor’s note: The original version of this story has been corrected to reflect that Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker is a Republican.