In speaking to the Marietta Rotary Club at the Hilton Marietta Conference Center on Wednesday, Chambliss pointed out that, yes, he opposed the health law and voted against it. But just because the Supreme Court may strike down the law doesn’t mean the country’s health care problems are over.
“For Republicans to go on the campaign trail and say, ‘By golly, we’ve got to repeal Obamacare and move on,’ it’s not right because we’ve got issues in our health care system in this country today,” Chambliss said. “It is in serious trouble. I don’t care whether you’re talking about Medicaid, Medicare or just our health care system in general.”
Chambliss said everyone in the room knew what health care premiums are doing every year to their businesses and to them personally.
“And we’ve got to figure out a way to get our arms around it, and Republicans have got to be responsible enough to say, ‘OK, we want to repeal Obamacare, but here’s the direction which we need to go,’” he said.
If the Supreme Court repeals the law, Republicans must be willing to reach out to the president on the topic, “because I don’t think he’s going to come to us in a campaign year, but we need to go to him and say, ‘Mr. President, let’s find that common ground, and let’s look at the things we do agree on,’” including covering pre-existing conditions and being able to purchase insurance policies across state lines, he said.
“Let’s lay out the things that we disagree on and see if we can’t figure out a way to find that common ground there, because if we don’t get our arms around this, then our health care system is ultimately going to bankrupt this country,” Chambliss said.
The fastest rising expense in the U.S. Department of Defense today is health care, and there is nothing out there to slow it down, he said.
“If we’re not careful, it’s going to consume our ability to buy weapons systems and to pay our men and women at the rate we need to pay them,” he said. “And that’s just one example. I could go to every segment of the private sector and say the same thing, so it’s important that we have an alternative.”
Never before has the Supreme Court had three days of argument over a case as it did in the Obamacare matter, he said.
You can’t tell how appellate court judges will rule based on the questions they ask, “but if you listened to the questions, you would think that they’d certainly throw out the individual mandate because it does violate the commerce clause of the Constitution,” he said.
“I think that is probably what they’re going to do, but Lord knows it’s going to be a 5-4 decision either way,” he said.
During the question and answer part of his talk, one Rotarian, identifying himself as a health insurance agent, asked Chambliss to expand on his comment about continuing to support the coverage of pre-existing conditions. Wouldn’t such a mandate raise rates, the questioner asked.
Chambliss said if pre-existing conditions aren’t covered, then that individual is going to become a ward of the state and the taxpayers are going to pay for the cost.
“If we take that individual and we allow them to become part of a group if they’re not employed … then you’re going to spread the cost of that pre-existing condition among a number of people rather than that individual family or that very small group policy that may be there,” he said.
Chambliss also raised the issue of allowing children to remain on their parents’ policy until age 26.
When he first heard about this he found it puzzling because he wanted his children to be independent by that age, he said.
“I didn’t want them to stay on my policy, but again as you know better than I do, it makes perfect sense because those individuals are healthy,” Chambliss said. “They’re not incurring major medical expenses, so they’re cheap, and if we can leave those people on the policy to age 26, then it will help the cost of it. So I think there are a number of things and I don’t have all the answers as to how you do it.”
To read more about other topics Chambliss touched on, from foreign affairs to his plan to seek re-election, see Friday’s MDJ.