Congressman Randy Weber, a Friendswood Republican, last week said he’s pushing for a full repeal of the Affordable Care Act and favors letting insurance companies find solutions for America’s health care system.

But county health policy experts questioned whether there are enough controls in place to entrust insurance companies with so much power.

Congress is on recess until Sept. 5 and health care reform remains on a back burner after the U.S. Senate failed last month to pass a “skinny repeal” bill.

The GOP-controlled Congress plans to work on tax reform after the recess, but health care debate isn’t over, Weber said in an interview last week. Many budget and appropriations priorities Republicans have cheered depend on cuts to the Medicaid budget and repealing the Affordable Care Act, Weber said.

Weber supports a full-on repeal of the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, and leaving replacement plans to be decided in the market with insurance companies most responsible, he said. Weber is in the district until Labor Day, he said.

“If the ACA were ended tomorrow, the insurance industry could come out with policies and plans quickly,” Weber said. “People wouldn’t go without.”

Weber has asserted he doesn’t believe government has a role in health care and the health care system should be based entirely on a free-market system — a plan that draws critics who argue health care and health services aren’t like other goods.

Weber wants the GOP to pass a plan repealing the Affordable Care Act and ushering in a free market system, he said. In the meantime, congressional members would meet with the insurance lobby to come up with preferred changes to the system, he said.

“You can go to a free market system for the next — choose your time frame, one month, two months, two years — until we get it all in place,” Weber said.

“What needs to happen is Congress needs to sit down with members of the insurance industry and say, ‘Here’s what we’re thinking, here’s what we’re looking at — give us a time frame. What will it take? How do we protect people in that interim?’”

Weber, who is not on the health care committee, has not met with insurance lobby, he said.

Weber’s plan has skeptics, even among Affordable Care Act critics, including a top health policy expert for the University of Texas Medical Branch.

As evidenced by repeal efforts in recent months, it would be difficult to get a majority of lawmakers behind any major overhaul to the health care system, said Ben Raimer, senior vice president for health policy and legislative affairs at the medical branch.

And Raimer questioned how letting insurance companies dictate U.S. health care policy would drive down costs. Insurance and pharmaceutical companies, along with large, private hospital systems, have been the biggest profiteers in the current system, he said.

The Affordable Care Act has had positive effects in terms of access to care, particularly in states that expanded Medicare, Raimer said. But the act has so far failed in its efforts to drive down costs, Raimer said.

Obamacare increased access to health insurance and thousands of previously uninsured Texans have purchased plans on the market, Raimer said. Although, the state could have benefited more greatly from it if it expanded Medicaid, he said.

But the Affordable Care Act has fallen short in other areas because Congress didn’t address the increasing costs of care, Raimer said.

“Healthcare reform has done nothing to reform health care costs,” Raimer said. “All it’s done is increase access to health care at the same exorbitant costs.”

Before the Affordable Care Act, hospitals and insurance companies shifted costs of treating uninsured patients who arrived largely through the emergency room by charging higher premiums to the insured, Raimer said.

The Affordable Care Act formalized that cost shifting, Raimer said. Taxpayers are still paying for the minimization of losses to insurance companies, he said.

Making health care access more affordable, either through private insurance or a single-payer public option, depends on Congress passing stricter price controls in the health care system, including on pharmaceutical companies and health care providers, Raimer said.

“Insurance companies are all about making money and turning profits for their stockholders,” Raimer said. “Unless you can provide them guidance about what they can do and what kind of policies they can write, I’m skeptical any good would come of leaving it to them.”

Marissa Barnett: 409-683-5257; marissa.barnett@galvnews.com

(17) comments

Gary Scoggin

"Weber has asserted he doesn’t believe government has a role in health care and the health care system should be based entirely on a free-market system". I assume then that the Congressman wants to abolish Medicare, as well.

Carlos Ponce

There are ways of fixing Medicare. It is a safety net but there are many abuses with the current system.
Randy Weber voted YES on "HR 1190: Protecting Seniors' Access to Medicare Act of 2015"
Randy Weber voted YES on "HR 2: Medicare Access and CHIP Re-authorization Act of 2015"

Diane Turski

Since Weber is in his district until Labor Day: As a constituent, I am officially inviting him for the second time (he so far has refused previous invitations to hold an in person town hall open to all of his constituents!) to hold an in person town hall to discuss healthcare with the people who will be most affected by his desire to return to the previous system of allowing insurance companies to dictate who they will cover at whatever price they want to charge.

Gary Scoggin

I'd love to see it Diane but in holding a public meeting he exposes how little actual support there is for his Tea Party RINO agenda.

Mark Aaron

Weber is a coward who knows there is little support for his hateful anti-government ignorance. He has no interest in broadcasting that fact, especially before a live audience. The market will not take care of consumers as he claims. That was why the ACA act was enacted.

George Croix

Mr. Aaron, is it your opinion that the ACA has taken care of consumers?

George Croix

I suppose it depends on what the definition of a 'role' is.
The government has no direct home building agency, nor does it own commercial airlines, but pays others to build or oversee or them, as but a couple of examples.
Medicare is, imo, a necessary concept, and, again imo, a noble idea and concept in a nation like ours, but is so rife with abuse that it might benefit from outside sources running it in all ways except the finances and then the government role being to pay the bills, thus separating the politics of giving a potential voter whatever they want from the reality of false claims. THAT too might fall on it's face, but what we have now will collapse just like the ACA did before too many more years, so some action is necessary.
The VA should be example enough of how well our Government does when they have the string hand in the process.
Here's a thought...let the test case(s) for such an overhaul/change be ALL of our elected leaders first, then whatever ends up the rest of us common folk get the same thing...it's a good bet it'd be better than if any of them were exempted....

George Croix

String hand?

Strong hand....

Too many strings attached when dealing with the government already...

Gary Scoggin

When he says "role" I take at his word. Either he wants government involved or he doesn't. If not, there's no place for Medicare and he should support abolishing it. Or is he "triangulating" like in the vote that Carlos mentioned?

George Croix

Gary, you and I had 'roles' within the refinery structure...doesn't mean the company was not involved even though not directly. They paid us to do a job, while not actually calling the shots for or determining the exact nature of what we did to complete our jobs.
I know, beyond a doubt, that the bad times would have been many and often had top management been in complete charge of all decision making.....as was proven on the times they tried it....

One thing is for sure, NOTHING is ever gonna change if it gets shot down before it can even be thought out to the point of specifics.....or if we insist on making millions stand aside thousands....

David Doe

Never happen....

Gary Sattell

Putting insurance companies in charge of making health care affordable is like putting the fox in charge of finding out why the chickens are missing.

George Croix

Fair enough.
WHO would you put in charge, then?
The ACA, the "Affordable' care act, Govt. planned health insurance, has not been any such thing, and not only have the people paying the subsidies to others been hit with that extra cost, but also their own premiums and/or deductibles have gone UP an average of what they were promised would be saved...thereby getting soaked essentiually double, and all too often coverage providers and/or caregivers have pulled out of the market.
Can anyone name ANYTHING that the Federal Gov't. does that's better than the private sector and comes in cost effectively....besides spend money...something of an oxymoron.

Suggestions???

One thing that must be done is stop using the term health 'insurance' as a synonym for health 'care'. They are not one and the same, the former not...not...guaranteeing the latter when the government has been involved in the setting of parameters.

Another thing is folks need to learn to take better care of themselves when they have that option.
It's not fair to others when you mess yourself up by your own lousy choices then demand others foot your bills.

Gary Scoggin

George, I agree that the ACA has had its share of failures. Many of these are due to political failings on both sides. No program of that size and complexity works completely right straight out of the gate. By ramming it down everyone's throats the Democrats created a situation where the Republicans enjoyed watching it fall apart and had no interest in making it better. My point is that the ACA might not have been a failure had the D's and R's put the good of the country over the good of their party. But what's new about that?

George Croix

Gary, no truer words were ever spoken than in your last two sentences...for sure....
Here's a cold Diet Coke to you....with a Frito's chaser.....[beam]

Michael McNeely

Why hasn't the market fixed this problem before the ACA?

George Croix

The one where everybody is only created equal, not guaranteed a lifetime of personal equaility to everyone or even anyone else.
The one where people think they are entitled to the rewards of other people's labors?
The one where millions of illegals chew up available health care resources via ER services for routine ailments and it gets charged off to the rest of us?
The one where millions of people screw themselves up and then P&M about not being made whole again?
The one where phony malpractice lawsuits get the 40% advocates slobbering for more?
The one where medical school students may run up a half million bucks in debt just through getting out of internship, then settle for one sided negotiated rates far below the value of their work?
The one where a 26 year old able bodied person is considered a child in need of parental care due to being unable to support him/herself?
Etc.?
It's not the job of government, or one's neighbors, to provide parity, much less equity.

And, as long as each 'side' cares more about votes than about efficiency, honesty in claims and care, reality based charges, and individual responsibility to at least TRY to life a healthy life where possible, we might also add the problem of politicized medicical care due to all that......
Hmmmmm....I think that last one is the biggy.......

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