Interviews

Rep. Yarmuth: AHCA is in 'legislative quicksand'

Kentucky congressman on new report showing drop in ObamaCare enrollment

 

This is a rush transcript from "Your World," March 15, 2017. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

STUART VARNEY, GUEST HOST:  A new government report shows a big drop in ObamaCare enrollment this year. It's down around 500,000 people, around a half-million down.  

And House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, she is blaming the numbers on she calls a Republican sabotage campaign.  

To Kentucky Democrat Congressman John Yarmuth.  He is the ranking Democrat on the House Budget Committee.  

Congressman, welcome to the program.  It's good to see you, sir.  

REP. JOHN YARMUTH, D-KENTUCKY:  Good to see you, Stuart.

VARNEY:  So, we have got a drop of a half-million in terms of enrollment. And over the course of ObamaCare, premiums have gone up, deductibles have gone way up, insurance companies are dropping out, so there's limited competition.  

The cost of health care has gone up, and now 500,000 people fewer enrollees.  And Senator Schumer says you have got to drop repeal effort. Why should we Republicans drop the repeal effort, when the performance of ObamaCare has been so problematical?  

YARMUTH:  Well, first of all, Stuart, thanks for having me on the program.  

The only problems that exist with the ACA right now are in the individual insurance market, which basically relates to about 6 percent of the population.  Everything else is going fine.  You have the employer group insurance that -- where price increases have -- are at the lowest historic rate, same with Medicare.  The Medicaid expansion is going very well.  

In my state, 440,000 people have coverage and are getting care.  But the individual market poses a problem.  And It does it for a couple reasons. One is that there's something called adverse selection, when insurers come in and they get a disproportionate about of sick people and not enough healthy people.  That's happened in a lot of places.  

VARNEY:  Well, how do you fix that?  

YARMUTH:  Well, there are a couple ways you fix it.  

We had a mechanism in the ACA called risk corridors, where we actually had funds to mitigate the insurance companies who did suffer from adverse selection.  Republicans actually defunded that.  So, there was no backstop for those insurance companies.  

You can do re-insurance plans.  Of course, you can do mandatory enrollment, which gets everybody in the pool.  And that solves the problem. Philosophically, I don't think Republicans don't want to go there.  And I'm not sure how you would actually enforce that.

One of the problems we had is that our individual mandate was not sufficient to get enough young people into the system and keep them there. So, there are a lot of problems in that market.  

VARNEY:  But it's your answer to force more people in, make them do it, raise the fines ,for example.  Is that your solution?  

YARMUTH:  No, that's not my solution.  You said, how can you do it?  That's one way you can do it.  I don't think that.

Personally, I think the answer is to allow anybody in the individual insurance market to enroll in Medicare, because, that way, you get an actuarially established price, you get healthy people in Medicare, which makes that more sustainable.  

I'm not sure if my caucus wants to go there.  I know some do.  But it's a real problem in the individual market.  I have talked to insurance executives.  Humana is based in my district.  And what they tell me is, unless the government is involved, there's no way to sustain an individual market in the private insurance system.  

VARNEY:  Can I wrap it up with this question?  

YARMUTH:  Sure.  

VARNEY:  Would you rather have the ObamaCare system staying in place or the Ryan plan to reform it?  

YARMUTH:  I would much rather have the ObamaCare system staying in place.  

What you're seeing now is a dramatic cutback on Medicaid.  It would devastate my state, devastate my state's hospitals and providers.  That's why the American Hospital Association is against it.  

I mean, this Republican plan has more opponents than I can imagine. Virtually no one loves this plan.  I say it's in legislative quicksand.  I mean, it's going to sink.  And every time that Republicans try to move a little bit, it sinks deeper.  

(CROSSTALK)

VARNEY:  I'm sorry.  I have got to leave you.  

But, Congressman Yarmuth, thanks very much for joining us, sir.  

YARMUTH:  Thanks, Stuart.  Thanks for having me.  

END

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