Vice President Mike Pence visits local business today

VP focuses on repeal and replacing Obamacare during event at Frame USA in Springdale.

The solution to the country’s health care issues begins and ends at the state level, Vice President Mike Pence said Thursday morning to invited guests and employees of an online frame manufacturer in northern Hamilton County.

Pence, along with U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Tom Price, spoke to several dozen people at Frame USA in Springdale, and part of that brief speech included talk on the fate of Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare. They said a replacement health care plan will be affordable, accessible and transparent.

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“The Obamacare nightmare is about to be over,” said Pence, which received loud applause from the attendees, which also included business leaders who had a private round table discussion with Pence and Price.

“(President Donald Trump) and I want every American to have access to quality affordable health insurance, and that’s why we’re working with Congress and Sec. Price to design a better law that lowers the cost for health insurance without growing the size of government.”

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Price said the goal is “to make sure no one falls through the cracks,” and that means a replacement plan would “have patient-centered solutions, which means patients, and families and doctors will make medical decisions and not Washington, D.C.”

“Ohio is home to incredible, incredible health services. America’s finest hospitals, many of them right here,” said Price, naming specifically University of Cincinnati Medical Center and the Cleveland Clinic. “We can’t afford this system and it’s time to fix it now.”

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Pence and Price’s visit comes just two days after President Donald Trump said the 2010 health care law is “a disaster” and “is collapsing” and called on Democrats and Republicans to work on a replacement plan.

Vice President Mike Pence and Department of Health and Human Services Secretary, Dr. Tom Price participate in a listening session with Ohio business leaders at Frames USA in Springdale, Thursday, Mar. 2, 2017. GREG LYNCH / STAFF

Trump’s plan calls for ensure people with pre-existing conditions are guaranteed “access” to health insurance, something similar to the Affordable Care Act. The Trump plan also says people can buy health insurance across state lines and tax credits and a health savings account can help pay for coverage.

While there was no timeline for replacement, and the administration is working on the principles of health care reform as outlined by Trump during Tuesday night’s address to Congress, Pence gave the indication legislation could come soon.

“We’re going to give states, just like here in Ohio, the freedom and the flexibility they need in the Medicaid program in the best way that works the people of Ohio and the people of every state,” Pence said.

Vice President Mike Pence participates in a listening session with Ohio business leaders at Frames USA in Springdale, Thursday, Mar. 2, 2017. GREG LYNCH / STAFF

Pence said he spoke with Ohio Gov. John Kasich Thursday morning about the Trump Administration’s plans on Medicaid “and his ideas are part of an on-going conversation.”

Kasich spokesman Jim Lynch confirmed that the governor did speak with Vice President Pence (on Thursday) and said “the governor continued to advocate for the need to preserve healthcare coverage for the mentally ill, drug addicted and woking poor.”

Kaisch is pushing to retain expanded eligibility of Medicaid coverage, which was a key feature of the Affordable Care Act. He was criticized for that effort when in 2013 he was one of the few governors to accept the federal Medicaid funds. Because of that, 700,000 previously uninsured low-income Ohioans received health coverage.

Last weekend Kasich posted a video on his Facebook page thoughts on the health care system following a meeting with Price in Washington, D.C., where he was “expressing my concerns and some of the ideas I think that can allow us to reform the health care system, save some money but yet make sure that people who need coverage that they’re going to be able to receive the coverage that they need.”

He said it’s going to be “a lot of work, but it’s worth it if we can have this come out in the right place.”

Vice President Mike Pence and Department of Health and Human Services Secretary, Dr. Tom Price participate in a listening session with Ohio business leaders at Frames USA in Springdale, Thursday, Mar. 2, 2017. GREG LYNCH / STAFF

Kasich after his meeting joined the nation’s Republican governors in Washington, D.C. to press for support to retain the Medicaid expansion.

The plan also calls for something one Ohio lawmaker is pushing, a national insurance marketplace. Ohio Rep. Wes Retherford, R-Hamilton, has introduced for the third time in as legislative cycles introduced the interstate health care compact, which has passed the Ohio House twice and was “inches away” from a Senate floor vote in December 2016 before the 131st General Assembly ended.

The concept of the health care compact, which would be adopting what Georgia initially passed and nearly a dozen other states have adopted, is what Trump and Pence talked about during the 2016 presidential campaign and Pence reinforced Thursday — let the states run the health care system and provide federal block grants.

Retherford said typically when block grants are awarded, the awards fluctuate annually, “which doesn’t promote states doing things in the most affordable way.”

“There’s always a fear if you meet your goal, or exceed your goal, you won’t get that same amount next year,” he said.

Vice President Mike Pence and Department of Health and Human Services Secretary, Dr. Tom Price take the stage at Frames USA in Springdale, Thursday, Mar. 2, 2017. GREG LYNCH / STAFF

Guaranteed annual set amounts won’t have states spending money just to spend it to demonstrate the need, Retherford said. States can “making smart decisions” without fear of future reductions.

But critics say a health care compact won’t happen because in addition to being a health care replacement, it would replace federal programs such as Medicare and Medicaid.

The downside to a health care compact is it cannot be amended unless all participating states agree, Anne Dunkelberg, associate director of the Austin-based Center for Public Policy Priorities, told the Washington Post and Kaiser Health News. Also, the federal guarantee match to state Medicaid spending would be eliminated and states would be ineligible for one-time entitlements like the 2009 stimulus, she said.

Despite the critics of the Affordable Care Act, more people signed up by the Dec. 19 deadline than the previous year, including in Ohio. About 6.4 million people — including more than 165,000 Ohioans — signed up by the deadline, which includes more than 2 million new consumers, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.


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