WASHINGTON D.C. — Ohio 2nd District Congressman Brad Wenstrup predicted a week before the withdrawal of health care repeal legislation Friday that reform will come “later rather than sooner.” His words proved prophetic.
During a meeting March 15 in Washington D.C. with more than 70 Ohio farmers visiting the nation’s capital as part of the Ohio Farm Bureau’s Presidents’ Trip to Washington, Wenstrup, who is also a doctor, said that the current Affordable Care Act isn’t affordable for many Americans, and must be changed.
“We have Humana dropping out next year, and Anthem dropping many of its programs – you are going to have counties all across America that have no insurance plan in the exchange. Yet by law, you have to buy something in the exchange. Something has to change,” he told the Ohio farmers during a breakfast Congressional panel at the Capital Hill Club.
“As a doctor I think it (insurance coverage) is important. I said to one group, what is it about me as a doctor that makes you think I don’t want affordable insurance and access to health care? This is a challenge and we have to do our homework and do it well,” he said.
After the meeting, Civitas Media’s Rural Life Today asked the congressman for his prediction regarding a timeline for passage of affordable care legislation.
“I see something happening later rather than sooner,” said Wenstrup. “I know there are a lot of people with concerns about the bill. There are many people with concerns about the bill. But we have to do something. It is inarguable that the Affordable Care Act is going away. If there is not an affordable program out there for you to buy, then the program doesn’t exist.”
Last Friday, facing the possibility that the initial “repeal and replace” bill supported by President Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan might fail to get sufficient votes for passage in the U.S. House of Representatives, Ryan pulled the bill before the vote.
“We’ve got to do something,” Wenstrup said. “This is a multi-faceted approach in terms of legislation. If you think about the Affordable Care Act – it was two years before it was implemented. Why? Because it wasn’t simple. It was very complicated in every arena, and how it would affect your business, and the decisions families had to make.”
He added, “We all remember the (Obamacare) rollout – it was not smooth. Unwinding it is even more difficult.”
Wenstrup was also asked his assessment – his rating – of President Trump’s first two months in office.
“Actually, I would give him a pretty good rating. We are busier than we have ever been at the start of a new session. We have been very active. When I look at my reliance on an active staff, I feel for the White House with all the obstruction in getting his staff in place. From a policy standpoint, we have done quite a bit. We have been in session more than we normally are,” he said.
He said it is promising to see this pace, adding he is excited by all the activity.
“There is a difference I feel, coming out of this White House – it is engagement. Vice President Pence has been active in meeting with people; President Trump has been active in talking to people on both sides of the aisle. That didn’t happen the last eight years,” Wenstrup said.
Is this the busiest he has ever been? “I think so,” he said.
In his talk with the Ohio farmers, Wenstrup said he loves being in Ohio and coming home. But for Ohio’s farmers, he said, “We are confronted with an incredible amount of red tape. Congressman (Bob) Gibbs is leading the way in trying to reduce regulations and make it easier for you to do your jobs.”
Wenstrup said he has recently produced a video that says, “’Your food doesn’t just come from a grocery store; it comes from people out there with their hands in the soil and producing the food for us.’ We have to keep that in mind. We understand that not all regulations are bad, some of them make sense. But your business is confronted by so many regulations that they tie us up and make it difficult for us to do our job effectively and expand. Just know we are here and try to have your back on these issues.”
He said that on a bigger scale he wants to address “the poverty issues that affect our rural communities so greatly, and how difficult it is to get out of that environment when there are opportunities. We want to empower people to be free of federal programs and to use them just when they are in need.”
A member of the House Armed Services Committee and the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, Wenstrup acknowledged that “there are problems with the VA and we are working to ensure that patients and doctors can decide who is the best person to see for the best care for veterans.”
On the proposed military budget, he said, “There is no doubt that in the military we can make cuts, but we have to provide funding for our personnel. We are continuing to do all we can to provide for those in uniform around the world.”
Gary Brock is editor of the Civitas Media publication Rural Life Today and can be reached at 937-556-5759 or on Twitter at GBrock4.