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Gingrey switches gears on Obamacare


  • By Winston Skinner
  • |
  • Jul. 19, 2017 - 6:09 AM

Phil Gingrey used to represent part of Coweta County in the U.S. Congress, and his ties to Newnan go back even further.

Gingrey, a physician who served 12 years in Congress, has been a vocal opponent of the Affordable Care Act. Now, he has shifted political gears – advocating retention of Obamacare, while making repairs and revisions. When Gingrey was first elected to Congress in 2003, he represented a district that snaked through several Georgia counties including a strip of Coweta County that included part of downtown Newnan.

Gingrey left Congress after running unsuccessfully in 2014 for the U.S. Senate seat left open when Saxby Chambliss did not seek re-election. 

Gingrey now is a senior policy advisor in the District Policy Group at Drinker Biddle, a Washington D.C. lobbying firm. In a blog post on the District Policy Group website, Gingrey outlined his thinking on retaining the Affordable Care Act instead of going with one of the replacement proposals coming from Republicans in the U.S House and U.S. Senate.

"Some of the toughest legislative calls are now being made on healthcare. Every day it seems another Republican member of the U.S. Senate declares an inability to support the GOP’s replacement of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act,” Gingrey wrote on July 11.

He noted more conservative senators — Ted Cruz of Texas, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Mike Lee of Utah and Rand Paul of Kentucky — see the Senate proposal as a “lite” version of Obamacare, while other senators, such as Dean Heller of Nevada, object to the Senate bill’s reduction of Medicaid expansion, which could remove 300,000 Nevadans from the program’s rolls.

At the same time, Gingrey noted, several senators have spoken of the need for expanding treatment for opioid addiction.

"If this were an operating room instead of a legislative chamber, I’d be calling 'Code Blue' for a Senate healthcare bill. Like every doctor, however, I’ve seen even the most critically ill patients revive, survive and even thrive,” Gingrey wrote. "Recovery begins when all sides – not just conservative and moderate Republicans, but Democrats as well – come together to create a transparent process with a willingness to examine the best ideas, regardless of their provenance."

Gingrey stated the dominant health care policy and program in the United States today is not Obamacare, but rather uncertainty. "Insurance providers, troubled by the uncertainty of the future of cost-sharing subsidies and the future insurance market generally, are pulling out of ACA exchanges in state after state,” he noted.

"The polls show, however, that most Americans see the American Health Care Act passed by the House Republicans as an unacceptable replacement,” Gingrey wrote. He noted the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has released numbers showing the AHCA would remove 24 million Americans from health insurance rolls during the next nine years.

"The House measure would increase premiums for single policyholders in the non-group market by as much as 20 percent in the next two years, followed by modest reductions. Notably, the policies with lower premiums are likely to be less generous, causing critics of the bill to note that people may be paying a little less out of pocket while getting a lot less coverage,” Gingrey wrote.

The former representative noted the difficulties in finding an answer. "A solution cannot be so generous that it crushes the wallets of taxpayers. It cannot be stingy, either, raising premiums and throwing people off the rolls,” he wrote.

Johnson "is asking his colleagues to take more time to come up with better solutions,” Gingrey wrote. "The GOP-controlled Congress, which has given itself to the end of September to finalize legislation under FY 2017 budget reconciliation, might question its self-imposed deadline."

Gingrey suggested Congress consider canceling its August recess to take a thorough look at the medical care program options. The solution, he suggested, would be "one that brings market discipline, lower costs and wider, deeper coverage."

When he was running for Senate, Gingrey told a reporter he had voted to repeal or defund Obamacare more than 40 times. "While complete repeal and replacement may have made sense in 2010 —when the GOP first took back control of the Congress and the ACA was not yet implemented — too much time has passed and too much of our nation’s health care infrastructure has been altered to get all the toothpaste back into the tube,” he concluded in his blog post.

"A solution today should focus on keeping what works, fixing what is broken and tweaking the areas that need refinement and revision. Perhaps a more accurate name than 'repeal and replace' would be 'retain/repair/revise,’” Gingrey suggested.

Medical care, the physician-turned-legislator-turned-lobbyist wrote, “will soon consume almost one-fifth of the economy. It is a life-or-death issue for individuals and our nation.”

A native of Augusta, Gingrey first entered politics in 1993 when he ran for a post on the Marietta City Board of Education. From 1999-2003, he served in the Georgia Senate.

He holds a bachelor's degree in chemistry from the Georgia Institute of Technology and earned his medical degree from Medical College of Georgia.

Gingrey and his wife, Billie Ayers Gingrey, were married in Newnan.