Rep. Ben McAdams, D-Utah, acknowledged to a roomful of policy wonks and health care specialists on Wednesday afternoon that the almost decade-old Affordable Care Act was not the be-all, end-all answer to the country’s pressing need for health care reform.
“It was not a perfect bill in 2010, nor is it perfect today,” McAdams said. “But we’ve made progress.”
Under President Barack Obama’s signature domestic achievement, McAdams continued, 20 million people have gained health coverage, many of whom were insured for the first time in their lives. “Fixing the healthcare system is an urgent problem,” McAdams said, “but in an era of divided government, we must work toward this goal in ways that can make it to the president’s desk so it gets signed into law.”
McAdams, previously a two-term Salt Lake County mayor and state senator who narrowly beat Mia Love in her reelection bid last November, made the comments at the 2019 Utah State of Reform Health Policy Conference in Salt Lake City. The freshman congressman used his short keynote address to outline his ideology for fixing the country’s health care system and distinguish himself from his more liberal colleagues.
McAdams said he was the only member of Utah’s congressional delegation to vote for a measure condemning the Trump administration’s signing onto a judicial ruling that would overturn the ACA. “A court decision to eliminate the ACA would have devastating effects on our country, particularly for everyone who now gets coverage despite a pre-existing condition,” McAdams said, explaining that more than a million Utahns have such an illness, of whom 218,000 are children. “The repeal of the Affordable Care Act would cost 195,000 Utahns their insurance coverage through the individual marketplace, leading to a 27 percent increase in our state’s uninsured rate.”
Unlike his Democratic colleagues whose ideological bend tilts farther left, McAdams said he does not support Medicare for All. Cost and its unproven, un-researched, world-changing nature give him pause. “There is simply no precedent in our history to completely do away with private insurance, much less replace it with an unproven government bureaucracy,” McAdams said. “I think that starting over with a single government-run insurer that would cover everyone would be profoundly disruptive to the system we have today, and that change would shake our entire health care system, which makes up one-fifth of the United States economy.”
Instead, McAdams proposed shoring up the ACA and strengthening the existing health care market. He noted his support of bipartisan bills aimed at lowering prescription drug costs and investing in community health centers.
After his speech, McAdams took a few questions from a moderator, who, in a twist, asked him for his take on the Mueller report. The congressman said he hadn’t yet finished reading it, but it appeared that journalists had already published many of the findings before the special counsel released his report. “It was more of a whimper than a bombshell, because I think people had become acclimated, little by little, to each of the nuggets of information in that report,” McAdams said, noting that it “chronicles pretty serious dishonesty and corruption in our White House, from the president's campaign to many of his advisors to the president himself, and I think it’s something that we need to take very seriously.”
Once he explained his concerns about potential Russian meddling in the U.S. 2020 presidential election, McAdams deftly redirected the conversation back to health care. “I’ve been doing a lot of public meetings and town halls in the last 10 days that I’ve been in town. It is not the first topic on most people’s minds,” McAdams said of the Mueller report. “Most people want to know what we’re doing to address health care.”