Leaders Dedicated to Paving a Way Forward for Health Care Policy • Huffington Post

One year ago, millions of families around the country faced a tough new reality. Notices began arriving in the mail with the grim news: Due to the implementation of Obamacare, their health care plan had been cancelled. Millions were left without healthcare or were forced into higher-priced plans with services they didn't want or need. Others saw their premiums shoot up -- by an average of $3,000 for a family of four. Still others learned that their new "improved" plans no longer let them see their trusted family doctor, continue to use the hospital where their children were born, or visit the specialist who knew the challenges posed by their life-threatening condition. 

Many public officials denied there was a problem. Others stood by and hoped it would get better. Some, however, used their position in the public spotlight to begin a fight to repeal Obamacare and fix America's broken health care system. We need more public representatives who are willing to speak boldly about the problems with the current health care law and who are willing to do the critical work of building support for an alternative. That's why the Independent Women's Voice created the Healthcare Leadership Awards to recognize those leaders who are willing to fight for greater choice, lower costs, a stronger bond between a patient and her doctor, and greater access to high-quality, affordable care. 

As part of Healthcare Solutions Week, the Independent Women's Voice presented 15 public officials with the 2014 Healthcare Leadership Award: Rep. Dan Benishek, Rep. Bill Cassidy, Sen. Tom Coburn, VA Del. Barbara Comstock, Rep. Tom Cotton, Rep. Renee Ellmers, State Rep. Marilinda Garcia, Rep. Cory Gardner, Terri Lynn Land, Sen. Mitch McConnell, State Sen. Jim Oberweis, Rep. Lee Terry, Sen. David Vitter, State Rep. Bruce Westerman, and State Sen. Lee Zeldin.

Our health care system is in crisis, and believe it or not, the worst is yet to come. The same policies that devastated the individual insurance market last year will begin to hit the employer-provided market in January as large companies are forced into Obamacare. A study by the American Enterprise Institute estimates that by the time Obamacare is fully implemented as many as 129 million Americans will have their health insurance plans cancelled.

Health care policy affects our economy as well. Obamacare has left the American economy stagnant as companies try to comply with the changing law while still keeping the doors open. Workers have lost jobs or seen their hours cut. Businesses have stopped hiring and expanding. Obamacare has raised taxes and will add trillions to the national debt.

The brutal irony is that the Congressional Budget Office estimates that even when Obamacare is fully implemented, 30 million Americans will still be living without health insurance coverage. Surely we can do better.

These health care leaders understand that the first step to solving our health care crisis is to repeal Obamacare. It is bad policy, and it is not working. It has already led to higher costs, less access, fewer choices, lost jobs and a stagnant economy, and it has failed to fix the very problems it was purported to solve. All awardees have made a clear an unequivocal pledge to the citizens they represent that they will work for a full repeal of Obamacare. 

But that is just the beginning. Some of the concerns that led to the ill-fated passage of Obamacare in the first place remain. Our health care system needs reform. True reform empowers families. It lower costs, expands choice and enables better access to doctors. From allowing Americans to purchase insurance across state lines, to Health Savings Accounts and tax credits, to malpractice reform and strengthening state-based high-risk pools, the recipients of the 2014 Healthcare Leadership Awards have offered innovative solutions to our ongoing health care crisis. Visit www.healthcaresolutionsweek.org to review the long list of alternative plans for fixing our healthcare system. You can see that there is a growing consensus about how we can build a better, patient-centered system.

These have been a tough few years. In discussions around kitchen tables throughout America, families have had to cope with higher healthcare costs, cancelled coverage, and fewer options for care. They've had to deal with lost jobs, fewer hours and less take-home pay. To turn this around, the Independent Women's Voice seeks to recognize leaders who understand the complex challenges of healthcare reform, and encourage them to continue their work for the American people.

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Hadley Heath Manning is health policy director at Independent Women's Voice.

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