Editor’s Note: The Voice conducted an interview with U.S. Rep. Darin LaHood, R-Dunlap, on Wednesday.
The interview has been broken down into two parts, the first of which appears today. It is centered on LaHood’s view of the recent passage of a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives to repeal and revise the Affordable Care Act.

MACOMB — On May 4, Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill to replace and repeal the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) by a narrow margin of 217 to 213. Although by a narrow margin, it was enough to send the bill to the Senate floor, where its fate is all but certain
Republican Utah Senator Orrin Hatch told reporters recently that he and his GOP colleagues “had a lot of work ahead of them.” Hatch’s appraisal was backed up by Illinois Democrat Sen. Dick Durbin’s emailed response following the May 4 House vote: “I will fight this Republican health care repeal in the Senate until Hell freezes over.” Tammy Duckworth, D-IL, also stated she would fight the bill “tooth and nail.”
Following the House vote, U.S. Rep. Darin LaHood issued a statement in support of the bill, expressing a positive viewpoint despite also referring to the bill as “imperfect.”
Not only did LaHood tell the Voice why the bill is imperfect, but he also stated what more work needs to be done to the bill to achieve closer perfection. And, unlike U.S. Rep. Chris Collins, R-N.Y., LaHood says he did read the bill in its previous form, as well as the amendments made to it before the May 4 vote.
 
Q: Considering your statement after the House passage of the healthcare bill that this was an “imperfect” bill, what were things that made you decide you needed to vote in favor of it despite being an “imperfect” bill?

A: There were three things. Obamacare is failing. It’s going to fail if we do nothing about it. That’s the reality. The trajectory that it is on is going to collapse financially. I know this has turned into a partisan issue, which is unfortunate, but even during the presidential election numerous times Hillary Clinton talked about how we need to revise, fix; amend Obamacare. So we have to do something.
With regard to last month’s ramp-up where we didn’t have the vote — first of all, I read the bill. We added three amendments last week before we voted. It made the bill better. Do I believe it’s perfect? Absolutely not, but the bill got better. Here’s what those amendments have done: The first amendment added $8 billion more into a fund for preexisting conditions if a state opted out of Obamacare. Good thing. Second amendment is Congress should not be exempt from this law. It was added, and it wasn’t there before. Third thing, under our constitutions, states’ rights are very important.
For example, I may not like what the state of Texas does with marijuana, guns or abortion, but the states should have the option of doing what they want. They have an elected legislature. If they want to make decisions about what they want to do in their state, that’s what I think our constitutional framework is set up to do. Giving states the option to waive out of the Ten Essential Health Benefits under Obamacare — that’s another thing I think was needed in this bill.
The last point is, I have a ‘yes’ button and a ‘no’ button. I do not have a ‘perfect’ button. This bill was not perfect, but I think it’s the step in the right direction. The biggest challenge in my district is the high cost of premiums. Premiums have gone up an average of 55 percent in my district. I can give you example after example of working class families in my district — farmers or small business owners — who have had premiums go up exponentially. They didn’t expect that. You’ve got people choosing between a mortgage payment and health insurance. That’s not the way the system should be set up.
Driving down costs, premiums and deductibles, has to be a part of this. This has a long way to go before it becomes law. There’s going to be the input of 100 senators. At some point there will be a reconciliation, and it will come back to the House.

For information on the ten Essential Health Benefits under the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), go online to: http://bit.ly/
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Q: If the Senate doesn’t approve the bill, do you see that as another opportunity to create a more perfect bill?

A: Absolutely. I think we have to. There were a couple of things in this bill that weren’t in there that we eventually will need to have in there. One is going across state lines for health insurance. We need that. I see it in the western part of our district. We border Iowa and Missouri. It would be nice if you lived in Quincy, Macomb or Carthage and could go over to Iowa or Missouri. You can’t do that in the current system. The state of Iowa just lost their third insurance company, so out of 94 counties there’s no insurance option come July 1. That was not anticipated under Obamacare. Aetna, largest insurer in Virginia, just announced they’re pulling out. So these are real examples of insurance companies pulling out because Obamacare is failing. Going across state lines is something we need.

Q: What’s been the pushback when people have talked about going across state lines?

A: One of the biggest things we have to work through is every state regulates insurance differently. We don’t have a national insurance system. And frankly that’s something I think we need. But every state regulates differently. There’s some resistance to how we do that. The second thing are some on the Democrats on the other side who don’t want to let insurance companies do that. I don’t see the downside to that option. Those are usually people who want a single payer system and go to a European model. Frankly, I think we have the best health care in the world, the best innovation, the best creativity and the best doctors.
It’s because of that system that we have the best innovation and products in the medical field. That’s why we need more competition. When I look at healthcare from a foundational standpoint, figuring out what’s worked in Obamacare — keeping kids on insurance until they’re 26 needs to stay in there; not discriminating against preexisting conditions — but the other side of it is driving down premiums; driving down costs and increasing competition… that has to be a part of this new system.

See Friday’s Voice for the rest of the interview with LaHood.
Reach Jared DuBach at jdubach@mcdonoughvoice.com.