Roe doubles down on health care after cancer diagnosis

David Floyd • Updated Jul 28, 2017 at 9:42 AM

In the aftermath of his recent prostate cancer diagnosis, Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., said he is even more committed to ensuring quality health care coverage for American citizens.

“I have Obamacare, and it’s really not very good,” Roe said in a conference call with reporters on Thursday. “As a matter of fact, I had a major back operation, first major surgery I’d had in my life was last September, and I would’ve been $5,000 better off if I didn’t have insurance.”

Members of Congress have 72 percent of their premiums covered by federal subsidies and have gold-level Obamacare policies. According to HealthCare.gov, those enrolled in a gold-level policy must pay high monthly premiums but pay low costs when they need care. Their deductibles are also usually low.

“Obamacare, what it’s done, has destroyed the individual market and has made insurance not affordable,” Roe said. “Even for people with subsidies it’s expensive.”

Roe said his health care premium is about $1,500 a month, which doesn’t include costs for Medicare part A and the cost of seeing a doctor in Washington, D.C.

Senate Republicans are now in the middle of a hard-fought battle with Democrats and some members of the their own ranks about the future of the GOP effort to repeal and replace Obamacare.

Predictions by the Congressional Budget Office have been a rather prominent thorn in the side of GOP legislators. The CBO predicted about 20 million people would lose their insurance under the senate version of the GOP health care bill, and House Republicans recently made a push to cut the non-partisan agency’s budget.

According to a report by Roll Call, the House voted on a bid by Republicans on Wednesday to cut the Congressional Budget Office’s budget analysis division, which makes up about one third of the CBO’s total staff. The measure failed.

“I probably should have my head checked,” Roe said on Thursday. “I didn’t vote to cut about in half the CBO’s budget last night.”

In response to a question about the agency’s forecast, Roe reiterated his assertion that the CBO’s predictions aren’t reflective of how the Republican health care plan would play out once implemented.

“They make an assumption that whatever is the law, everybody will completely obey the law,” he said.

As one piece of evidence, Roe cited the Obamacare health care mandate’s impact on CBO predictions.

“What they assume is that once that mandate goes away, people like myself who have had insurance my entire life, I won’t buy it anymore because there’s no mandate there,” Roe said. “Well that’s ridiculous. Of course I’m going to buy it.”

Forever GI Bill

By an overwhelming vote of 405-0, the House of Representatives passed an expansion of the GI Bill on Wednesday. The bill will now move to the senate.

Roe, who served in the Army, has been an outspoken supporter of the legislation. As well as other benefits, the bill would eliminate the 15-year time limit for recruits who enlist after January 1, 2018. Currently, veterans must use their benefits within 15 years of leaving military service. This requirement would be eliminated under the expansion.

The limit was initially 10 years before it was extended to 15 years.

“When I used my GI Bill, I could only use two years of the benefit because it sunsetted at ten years,” Roe said.

Trump’s Tweet

On Wednesday, President Donald Trump announced via Twitter that he planned on banning transgender soldiers from serving in the military, citing what he called “tremendous medical costs” and “disruption.”

At this time, thousands of transgender troops serve in the military, and according to CNN, the cost of providing care to transgender service members makes up about 0.004-0.017 percent of defense department’s total health care spending.

“A tweet isn’t law,” Roe said “So what we’re going to do is we’re going to wait and get more information on that very issue before we make any statement ... I want to wait and hear what (U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis) wants to say first. He’s the expert ... I have no more information right now than you do.”

Johnson City Press Videos