GOP governors panel in Aspen: Feds should provide grants and let us do our thing on health care | AspenTimes.com

GOP governors panel in Aspen: Feds should provide grants and let us do our thing on health care

Republican governors (from right) Scott Walker of Wisconsin, Eric Greitens of Missouri, Mary Fallin of Oklahoma and Doug Burgum of North Dakota participate on a panel with Aspen Institute CEO Walter Isaacson Tuesday. Not visible if Phil Bryant of Mississippi.

Republican governors in Aspen for a conference applauded the Senate's vote Tuesday to start debating the repeal and replace of Obamacare, but they had succinct advice for their GOP colleagues.

The Republican Governors Panel speaking at the Aspen Institute said they aren't looking for a big fix from Congress. Instead, they want the federal government to get out of the way, provide federal money and let the states determine how to fix the health care crisis.

"Just give us a full-scale block grant, not only for money but for responsibility," Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said. "Give the resources and the responsibility back to the states. That's what our founders intended. It actually works.

"Obamacare doesn't work right now. It's failing most states in the nation."

He and the other governors on the panel, Eric Greitens of Missouri, Mary Fallin of Oklahoma, Doug Burgum of North Dakota and Phil Bryant of Mississippi, shared horror stories of individual buyers' insurance premiums soaring while coverage deteriorated, particularly in rural areas.

"I'm glad the Senate finally did something," Fallin said.

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Burgum said he doesn't believe Congress can write a bill that solves the health care problem.

"We've got to have 50 platforms of innovation," Burgum said. "We have to let the states try to figure it out and try to bring the free market back."

Bryant said the best way to solve the health care crisis is to get governors in a room together. In four hours they'd emerge with a bill that would be acceptable to the majority of Americans, he claimed.

"We would take that 60,000-word bill that is now known as Obamacare and throw it out, start over again and say we're trying to provide health care for people that need it — children, aged, infirm, widows," he said. The governors also would stay within a budget, he said.

Aspen Institute CEO Walter Isaacson moderated the panel. Most of the 33 Republican governors in the U.S. are in Aspen for an annual summer conference. The Institute takes advantage of their presence to invite a panel of governors each year to discuss the hot topics of the day as part of the McCloskey Speaker Series. The panel attracted an audience of hundreds to Greenwald Pavilion even though Aspen is a liberal stronghold. Isaacson was quick to note that the nonpartisan Institute will host a presentation Aug. 3 by Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat.

There was no discussion among the Republican governors of the 20-plus million people nationwide that gained health care coverage under the Affordable Healthcare Act or how constituents in their states would be affected by proposed rollbacks in Medicaid coverage.

Walker stressed the states must be given flexibility to seek innovative ways to address their healthcare issues rather than following a one-size-fits-all federal plan.

"My needs in Wisconsin are going to be different than those in Colorado, California, New York, you name it," he said. "I think the people in our state know better about making those decisions."

The states, Walker said, are "more effective, more efficient and more accountable than the federal government."

Fallin said Congress must assure the states have flexibility.

"They're going to have to untie our hands to let us innovate and create," she said. "If they keep a lot of rules, regulations and restrictions of what we can and can't do, we won't be able to do some things that we'd like to do."

The concepts of allowing parents to keep their children on their policies through age 26 appeared popular with the governors, as was the idea of guaranteeing coverage for people with pre-existing conditions.

The nonpartisan idea of spending money on prevention was touted by Burgum and Bryant.

"For every one of us, prevention is the key," Bryant said.

Walker said he believes the GOP-controlled House and Senate will reconcile different bills before the end of this year, despite the challenges facing the Senate.

"Like I've said before, I think the easiest, best approach is instead of twist and turn with all these different options, is give the full responsibility and resources back to the states," he said.

Walker said it's not just lawmakers who are responsible for solving health care issues. Citizens must also learn more about their coverage and take steps to stay healthy so their health care costs are reduced.

"As Americans we know more about our cell plan coverage than about our health care," Walker said.

scondon@aspentimes.com