The House of Representatives will vote Wednesday on a measure to repeal the health care bill that was passed last year. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack says that while it appears the repeal has support in the House, the Senate and President Obama do not support it.
"So the question is 'Why are we doing this?'" Vilsack said. "Why are we looking backwards? Why aren't we focusing on job growth? Why aren't we focusing on reducing the deficit?"
In an exclusive interview with Farm Progress, Vilsack says he thinks it is important for rural America to understand what is at stake with this attempt to repeal the health care law. He says that farmers, ranchers and small businessmen would lose the tax credit being provided for health care premiums and senior citizens would lose the protection of the prescription drug part of the package.
"Those who have a child with a pre-existing condition… would not be able to be covered," Vilsack said. "Under the law today, insurance companies can't use that as a basis for not providing coverage to a child, a pre-existing condition; well children would lose that protection."
Citing the lack of doctors in rural areas, Vilsack says that there would also be loss of assistance for training and education to encourage bright, young people to set up a practice in a small town.
During the health care debate last year there was a lack of support in much of rural America for the mandatory aspect of the program. Vilsack says he understands their concerns, but points to the high level of uninsured people in rural America resulting in higher premiums for those with insurance. In an attempt to stretch their health dollars farther many attempted to absorb more out of pocket expense to lower premiums with a higher deductable.
"The current bill provides for a limitation on out-of-pocket expenses," Vilsack said. "It provides for coverage for folks, so there isn't this cost shift that took place, and rural Americans will see I think, hopefully over time, substantially less cost in terms of health insurance premiums than they would otherwise get."
To listen to the conversation about the repeal attempt of the health care law, use the audio player above.