BULLHEAD CITY — Rep. Paul Gosar has been among the most vocal opponents of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare.
He was when the act was rolled out in 2009. He was when it passed the House and Senate later that year. He was when it became law in 2010. And he has been ever since.
The ACA, which has survived more than 60 congressional attempts to repeal or significantly curtail it, still squarely is on Gosar’s radar.
The Republican congressman from Prescott shared his views on health care and a number of other topics during a visit Saturday at a meeting of the Colorado River Tea Party Patriots in Bullhead City.
Gosar said he advocates a replacement of the ACA that stimulates “more competition” within the insurance, hospital and pharmaceutical sectors.
“This has been an artificial market,” he said of America’s health care system. “It’s been an artificial market since 1964.”
President Lyndon Johnon signed Medicare into law in the mid-1960s. The massive government-supported program, funded through payroll taxes paid by both the employer and the employee as well as premiums paid by enrollees, provides health insurance for more than 50 million Americans, most over age 65.
Gosar said health care needs to become “a truly free market.”
And, he said, he believes the Senate needs to be the chamber to launch significant reforms to replace “Obamacare.”
“If the Senate starts it,” he said, noting the politics of the issue, then the House likely will have to follow suit.
“Think about 2020 (the next election cycle).”
He said if the Senate can craft and advance a meaningful series of health care bills that garner support from the American public, pressure will be on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats to support passage or risk voter wrath at the polls in November.
He said one starting point is “health savings account reform.”
He said HSAs should be allowed to roll over and to be passed on, like an inheritance, as long as they are used for payments related to health care. Currently, HSAs feature an annual “use it or lose it” provision.
“Once again, if the Senate passes, the House will have to,” he said.
He said other proposals would shift control of health care from the insurance companies to veterans and Medicare and Medicaid recipients.
He said health care requires drastic changes, not a piecemeal of fixes to patch a broken system.
“As I tear it down, I’ll build it up,” he said. “Is it perfect? No.”
But, he said, “It’s a competitive opportunity. It’s about empowerment, not victimization.”
On immigration, Gosar said he feared little progress will be made through major legislation anytime soon.
“What’s sad is we’re not going to see anything” from Congress, he said.
That’s because too many candidates — from both parties — are in politically tenuous races and don’t feel they can support major reform without risking reelection.
“Congress doesn’t have the backbone,” he said.
And Democrats will continue with their narrative, he said, because “Democrats ... they don’t want empowered citizens. They want victims.”
Asked about President Donald Trump’s tariffs — particularly with China and Mexico — and trade in general, Gosar said again that opportunities for solutions exist.
He said he opposes the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, Trump’s proposed replacement for the North America Free Trade Agreement, a 25-year-old trilateral trade agreement.
“Right now, I’m against it,” he said, adding that his rationale is that it yielded to much power to companies like Google and Facebook, companies he said have been unfair to conservatives.
“In my book, they’re going to have to be broken up,” he said of the two internet giants.
He said China’s recent threat to use rare earths — materials used in the manufacturing of many items from cell phones to military weapons — could create “a perfect storm that is coming our way.”
If the Chinese refuse to sell rare earths to the U.S., then the U.S. will have to seek other avenues for acquiring them. Gosar, a member of the House Natural Resources Committee, said that it will be difficult for the U.S. to uncover its own rare earths because of restrictions that have been placed on the mining industry. Many of those restrictions have come at the urging of environmental groups. He said federal agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency, the Interior Department and the Department of Energy have, under Democratic control, been guilty of regulative overreach that has stifled the mining industry. China’s rare earths threat only magnifies the problem — and vice versa.
Asked about water rights — and foreign ownership of U.S. land and businesses — Gosar was diplomatic.
“Water rights are very interesting,” he said. “Personal property rights are interesting.”
He said the U.S., a capitalistic free market, “has got to be a little more diplomatic” when dealing with both issues. “We have to be smart about it.”
On Washington in the era of Donald Trump, Gosar beamed with enthusiasm.
“People may not like the way he does things, but he gets things done,” he said.
And about the impeachment push from some Democrats?
“If Trump’s OK being impeached, I’m OK,” he said. “It’s going nowhere. It’s going nowhere in the Senate.”
He said Republicans in Washington need to work together instead of in fractured arms of the party.
Republicans in Congress — and Republican voters as well — need to “play smarter, not harder.”
“We’ve got to start making it work for our side.”