Obamacare left 27 million people without health insurance and created a situation where insurance premiums have risen over 100 percent. Of the 27 million people that Obamacare left behind, about half of them don’t buy insurance because it is too expensive. 

So any debate to repeal and replace Obamacare must acknowledge the failures of Obamacare and try to insure more people at a lower price. 

There has been a lot of discussion of Obamacare, Medicaid and other aspects of our varied and largely broken healthcare system over recent months – and a lot of bad information.  But mostly, there have just been a lot of ideas that don’t address the core problem of access and price of insurance.  

As most of you know, I am not a career politician, and I don’t think like one, which makes it difficult sometimes in Washington.  

In my over 20 years as a doctor, I’ve seen both the good and the bad aspects of healthcare. One of the main reasons I ran for the Senate was to combat the Obamacare takeover of our healthcare system. 

Now, make no mistake, healthcare was broken before Obamacare, but Obamacare accelerated the decline and increased prices at alarming rates. 

I am in favor of repeal and I’ve been fighting for it since I was elected. Obamacare cost too much, mandated too much, told the states what to do too much – and still left 27 million people uninsured. 

We can and must do better.  

There are many facets to healthcare reform, but today I want to address one that is not getting enough attention as part of a fix – Association Health Plans. 

Currently, under the law, certain types of employer groups may band together to offer insurance to their members and employees, thus allowing them to have a larger group and more leverage to get protections against pre-existing conditions and high prices. 

But the current association rules are strict and the hoops that people have to jump through to join them and comply with regulations are still too steep. Additionally, not enough groups and individuals are even eligible to form or join these plans. 

On Thursday in Kentucky, I will have a discussion with members of many groups who could become leaders in offering group insurance to their members, and to individuals. 

From the chambers of commerce to credit unions, the farm bureaus to fast food franchisees, there are millions of Kentuckians who could be eligible to join such groups if we change the laws and regulations as part of the Obamacare repeal debate. 

My goal is that no one has to go at it alone.  A husband and wife’s plumbing business should not have to buy insurance as a pool of two, dreading that one of them may get cancer.  Association plans would let plumbers, carpenters, welders or any type of small business band together to get group health insurance. 

The biggest problem in health insurance is if you are on your own or part of a very small group, you have no leverage for prices, and if someone gets very sick, then you don’t have the protection of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of people sharing the risk. 

That’s what association health plans do.  They let individuals join an association that then buys health insurance as a group.  Not just those I mentioned above or those I’m meeting with in Louisville. Literally any group – your church, the NRA, the ACLU. Any group of people who choose to do so could offer cheaper, better health insurance. 

Right now, the insurance companies don’t treat people in the individual or small group market like valued customers whose business must be won. Why? They don’t have to. 

I want to turn the tables on this out of control big business. I want the consumer to be king.  I want the insurance companies to come on bended knee to these large groups, forced to negotiate. 

This can happen. The credit unions in Kentucky have over 800,000 members. The groups who appeared with me have over a million. But really, this is not limited, at all. We should make it so that no Kentuckian, no American has to go it alone to get health insurance. 

So what’s stopping this?  You won’t be surprised to learn it’s the federal government and crony capitalism. 

Who opposes this plan? Insurance companies. Who has been in the room writing the fake Obamacare Lite plans put out so far by Congress? Insurance company lobbyists. 

We can do better. At my urging, and with the help of President Trump, a portion of my Association plan is in the Senate bill right now. But it is nowhere near enough and doesn’t fix the problem. I’ll be working with my colleagues to get it right, and I’m hopeful we can. 

As the bill reads now, the association plans would still be subject to Obamacare regulations and would not be allowed to organize innovative self-insured plans. 

We need to repeal Obamacare, now.  But we need solutions like a full Association plan included as part of what happens next, or we do a disservice to those we represent. 

I want every Kentuckian to have good, inexpensive insurance. I want them to have the protections of group coverage like guaranteed insurance and coverage for preexisting conditions.  That’s what my Association Health Plans provision helps ensure.