BOSSIER CITY — Even though, the Affordable Care Act a.k.a., Obamacare, is the law, Fourth District U.S. Representative Dr. John Fleming, hasn't changed his opinion of the health care legislation.
"Our position is that the Affordable Care Act doesn't seem very affordable these days. It won't work...it's very sick; it may be on life support," Fleming said during a wide-ranging policy discussion Tuesday at a media lunch in Bossier City.
"We think it is unsustainable as it is. It either needs to be completely overhauled or repealed and replaced," added the Minden Republican, who is seeking reelection to his fourth term in Congress. If he returns to Washington, D.C., Fleming would be in the top 25 to 30 percent in seniority in the House.
Fleming called Obamacare "...the cornerstone of this administration's perception of the role of government in American lives. It requires that government mandates people buy what they don't really want and pay a price above what they really have to pay."
A large number of individuals signing up for Obamacare are those who lost their health care because of the Affordable Care Act, "...to the tune of about 74 percent," Fleming said.
Calling the plan "politically toxic," the congressman said President Barack Obama has "...gutted the individual employer mandate which we fought in the Supreme Court. There have been so many delays, and he will probably delay until the end of his presidency because it is so toxic and so damaging to the economy."
Fleming said many Democrats have said the legislation needs to be repealed; that it's a bad idea. Much of the difficulty, he pointed out, is premiums, co-pays and deductibles continue to increase. In some cases, Fleming noted, the costs double or triple and affect both individuals and health care facilities.
"There have been cases of people going in for surgery having to write a check for $5,000 to meet their deductible or face having the surgery cancelled," he said. "And a hospital has to write off huge bills because of huge deductibles."
Fleming believes the health care act for the remaining years of the Obama administration will remain in a state of suspension. The next president, no matter which party wins the White House, will then have a major issue to confront.
"If the next president is a Democrat, there will be a huge overhaul (of the health care act)," the congressman said. "If a Republican wins, it will be replaced with market driven solutions. We will completely reform the health care system with a much more patient choice, patient oriented type of system...because it's affordable and attractive."
On matters concerning the military, Fleming said he voted against cuts in the military, noting that reductions would draw down current troop numbers from more than a half million to around 420,000. That drawdown would have a serious impact on Fort Polk, but not on Barksdale Air Force Base.
"When you cut the military, you have to go to personnel first," he explained. "The Air Force, Barksdale, may be OK because you can't go after equipment the way you can personnel."
Fleming said his concerns over serious cuts centered on the military's mission of being able to handle two major conflicts at the same time, and continued buildups by other countries.
"Our chiefs of staff assure us that with the current cuts, there's no way they can carry out that mission," he said. "They think maybe one major engagement and one minor."
China is expanding and modernizing its armed forces and is challenging for control of the Pacific theater which has been dominated by the U.S. since World War II, Fleming pointed out. The Chinese now have missiles capable of striking American aircraft carriers, and have launched their own aircraft carrier to increase their strength in the Pacific.
Russia has put its troops on the march, expanding their territory in what Fleming called "gamesmanship you'd expect from a dictator who may be trying to reconstruct the old Soviet Union, but not under communism. (Putin) has positive ratings in Russia. They want a strong leader."
Now, two major powers are expanding and modernizing their military capabilities while the United States is making cuts, he said. That combination of circumstances isn't helping relations with our allies, Fleming pointed out.
"Our allies don't trust us to be willing or able to come to their defense or aid. Our potential adversaries don't fear us," he said. "Our diplomacy is no stronger than the military power that backs it up. The more we draw down, the more we're questioned."