Roy’s Healthcare Freedom Act is Anything But

Chip Roy, currently CD21’s Representative, said that he has been working to see Washington get out of the healthcare system. He has released his solution, named the Healthcare Freedom Act (H.R. 3594). This bill would expand today’s Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) to make them available to everyone and increases the amount that can be contributed yearly to $12,000 per individual or $24,000 for a couple that files a joint tax return. This is a good thing for those who have enough extra after paying for their living expenses to put a lot of money into an HSA, which is fully tax free when paid in and when withdrawn for a health care expenditure. 

Roy suggests that employers should switch to making contributions to their employees’ HSAs versus a group insurance plan. He recommends that individuals use the money from their HSAs to enter into a Direct Primary Care contract with their family doctors. Under this type of arrangement, the physician agrees to provide any and all primary care service for a monthly fee from the patient. Any need for specialists, labs, imaging, surgery, etc, would theoretically be covered by the money in the HSA, and possibly coupled with a high deductible insurance plan. Roy states ‘There should be a safety net to ensure no one falls through the cracks.’ 

H.R. 3594 only provides for a change in the amount that can be contributed to an HSA and enables anyone to be eligible to set one up. All of the rest of Roy’s plan is his take on what else should/could happen and his take on the resulting benefit to the patient

Here are the flaws in Roy’s approach:

  1. A substantial portion of the population do not have the means to regularly put a sufficient amount of money into an HSA to make it truly useful.
  2. Who provides the ‘safety net’ that Roy mentions?
  3. The Healthcare Freedom Act would be helpful to some but is not a replacement plan for the Affordable Care Act. If his plan were coupled with expanding Medicaid in Texas as 38 other states have already done, it would address the safety net issue. 

Background Checks & Red Flag Laws = lives saved from Gun Violence

In recent years, the numerous incidents of mass gun violence deaths have led to much discussion about how to reduce gun violence in our country. Legislation to close the loopholes in our current background check laws passed the U.S. House of Representatives in February but has been on hold in the Senate. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Texas Senator John Cornyn have said “We’ll address gun violence when President Trump tells us what he’s willing to accept”. Do we no longer have three branches of government? The Senate should take up the Bipartisan Background Checks bill and bring it to a vote. In recent polls, 80-90% of those polled want background checks to also be required for private gun sales. This Senate has no backbone and is representing the NRA leadership instead of its constituents. In Texas, pressure is building on Governor Abbott to call a special session of the legislature to pass firearm-protection legislation. Even our ultra-conservative Lieutenant Governor, Dan Patrick, has voiced his support for a new law that would prohibit private stranger to stranger gun sales without a background check. 

Another initiative that is less in the news is a push for Red Flag laws. A Red Flag law would allow family members or a law enforcement officers to initiate court filings, asking for weapons to be temporarily removed from persons thought to be a threat to themselves or to others. A hearing would be held so that no one would lose access to his or her guns without a ruling from a judge. If a person’s guns are taken away as a result of a court order, this action is a civil restraining order and, therefore, does not become a criminal record. 

More than 22,000 people die each year in the U.S. from firearm suicide. Of all suicides, 2/3 are committed by guns and suicide attempts with guns are 85% successful.  Red Flag laws, which should save lives from suicides or mass killings, have been enacted in 17 states (but not in Texas). A poll, sponsored by the University of Texas and the Texas Tribune, taken in March of 2019, revealed that 72% favored passage of a Red Flag law. Yet a bill introduced by state Rep. Joe Moody of El Paso did not advance in the Texas House during the recent legislative session. 

Please call Senators Cornyn and Cruz, asking them to support the Bipartisan Background Checks bill. And call the offices of our Governor and Lieutenant Governor, requesting a special legislative session to close background check loopholes and pass a Red Flag law. 

Sen. Cornyn: 202-224-2934; Sen. Cruz: 202-224-5922; Gov. Abbott: 512-463-1782; Lt Gov. Patrick: 512-463-0001