The Republican candidate in New Hampshire's 1st Congressional District Eddie Edwards says he supports the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. For people who currently rely on expanded Medicaid, he says, increasing access to insurers across the country would bring down costs.
All Things Considered Host Peter Biello spoke with Edwards about healthcare policy. All Things Considered is speaking with all congressional candidates this week.
(This transcript has been edited lightly for clarity.)
In a recent forum with NHPR you said that you supported lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies that would require them to pay more for the cost of the opioid crisis. You also said that more needed to be done to tackle the opioid crisis. So what more needs to be done specifically?
I absolutely believe the pharmaceutical companies should have a role in paying for this. But the other thing we need to do is really stop and take a moment to really assess what we're doing to young people in this country. As you dive deeper and deeper into this policy arena, you start to realize that we are really drugging young people. Nearly a quarter of all of our children under the age of 18 in our country now are on at least one type of antidepressant. Some of those kids are taking opiates as well. So instead of using pills why don’t we try diets, nutritional programs, we shouldn't say diets, but nutritional programs. So there are a lot of different things that we could do to really help young people. Once a person is addicted to a substance like an opiate, that's a lifelong struggle. So we have to make sure that we have treatment facilities and we have ways of making sure that new folks aren't being addicted to the substance and we enforce our laws.
I want to talk about veterans’ health care for a moment. The task force looking at the future of the Manchester VA did not recommend the construction of a full-service VA here in New Hampshire. A few weeks ago on NHPR you said that you supported the construction of a full-service VA in New Hampshire. So explain to us, why break so drastically with a panel of people who had been studying this issue for months?
Well because I'm breaking with our veterans, I'm breaking with our veterans. Our veterans, they continue to hear lip service. It seems to me, no matter what program we talk about, the veterans get the short end of the stick.
So did you learn something while campaigning or in your research that suggests that this task force was wrong, that in fact what we need a full- service VA in New Hampshire?
Well to be honest, I haven’t reviewed the task force reports. I'm looking at the men and women who I look in their faces and they look at me in my face. We also have to be honest here, too. We're sending veterans outside the state who don't have transportation in many cases, who can't afford to go outside the state, to receive the health care they need. We're having them wait for months to get the care they need.
That is not supported by the data, I should say.
Right, but I guess it may not be on a percentage-wise, but if you're the veteran who's waiting, or if you’re the veteran whose family is waiting, and you didn’t get your coverage, you may have a different story.
You mentioned on NHPR a couple of weeks ago that that if the Affordable Care Act is repealed, and you do support the repeal, although you do support certain provisions of the Affordable Care Act such as preventing people from being prevented insurance for preexisting conditions. You said that if it's repealed and people like the folks who get expanded Medicaid suddenly lose their coverage, you said “They will have affordable health care.” So I wanted to ask you, how? How would they have it if they lost expanded Medicaid?
Right, so when you put something in place like the Affordable Care Act and you call it affordable because you force people to buy it and you force people to buy something they can't not afford, this is an issue of cost. And the best way to do this is to make sure you have access. So for those folks who are on the lower income scale, if we can provide greater access to them, if we can drive down the cost by providing more options for them where they can select their insurance across the country, and so once we start doing those things I think you will find that the system itself will reduce. We've always taken care of our vulnerable populations. We're not going to allow our fellow citizens to be without health care on the streets.
But we may, I mean, the free market has in the past left some people out of the system. That’s why expanded Medicaid ended up covering 40,000 plus people.
Well, there's been people who didn't have insurance. No one's been left without medical care if they needed it. But we want to make sure that everyone has health insurance. And I think we should offer more flexibility, more options. That is how you bring down the cost of health care and we haven't had that yet.
Let me ask you a personal question. How do you get your health care?
My health care is, I'm retired. I'm a retired employee, state employee.
How does that shape the way you feel about health care policy in general and how other people get it or should get it?
It hasn't changed at all. Because I can tell you, I pay more and more every year for my health care like everyone else. And so I would be very interested in reducing the cost of health care, not only for myself, but for everyone else because it would do a lot for me if we can drive down the cost of health care. I don't have free coverage if that's what you’re asking. No I don't. I pay more and more every year for my health care and if we can get a health care system that's free market driven and we can drive down costs, I would benefit, you would benefit, everyone out here listening would benefit.