Rep. Westerman highlights coming 2020 legislation

Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.)
Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.)

Speaking with the News-Times before the Christmas break, Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.), who represents Union County, highlighted two areas of legislation he’s working on next year. The first, the Fair Care Act, is a health care reform bill.

Westerman introduced the Fair Care Act in February, but it gained little traction in the House of Representatives. He plans to reintroduce a new version of the health care legislation next year.

“We’re getting ready to release the Fair Care Act of 2020, the 2.0 version,” he said. “I think it’s the best, comprehensive health care bill in Washington D.C. A lot of think-tank people who look at this stuff I think agree with me. We’re excited to roll it out.”

According to Ed Nolan of the Niskanen Center, the Fair Care Act would retain and reform the “major building blocks” of the current health care system, including the ACA, Medicare, Medicaid and employer-sponsored health insurance, known as ESI. One of the primary focuses of the Fair Care Act is an invisible risk pool, where the government would pay expenses for high-risk policyholders. Insurers would choose which health insurance policies to place in the pool and retain 10% of the premiums on those policies, paying the first $10,000 of claims. The remaining costs would be covered the rest of the claims.

Other aspects of the act include a cap on premiums based on income and age, as well as removing some ESI restrictions

As the only forester in Congress, Westerman frequently focuses on the positive environmental and economic impact of healthy forests. He said he’s currently working on a bill that will improve the health of the nation’s forests and, by extension, lower the CO levels in the atmosphere.

“It’s a very pragmatic approach to dealing with environment,” he said. “We measure environmental quality through water and air quality, and trees are a common source of that. As Teddy Roosevelt said, they’re the lungs of the Earth, and they’re like the kidneys of the earth, filtering water.”

Westerman said wood is a very good carbon sink, pulling carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, noting the benefit of Walmart’s new Bentonville facility, which will use 1.1 million cubic feet of cross-laminated timber made from trees which were sustainably harvested. Westerman was at the facility announcement earlier this month.

The facility is projected to open by mid-2021. The wood will be provided by the Canadian timber manufacturer Structurlam Mass Timber Corp., which will invest $90 million and hire 130 employees in its first U.S.-based production facility in Conway, according to an Arkansas Democrat-Gazette article.

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