Videos & Speeches
Mr. President, three years ago Congress passed a massive health insurance law which didn't have a single Republican vote, and it had significant opposition by the public. In an administration proclaiming to be the most transparent ever, this 2,700 page bill was rammed through Congress in the early morning hours on Christmas Eve. Even then, Speaker of the House Pelosi said Congress had to pass this bill so that we could find out what was in it. Well, we did. It was passed, and the American people are not liking what they have discovered.
While the President promised the Affordable Care Act would lower health care costs and strengthen our health care system, the law, instead, is increasing health insurance premiums, slowing economic recovery, and hindering job creation. We should not allow the administration to continue to ignore this reality. We must permanently delay the Affordable Care Act.
Since its enactment in 2010, 18 components of the health care law have been changed, cancelled, or delayed. The President downplays the law's substantial defects by characterizing them as “glitches and bumps” that are to be expected. He also claims that the Affordable Care Act critics are responsible for the law's broken promises by arguing that the problem is with “folks out there who are actively working to make this law fail.” Meanwhile, the Affordable Care Act is slowly unraveling.
Every day brings new information about missed deadlines, funding shortfalls, soaring health insurance premium rates, and a technical implementation that is floundering. It is any wonder that this law continues to be publicly unpopular. With the majority of mandates, fees, and taxes taking effect in 2014, we are already beginning to see the alarming effects of the law on individuals, families, employers, and on our economy. It is one broken promise after another.
Promise No. 1. In attempting to convince the American people that the ACA was good, the President promised it would “save families $2,500 in the coming years.” But since 2008, the average American family has seen health insurance premiums rise more than $3,000. Nonpartisan actuaries estimate that national health spending will grow at an average rate of close to six percent annually between 2011 and 2021. As national spending ticks up, American families will continue to see their monthly premiums go up. States are beginning to release details on the rates consumers will pay for ACA-related health insurance starting on January 1. An unfortunate pattern is emerging: ACA mandated insurance is going to increase costs for many Americans.
Recently, the State of Indiana announced that insurance rates will increase 72 percent for consumers in the individual market. Consumers in Ohio, Florida, South Carolina, and Maryland have also announced they are expecting to see their premiums increase significantly. Just yesterday, the Georgia insurance commissioner asked the Department of Health and Human Services to extend the deadline to approve health plans in their State because some rates were expected in Georgia to rise by 198 percent.
In my home State of Kansas, I consistently hear concerns from individuals, business owners, and even local government officials about the impending costs of the Affordable Care Act. For example, rural Kansas school districts and special education co-ops, whose budgets are already stretched thin, will now be forced to cover the costs associated with the law. This has resulted in reductions in employees' hours and may trigger layoffs in order for the districts to avoid significant ACA-related penalties. It is sad to visit with the director of a special education co-op only to learn that less services are going to be provided to special needs students because of the costs associated with the Affordable Care Act. The American people were promised savings and security. Instead, we are experiencing less of both. The Affordable Care Act is leaving Americans with less options and simply unaffordable care.
Promise No. 2. In 2009, the President said: No matter how we reform health care, we will keep this promise: If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor, period. Reality has since whittled down this promise dramatically. If you go to the Affordable Care Act Web site today, you will find this far less confident statement: “Depending on the plan you choose in the Marketplace, you may be able to keep your current doctor.”
Mr. President, even large labor unions have recently criticized the President and congressional Democrats for breaking this promise. Notably, the National Treasury Employees Union, the union that represents most IRS employees, is urging its members to write their elected officials to oppose any effort that would force them to participate in the health insurance exchanges. Further, several unions stated: “When you and the President sought our support for the Affordable Care Act (ACA), you pledged that if we liked the health plans we have now, we could keep them.” Sadly, that promise is under threat.
And another statement: approximately 3 million laborers, retirees, and their families now face the very real prospect of losing their health benefits. This, I must remind you, was something that you promised would not happen.
Promise No. 3. The President indicated that the Affordable Care Act would ``lower costs for the federal government, reducing our deficit by over $1 trillion in the next two decades. It is paid for. It is fiscally responsible.''
The only way the Affordable Care Act will reduce deficits is by grossly increasing the taxes and fees associated with this law. One wonders how anyone believed at the time that the new entitlement program would ever save money. These broken promises are more than just words. The administration's false starts and early failures in implementing the Affordable Care Act are just the beginning. The harm this law will do to individuals, families, and businesses will continue to emerge. In less than 3 months, individuals will be asked to start enrolling in a health insurance exchange when insurance rates, coverage requirements, and subsidy amounts are still largely unknown. And, increasingly, the question being asked is, what happens to individuals required to buy health insurance or face penalties if the exchanges are not ready on time?
I am the ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services. I offered two amendments to the fiscal year 2014 bill that would bring some certainty to this overarching issue.
First, I offered an amendment to codify the administration's decision to delay the employer mandate. While many of my colleagues on the Democratic side issued press releases praising the administration's decision to delay, when asked to affirmatively vote in committee to delay for 1 year, they all voted no. The amendment failed on a straight party-line vote.
The second amendment I offered delayed the implementation and enforcement of the individual mandate for one year. While I support the delay of the employer mandate, in that decision, like it or not, the administration undermined its own credibility in stating that the Affordable Care Act would be implemented on time, as promised. We should not, and cannot, require individuals to risk their health care coverage by signing up for an unworkable program with a dubious future.
Unfortunately, my colleagues—again, on the Democratic side—disagreed. They refused to extend the exemption the President granted to businesses, to employers, to all Americans, to families and individuals. The evidence continues to show that the Affordable Care Act is so large and convoluted that it cannot be implemented into practice. Reports from State actuaries, the Congressional Budget Office, the Government Accountability Office, and nonpartisan think tanks have reached the same conclusion: Almost everything we were told about the Affordable Care Act is untrue.
Mr. President, we were told three years ago that we need to pass the Affordable Care Act to find out what is in it. Now we know, and it is not good. We don't need to force American families to endure another three years just to see how bad it actually will be.