On the one year anniversary of the passage of Obamacare, U.S. Senator Pat Roberts today said health care costs are still soaring for patients and the misguided and critically flawed law needs to be addressed to actually improve access to affordable, quality health care in America.
"One year later, this partisan effort is doing exactly what we predicted it would do," Roberts said. "Many Americans have to switch plans, have to pay higher premiums and have fewer health care choices than before. Many Americans have to wait three more years for the supposed benefits of the law to kick in while taxpayers and Medicare patients are paying the bill now, in a tough economy. More than 1,000 groups and unions that supported the law have found that they cannot operate within it and have received waivers from the government. We need to scrap this law and attempt step by step reforms that address the problem of cost and access to care."
Senator Roberts is a member of the Senate Committee on Finance, and the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, the two committees tasked with writing the new health care law before it went behind closed doors and was written largely by the Democrat leader, Senator Harry Reid (D-NV), and special interest groups.
Roberts was an outspoken opponent of the bill because it cut half a billion dollars from Medicare and rather than reinvest it in the already insolvent program, the funds were used to create new entitlement programs. The law also raised $813 billion in new taxes in a fragile economy, contained mandates on individuals, and did not prohibit government rationing of care allowing the federal government to come between a patient and physician when making health care decisions.
"As I warned in the debate over this law, first we need to do no harm," Roberts said. "Sadly, despite critical problems with the bill, it was rammed through Congress and now we are left to address its unintended consequences in addition to the many negative consequences we knew were coming."
Roberts said estimates of the costs to patients and taxpayers are grim:
? $2,100 in higher premiums;
? 800,000 fewer jobs;
? $118 billion in new unfunded state mandates;
? $311 billion in higher health care costs;
? $529 billion in Medicare cuts to fund new entitlement spending;
? $813 billion in new taxes;
? And $2.6 trillion in new federal spending.
During this first year of the implementation of Obamacare, Senator Roberts has been concerned with the cuts to Medicare and the potential for further rationing of care for Medicare patients. With the president's recess appointment of a known supporter of government rationing, Dr. Donald Berwick, to head the Centers for Medicare Medicaid Services (CMS), Roberts became a leading critic of efforts by the administration to pay for these cuts to Medicare to the detriment of seniors.
Becoming increasingly concerned with health care regulations issued under Obamacare, Senator Roberts introduced a bill called the "Regulatory Responsibility for our Economy Act," or S. 358, to strengthen and codify the president's Executive Order from January 18, 2011, to ensure the president's order is carried out to review, modify, streamline, expand, or repeal those significant regulatory actions, that are duplicative, unnecessary, burdensome, or would have significant economic impacts on Americans. The legislation has 42 cosponsors.
In meeting with Kansans from across the state, Roberts became aware that regulations from the Obama administration were hurting access to care. He held a health care stakeholder meeting in Topeka to learn of the effects of these regulations from patient and provider groups.
Today, at a hearing of the Finance Committee examining implementation of Obamacare in its first year, Senator Roberts made the following remarks on regulations to Secretary of Health and Human Service Secretary, Kathleen Sebelius:
"I was not surprised to hear that every representative at that meeting had a concern with regulations, but the sheer volume was truly extraordinary. The number one concern that I heard was a fear for the impact of future regulations, especially those regulations for implementing Obamacare and their potential to have a further and greater impact on jobs and the economy.
"It is my understanding that a number of the Obamacare rules have been issued as interim final rules, and therefore with limited stakeholder input. In my letter to the president last week I encouraged the administration to limit the use of this regulatory process and take every available opportunity to get feedback from those who would be most affected by these regulations and allow for ample time to review and consider that feedback prior to implementing future regulatory priorities. In addition, I encouraged the administration to review any comments you have received on these regulations, that have already been issued, for any concerns that indicate a potential to further our economic crisis."
The exchange, where Secretary Sebelius committed to honor Roberts' call for a thorough review of regulations can be found here. Or at: http://www.youtube.com/SenPatRoberts.
"We need to repeal this law and start over in a bipartisan and step-by-step manner," Roberts said. "I favor plans that allow insurance to be purchased across state lines, bringing more competition to the market. I would favor plans that allow small businesses to pool together to purchase insurance for their employees. I would support tackling waste fraud and abuse in Medicare and Medicaid and then reinvesting those funds in those programs to help address their insolvency. I would support tort reform, one of the key factors in the rising cost of care. Any of these measures would make an impact in the daily lives and pocket books of Kansans without adding trillions to our growing deficit and burdening our children and grandchildren."
Senator Roberts is Co-Chairman of the Rural Health Caucus.