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Health Care in America

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Mr. GRIFFIN of Arkansas. Mr. Speaker, I want to take a little time tonight with my colleague, Representative Young from Indiana, to talk a little bit about health care in America, talk a little bit about the Affordable Care Act that is currently being implemented, and talk about the need for real health care reform in this country.

I want to start out by just emphasizing that I firmly believe we need health care reform. I believe that the health care reform we got in the form of the Affordable Care Act, or ObamaCare, is not the health care reform that we need. And I would say that we have lots of proposals here in the House. I think last Congress we had over 200 bills introduced that related to the health care system, reforming our health care system. And this Congress, we have dozens of health care reform related bills as well.

So the idea that it's either the Affordable Care Act as we're seeing it unfold, or nothing at all, it's a false choice. That's not the choice that we have. There are lots of ideas; lots of much better ideas, I must add. And while I am personally for repeal--I certainly want the Affordable Care Act repealed--I want to replace it with quality, patient-centered health care reform.

I am not against providing relief to Americans who are feeling the burden of the Affordable Care Act or ObamaCare right now. In fact, we had a hearing on the implementation of the ObamaCare law in the Ways and Means Committee today, a committee of which I am a member. And my colleague Representative Young is also a member. And we heard a lot of people say hey, this is the law of the land, don't mess with it. This is the law of the land, let it go. This is the law of the land, any attempt to criticize it, to discuss its shortcomings, is a waste of time.

Well, I reject that outright. And, you know, I think the President, through his actions, has rejected that.

What am I talking about? Well, it's interesting because we've passed seven bills in this House, seven bills, that relate to ObamaCare, changing ObamaCare, repealing a part of ObamaCare, seven that not only passed this House, we sent them to the other side of the Capitol. They passed the Senate. And you know what? The President signed them into law. That may come as a surprise to some folks, but it's the truth. We passed seven bills to change, to modify, to repeal parts of, to make better ObamaCare, and the President has agreed with us on all seven. He signed them into law.

Mr. YOUNG of Indiana. Are these some of the very same bills, my good colleague, that the President in recent speeches has characterized as partisan, misguided, meaningless? I do believe you may be referring to some of those bills.

Mr. GRIFFIN of Arkansas. Those are the same bills, and I would like to go through, if I can, the seven bills, and talk a little bit about what they do and how they were an improvement. I think they are evidence that yes, we'd like to replace this bill with something much better, this law, but in the short term, we will do whatever it takes to provide relief to American workers, relief to American families, relief to small businesses that are under the burden of ObamaCare.

So let me mention a few of these.

H.R. 4: H.R. 4 repealed the small business paperwork 1099 mandate. I remember when I first got to Congress, I heard from a bunch of folks about the 1099 filing obligation under the President's health care law. We repealed that. You know what the President did? He agreed. Bad part of the law.

Next, H.R. 1473. We cut $2.2 billion from what was characterized as a stealth public plan, a consumer-operated and -oriented plan, and froze the IRS budget. The President signed that into law.

Next, H.R. 674. We saved taxpayers $13 billion by adjusting the eligibility for ObamaCare programs. The President signed that into law.

H.R. 2055 made more reductions to the consumer-operated and -oriented plan that I mentioned earlier, also to the IPAB, the Independent Payment Advisory Board, an independent board that's going to cut Medicare, because it hasn't been reformed, when it runs out of money. So that was signed into law. And again in today's hearing in the Ways and Means Committee, folks on the other side of the aisle were saying this talk, this criticism about the President's law, ObamaCare, a waste of time, meaningless, all politics. Hogwash; the President signed a bunch of it into law.

Mr. YOUNG of Indiana. Well, it is hogwash. And it's particularly hogwash because among those various reforms that you've itemized there, let's reflect on how much persuasion, how much public argument was required to even bring the President of the United States to go along with repealing this egregious, superfluous 1099 obligation. We had to make the public argument. We had to win the argument because there was great reluctance, if recollection serves, and I think it does, to make any changes whatsoever to what most Americans now know as ObamaCare.

The thought was and the thinking still seems to be among a number of our colleagues that if they touch the act, then that is going to lead to further reform, perhaps dissolution or repeal of the act altogether and replacement with something that is more patient centered, with something, frankly, that is more bipartisan.

So to our colleagues who often level criticisms at those of us who are identifying ways to alleviate the pain on the American people with respect to this law, the so-called Affordable Care Act, I think it bears reminding the importance of continuing the argument, forcefully making the argument about all the pain that it is causing.

Mr. GRIFFIN of Arkansas. Precisely. And a lot of people ask, why all the focus, why all the energy, why all the speeches? Because it's important, number one. And, number two, it takes the energy, the focus, the time, the prioritization, the resources, to convince people, the President included, that this is not the way to go.

Now, I think if you were to throw these seven different bills out there a few years ago when ObamaCare passed and say, hey, what are the chances of the President signing this? People would have said no way. No way it's going to happen. So it's a process. It's a process of making the argument with facts; not through personal attack, with facts. Make the vigorous argument. That's what this body and democracy is about, make the argument, win the argument, and then repeal or change.

And I would mention, there are three more: H.R. 3630 slashed billions of dollars from some discretionary funds, some slush funds which they had some flexibility to use, and the President agreed with that. He signed that into law.

H.R. 4348 adjusted a drafting error. It saved $670 million.

And H.R. 8 repealed what was called the CLASS program--Community Living Assistance Services and Support program. The former Democratic chairman of the Senate Budget Committee called the CLASS program ``a Ponzi scheme of the first order, the kind of thing Bernie Madoff would be proud of.''

We saved billions of dollars through the repeal of H.R. 8. So to reiterate, there are seven bills we fought hard for, and every single one of them ultimately was signed into law by the President of the United States.

Now, I would be remiss if I didn't mention that the biggest change, the most consequential change to ObamaCare, the most open and full recognition that the President's health care law is unworkable and problematic and a burden is the fact that the President himself just a few weeks ago on July 2, through a blog post, a Department of Treasury blog post, said, you know what? I am going to suspend, postpone for a year the so-called employer mandate that is one of the key pillars of the ObamaCare law.

Now, what is that mandate?

Mr. YOUNG of Indiana. Well, the mandate is that every employer across the United States of America who employs 50 or more persons on a full-time basis must provide government-sanctioned, government-approved health insurance to their employees.

Now, look, superficially, that sounds just great. There's some problems here. First, this law redefines full-time in a way that Americans have never understood

Mr. GRIFFIN of Arkansas. If you were to ask me what does full-time mean to you, I'd say, growing up in south Arkansas, full-time means 40 hours in a week or more, right?

That's a commonsense, practical application of what full-time is.

Would that be right under ObamaCare?

Mr. YOUNG of Indiana. That's what most Hoosiers think as well.

I think I've traveled quite a bit, gotten to know people around the country. And I don't believe I've encountered, I reckon, anyone who thought that full-time was 30 hours. So where did this come from? Out of thin air, presumably.

Mr. GRIFFIN of Arkansas. So the bottom line is the President recognized--and I applaud him for this--I applaud him for recognizing the problem, the burden of his law, particularly the employer mandate. And he said, I'm going to postpone that part of the law. I'm basically going to repeal, in effect, repeal that for a year; just make that go away for a year as a practical matter.

Now, I applaud his recognition that the law has problems. The problem I had with that action is I don't think, still do not believe the President had the power to do that. If he wants the law changed, he should have called Congress. We would have been more than happy to deliver up a bill--send it over to the Senate--that postponed the employer mandate a year.

In fact, because of the President doing that, that's precisely what we did. So I introduced H.R. 2667, that does that in legislation, not through a regulatory change, a blog post. But I introduced the Authority for Mandate Delay Act, which we voted on. We passed on this floor.

Why?

It does the same basic thing, a little bit different, but the same basic thing that the President was doing, and we did it so that what he did would be legal. And you know what? Thirty-five Democrats supported this bill. Thirty-five Democrats supported this bill, and I applaud them for doing it.

Mr. YOUNG of Indiana. Potentially, you, myself and so many other Members of this body agreed with the substance of the President's blog post, though one would question whether we were intended to be a Nation of laws or instead a Nation of blog posts. We could get into that separate conversation.

I think fair-minded people agreed that the delay was appropriate. ObamaCare is not ready for prime time. The computer systems don't seem to be ready. Employers are confused about exactly how this law's going to work, exactly how it's going to impact them. Employees are confused. And something had to be done.

But I think that recognition that something had to be done only occurred because there were people in Congress making arguments, as they continue to make arguments, with respect to the flaws in this legislation.

Mr. GRIFFIN of Arkansas. And I would add to that there are many of us that believe the reason this law is not working is because it will never work. It is unworkable by design. It is top-down. It is the old way of doing things in a world that is becoming network bottom-up, innovative, new way of doing things. This is an old central control, top-down way of legislating.

And so the President recognized that. But, of course, for partisan politics reasons, even though my bill did basically what he did, he opposed it. He opposed the bill that would have made his actions legal.

And, of course, now it is sitting, napping, because we hope to awake it, it's napping in the Senate, in the United States Senate, with your companion bill, the Individual Mandate Delay.

Mr. YOUNG of Indiana. Well, kudos to the one of, what is it, six colleagues on the other side of the aisle that joined us in voting for your bill.

Mr. GRIFFIN of Arkansas. Thirty-five Democrats.

Mr. YOUNG of Indiana. Thirty-five in total?

Mr. GRIFFIN of Arkansas. That's right.

Mr. YOUNG of Indiana. I think one out of every six members of their conference were supportive of your bill.

Mr. GRIFFIN of Arkansas. That's exactly right.

Mr. YOUNG of Indiana. I think that was the right thing to do, the right vote to cast. It certainly preserved the precedent that it is this body that passes the laws, that develops the legislation.

It's the job of the executive branch to sign those various acts into law, and then to execute them, not to recraft the laws as it might see convenient, for whatever motives.

And so you mentioned my bill, which is really, in the end, the American people's bill because it's designed to provide relief to American families, the Fairness for American Families Act.

You know, the thinking behind this is quite simple. If the President wants to offer businesses a relief from the employer mandate tax, as our Supreme Court has styled it, then why won't you offer relief to working Americans and their families?

It's that simple. And I have yet to hear an acceptable response. No, we're playing politics.

Well, are those one of nine Democrats who voted for my legislation also playing politics?

No, candidly, I think they're being fair minded. Some would argue that they're looking for political cover or whatever. I'll let others assess that.

But, certainly, it's good legislation. It's fair and equitable legislation to accord the same sort of treatment to hardworking Americans that the President would give to the business community.

And though I agree, let me go on record that that business community needs relief too.

Mr. GRIFFIN of Arkansas. Well, and one in nine of the Democrats voted for your bill. I think it was 22 total. I think, just a year or two ago, that would have been unthinkable, that 35 would have joined voting for the Employer Mandate Delay and 22 or so for your bill. It would have been unthinkable.

It is because we have been relentless in pursuit of a better way, relentless in pursuit of real health care reform, relentless in identifying and letting folks in Washington know that the people back home, constituents, have made their voice very clear, where I live, in Arkansas, on the issue of the Affordable Care Act or ObamaCare.

And what's interesting is, today, in the Ways and Means Committee, we had the head of the IRS testifying. And he was explaining why the President decided to delay, for 1 year, one of the two key components of the Affordable Care Act--one being the employer mandate, and the other part of the law being the individual mandate.

We know that the President delayed that one, the employer mandate, and he was explaining why he did that. And this is a paraphrase of what he said.

It's the head of the IRS describing why the President gave 1 year relief to businesses impacted by the employer mandate. He said, to paraphrase, not a direct quote, but to paraphrase, he said, in effect, we heard from a lot of American small businesses that this was a burden on them, and so we acted to give them relief. That's a paraphrase, but that's effectively what he said.

I agree with the general sentiment. It is a burden on American workers and small businesses, et cetera, and they do need relief, and I'm glad they're getting it.

But it raises the question, why wouldn't you give that same relief, as a matter of fairness, to individuals, families, workers impacted by the individual mandate, the other key component of ObamaCare, of the Affordable Care Act?

Why would you give relief to small businesses and businesses and what have you, but not give relief to individuals?

It fundamentally doesn't make sense. It's not fair.

And when he said that, I thought to myself, well, is it possible that he doesn't know, that the head of the IRS and the administration don't know that individuals and families and workers are also impacted in a negative way, that they are burdened, many of them, by this law?

Yes, they want health care reform. Yes, people need insurance. Yes, people want to be covered. But this is not the way to go.

Does he not know the impact that this law is having?

So I thought, why don't we put all the opinions aside, the op eds, the editorialists, and why don't we just talk about some of the news headlines?

Without my commentary, I thought you and I could just read some of the headlines. These are news stories, not op eds, not editorial writers. These are news stories from a variety of publications from around the country. And I thought it would be instructive to run through some of those tonight.

Mr. YOUNG of Indiana. There seem to be a lot there. How would you like to proceed?

Mr. GRIFFIN of Arkansas. I tell you what, I'll read through one of these, and I'll put one up. You could read through, and then I'll take one. These are headlines from around the country. And we're going to run through them because they are news stories that, regardless of what you hear from this administration, this is what's happening around the country.

The AP: Florida Insurance Officials: Rates Will Rise Under ObamaCare.

Georgia Insurance Rates Spike Under ObamaCare.

Now, I would point out, we don't have to guess what's going to happen anymore. We don't have to predict what's going to happen.

Why? Because we're already there. Implementation is under way. It's already happening. So we'll just let the facts speak.

Chattanooga Business Owner Says ObamaCare Costing Workers Pay Raises and Benefits.

Consumers Could See 25-Percent Premium Increases Under ObamaCare.

UNA Asks Student Employees to Work Fewer Hours.

Mr. YOUNG of Indiana. So the Contra Costa Times of Concord says that half of the Affordable Care Act call-center jobs will be part-time.

The Missourian says ObamaCare is going to impact Franklin County workers.

The Weekly Standard reports Wisconsin grocery store forced to cut hours due to ObamaCare.

The Huffington Post reports that White Castle indicates that ObamaCare is causing them to consider only hiring part-time workers.

KHN indicates Wellpoint sees small employers dropping their health coverage.

There's more.

Mr. GRIFFIN of Arkansas. I would point out that these are from all over the country. Growing worries about ObamaCare forcing insurers out of State markets.

Iowa Public Radio: Full-time vs part-time workers. Restaurants weigh ObamaCare.

ObamaCare forces work-hour limits for CMU students.

Brevard cuts some workers' part-time hours to avoid ObamaCare rules.

ObamaCare delay is a relief for a family business.

Mr. YOUNG of Indiana. So we're already picking up on some trends here. From a number of the headlines, we're getting the sense that this health care law is not what we were told it would be, what the American people were told it would be. It's not sustainable. That's why there's all manner of taxes, from medical device taxes to what was once a tanning tax. They're looking for revenue under every rock to make this thing sustainable.

It doesn't control costs. By some estimates in my own State, the State of Indiana, premiums are expected to go up 70 percent-plus within the next year or so. There are problems about access that we're hearing about that are captured in articles around the country. Rural areas, in particular, can expect to have a shortage of doctors as a direct result of this law. And there are quality concerns.

I've just listed my thoughts on what health care reform ought to accomplish. All those various things ought to happen. Unfortunately, ObamaCare is failing on every front. And I don't say this with any celebration. I lament the fact. It's all the more reason that we need to continue to educate our colleagues and that minority of the American people that still believe this is going to work.

Mr. GRIFFIN of Arkansas. As we see here:

Texas Business Owner Facing $1 Million in Annual ObamaCare Costs;

Maryland Employers Cutting Hours Due to ObamaCare;

Waitress Said She's Losing Full-Time Status Due to the ObamaCare Rule;

St. Pete College: HCC Cut Adjuncts' Hours Over Health Care;

Local Entrepreneur Sells Part of Business Due to ObamaCare.

Mr. YOUNG of Indiana. There are people behind every one of these headlines.

Forbes says: Labor Unions Are Indicating That ObamaCare Will Shatter Our Health Benefits and Cause Nightmare Scenarios.

My recollection was that labor was very much behind this bill, originally. I would love to work with them or any members of union or union leadership to be part of the solution here to help alleviate some of the pain. Welcome home.

Mr. GRIFFIN of Arkansas. I share your feeling there. I found common ground with a lot of labor union folks on the Keystone pipeline because they want the jobs.

Mr. YOUNG of Indiana. Absolutely.

Mr. GRIFFIN of Arkansas. Here, the labor unions are realizing this is a nightmare.

Mr. YOUNG of Indiana. Well, they're hearing from their members.

Mr. GRIFFIN of Arkansas. The members are speaking out.

Mr. YOUNG of Indiana. That's right.

Mr. GRIFFIN of Arkansas. Here you see:

Restaurant Shift: Sorry, Just Part-Time.

There's a theme here.

Workers' Hours Cut--`ObamaCare' Blamed.

Again, for those just tuning in, we're just reading news headlines, not op-eds. These are news headlines, stories from around the country, everything from the Weekly Standard to the Huffington Post, the AP.

Mr. YOUNG of Indiana. Objective journalists.

Mr. GRIFFIN of Arkansas. ObamaCare Strikes: Part-Time Jobs Surge to All-Time High; Full-Time Jobs Plunge by 240,000;

16,500 Working Fewer Hours Due to ObamaCare Mandate.

This is one of the mandates we've been talking about here tonight.

Mr. YOUNG of Indiana. Let me press ``pause'' here before we read more of these headlines, which are incredibly illustrative and instructive.

So many of them deal with the cut in the number of hours for our wage earners during the worst economy since the Great Depression.

Mr. GRIFFIN of Arkansas. Sure.

Mr. YOUNG of Indiana. Why is that happening? Why is that happening?

Well, you've got employers that are now mandated to provide health insurance to their employees, and many of them, in order to remain profitable, must change their way of doing business. So they change people from full-time into a part-time status. They hire people into part-time positions rather than full-time positions.

And then we have, perhaps most pathetically and tragically, what has been dubbed the ``29er effect,'' where people are working more than 30 hours a week, many of whom are barely getting by, barely able to put food on the table and meet their utility bills and so on, that are being dropped down to 29 or fewer hours.

How is that helpful to the American people?

Mr. GRIFFIN of Arkansas. And these are folks that the Obama administration says are full-time, but they're really not full-time. They may be working 35 hours a week. They don't even have a truly full-time, 40-hour-a-week job, what most folks across America know to be full-time. We talked about this before. Who said that 30 hours is full-time?

A lot of folks working 35 hours are trying to make ends meet. They would rather work 40 and get some other time. But what is happening is they're being cut back below 30, which is not just the number of hours they work. It's simultaneously reducing the money they take home.

Mr. YOUNG of Indiana. That's right. And we have legislation here, again, to address this problem, like the Saving American Workers Act. There's lots of cosponsors here in the House.

Mr. GRIFFIN of Arkansas. That's your bill.

Mr. YOUNG of Indiana. I introduced the bill in response to some of the same things I'm hearing from my colleagues who are, in turn, hearing from their constituents and the sort of things I hear back home in Indiana, which is this is absolutely ridiculous. We're helping very few people at the expense of many.

Let's restore the definition of full-time as it's always been popularly understood and provide some relief.

So we need to move forward on that. Let's continue to educate and assess what is being reported across the country on some of these.

Mr. GRIFFIN of Arkansas. Houston Doctors to Close Doors Because of ObamaCare;

Aetna Letter Warns Customers: `Many People Will Pay More for Health Insurance' Under ObamaCare;

East Penn Cuts Cafeteria Workers' Hours to Avoid ObamaCare;

Affordable Care Act Insurance Mandates Leading Some Businesses to Cut Employees' Work Hours;

Limiting Part-Time Hours Unintended Result of Health Law.

Maybe the unintended consequences have something to do with the fact they didn't know half of what was in the law in the first place.

Mr. YOUNG of Indiana. That's right.

I've seen some Indiana headlines--a number of them--related to some of these effects. One pops out there for me.

The Indianapolis News: School Part-Timers Fear Fewer Hours, Less Pay, as Impact of Health Care Law Kicks In.

Let's remember this is not just businesses that are being impacted. We've got municipalities, school workers, and businesses, especially in the hospitality industry or your retail sector, where we see a lot more people being hired on a part-time basis. Seemingly, every aspect of our economy and much of our society is being adversely impacted by this law.

Now, that's not to say that some people aren't helped. All things being equal, if we can insure a few more million people, that's a great thing; but with all the collateral damage created by this law and its unsustainability, that's the real problem here.

Mr. GRIFFIN of Arkansas. And we can help those people. We can help those people through other means. As I said before, the idea that it's the ObamaCare model or nothing is a false choice. There are many other better patient-centered ways to do this to reach the same goal.

Health Care Law Causing SCC to Reexamine Adjunct Faculty Members;

Local Employers Struggle with Affordable Care Act.

When employers are struggling, the workers are struggling. The families are struggling.

ObamaCare Glitch Could Make Coverage Unaffordable for Low-Wage Workers;

ObamaCare's $96-an-Hour Cost Spike May End 30-Hour Workweek.

We're getting short on time, so I think we ought to run through these.

I want to talk a little bit about where our bills are now, sitting at the other end of the Capitol. I want to urge our Senate friends to think about the opportunity they have.

But let's take a quick look at these before we close out.

Rancho Cucamonga May Reduce Part-Time Hours to Avoid Health Care Costs;

Part-time Staff Hours in Flux Due to ObamaCare;

Fort Wayne Community Schools Cut Hours for Part-Time Positions;

Maricopa Community College Staffs Pinched by Obama Health Law;

Dallas Area Cities, School Districts Expect Budget Hits from Affordable Care Act.

And the good news just keeps on coming. There's a little sarcasm there. This is just awful.

Mr. YOUNG of Indiana. Out in Colorado: Fort Collins Small Businesses Prepare for Affordable Care Act Changes;

The World-Herald: Districts to Cut Back Paraprofessionals' Hours as a Result of Health Care Law.

It's already even impacting paraprofessionals right now.

Beacon Journal: Limiting Part-Time Hours to Avoid Health Care Costs.

More of the same, impacting yet more Americans.

Requirements for Health Care Reform and Resulting Requirements for Chesterfield County Public Schools;

The Salt Lake Tribune: Ahead of Health Reform, Granite District Cuts Part-Time Workers' Hours.

Mr. GRIFFIN of Arkansas. And there's so many more. One that I actually didn't get up here was reported just tonight. In Ohio, they announced that premiums statewide are going up 41 percent.

AAA Parks Full-Time Jobs, Cites Health Law;

Agencies Must Cut Some Part-Timers' Hours or Offer Health Insurance;

Part-Time Employee Hours Cut Over Health Care;

Fast-Food Worker Hours Cut, New Health Care Law Blamed.

I know we're short on time. We've got some other colleagues that want to talk tonight, but I just want to close by first of all thanking my colleague, Representative Young of Indiana, for being here with me.

But I'd just like to point out that the employer mandate bill that mimics what the President did, that postpones the employer mandate for 1 year, we passed it here with 35 Democrats, bipartisan. Your bill, the individual mandate postponement, 22 Democrats. We passed them out of here. We did our job.

The worst the White House could say about my bill is that it was redundant. Those bills are sitting down in the Senate, waiting for action.

Mr. YOUNG of Indiana. Redundant to the Treasury Department's blog post, it bears reminding. They're sitting over there, gathering dust, as the American people demand relief. It is so important.

I want to thank you for your leadership on this issue. Those in Arkansas are well represented by you on this and other matters, working very hard to ensure that where relief can be provided, we provide it; where the prerogatives of the legislative branch can be defended, you will defend them.

That's where I stand as well. We just need the United States Senate to act.

Mr. GRIFFIN of Arkansas. On the employer mandate delay, they should pass that immediately to make the President's actions legal, and they should pass the individual mandate delay to make the President's actions fair.

I appreciate you being here with me tonight. You are an outstanding member of the Ways and Means Committee, and I appreciate your leadership.

We're running out of time. I want to thank folks for joining us tonight, and I yield back the balance of my time.


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