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Public Statements

Health Care

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Mr. BARRASSO. Madam President, this past Sunday was the fourth anniversary of President Obama's health care law.

Four years ago Democrats in Washington were confident the law they forced through Congress would be extremely popular today. Instead, the law has broken almost every significant promise President Obama made about the law itself, and Americans regrettably have been left to deal with the consequences.

The actual law doesn't even look the same as it did 4 years ago because President Obama has lawlessly rewritten so much of it. Last night word leaked about the latest change. Now the administration is getting rid of the March 31 deadline for some people to sign up for insurance in the government exchange.

According to this morning's Washington Post, if people just check a box on the Web site saying they are having trouble signing up, they will get an extension until at least mid-April--and I wouldn't be surprised if another extension after that and then again beyond.

Remember, the Obama administration said 7 million people would have to sign up by March 31 in order for this open enrollment period to be a success. Those are the administration's words. But with less than 1 week to go, they are 2 million short of their goal. That is why they are allowing this extension because they are in a panic, a panic not enough people are signing up.

The White House may come out and say they have come close to their 7 million target. They may even claim they were somehow able to find all of the 2 million people they needed to buy insurance on the exchanges, but looking at some of the dubious numbers the administration has released so far, we can predict there will be many unanswered questions about the numbers--whatever numbers the White House claims to now be the new numbers.

The first question we should ask about the numbers is, how many of the people signing up actually have insurance?

Apparently, it doesn't seem to matter much to the administration how many people who go to the Web site actually have insurance. The Obama administration released a report showing how many people went through the signup process on the Web site through the exchanges. Those people don't actually have insurance until they write a check, pay their premiums, and make sure they do have insurance.

Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius said recently she had no idea in the world--no idea at all--about how many people had paid and how many had not paid, and she is the President's Secretary of Health and Human Services--no idea.

Insurance companies say they have given Washington plenty of information to know the answer to that question, but the person in charge has no idea.

One industry official told Politico:

If they have not processed those yet and compiled the data, that is a choice they are making. But they have that data now.

The White House can say whatever they want--and they tend to do that--but they have the data. They are not admitting the truth.

Why isn't the administration playing it straight with these numbers? The point of ObamaCare was to get people insurance, not just register them on a Web site. A recent survey by McKinsey & Company found that only 53 percent of the previously uninsured people who had selected a plan actually then went and paid the first month's premium. So only about half of the people that didn't have insurance before, who signed up on the Web site, actually went to pay for and buy the insurance. That is question number one.

Question No. 2 is: How many people are newly insured? That was the major goal of the Obama health care legislation. Washington Democrats said time and time again that we needed a massive overall of the entire health care system of this country in order to cover the uninsured. Many of the people who are signing up today and people who have signed up are doing so because the insurance they had, that they liked, that worked for them, that they could afford, under the health care law was canceled. The President's health care law forced them to switch.

How many people? We don't know that either. One Health and Human Services official admitted as much. He said: ``That is not a data point that we are really collecting in any sort of systemic way.''

The government officials overseeing this part of the Web site are not even collecting the data. The goal of the whole policy plan was to get people that didn't have insurance on insurance. They are not collecting that data point at all. It turns out that the paper application for ObamaCare included a question--reasonably so--as to whether that person already had insurance because it is information we want to know. But the bureaucrats and the contractors who were apparently overseen by the President of the United States, who created the healthcare.gov Web site--the Web site that the President said was going to be easier to use than Amazon for insurance and cheaper than your cell phone bill--apparently they just dropped the question. Why did they do that? Why did they drop the question that was on the paper form and leave it off of the Web site to ask if somebody had actually had insurance before? That is what they did.

Isn't it something the Obama administration would want to know if they wanted to be honest with the American people. The best estimate has been from this McKinsey survey. They figure that by early February only about a quarter of the people who signed up for ObamaCare insurance were actually newly insured. Three-fourths of them were just changing out insurance, many of whom had their insurance canceled. If that number holds, the exchanges might end up covering fewer than 2 million previously uninsured Americans this year--fewer than 2 million people who didn't have insurance before covered on the exchange. Think about how much simpler, how much more cost effective health care could have been while still covering that same number of people.

Here is the third important question. Who exactly is signing up? The administration is pushing young adults between the ages of 18 and 34 to buy insurance. It is not happening the way the administration wants it to happen. Through February, less than 10 percent--less than 1 in 10--of the young adults who potentially could enroll
have actually done so. Insurance companies need lots of young, healthy people to pay premiums--to pay for premiums and then not use much care in return. That is the only way this works. Unless more of those young people sign up by the beginning of next week, theoretically--now extended by checking a box--premiums are going to jump.

Here is the final question. When people buy insurance through the ObamaCare exchanges, what kind of care will it provide? Just remember what the President said: If you like what you have, you could keep it; you could keep your doctor--easier than Amazon and cheaper than your cell phone. People are losing access to doctors they have known and trusted for years. We have heard from people around the country that this has happened. But for some people having a doctor won't mean they can actually see the doctor. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, we are facing a shortage of about 90,000 physicians by the end of this decade.

Some patients may be able to get to see a doctor but maybe not the one they need. According to an Associated Press survey that was reported last week, only 4 of 19 leading cancer hospitals--only 4 of 19 leading cancer hospitals--said that they accept the plans from all the insurance companies in their State's exchanges. For many other patients, the doctor is going to be spending more time looking at the computer instead of looking at them, even though they are in the same office together because of the burdensome new rules and recordkeeping requirements in the law. Maybe you can keep your doctor, maybe you cannot. Do you need special cancer care? Are you worried about whether you are going to be able to get that, and is the doctor going to be able to look at you and interact or is the doctor going to be staring at his computer screen instead of you in the limited time they have because of the burdensome requirements? It is going to be bad for patients.

So patients are going to be getting less care and many will be paying a lot more than they were paying before. Secretary Sebelius finally conceded that the rates will continue to rise in 2015. Now The Hill newspaper that is around--this is what they said on Wednesday, March 19: ``ObamaCare premiums are about to skyrocket.''

The President said: cheaper than your cell phone. Reuters ran a headline that said: ``Insurers see double-digit Obamacare price rises in many states next year.'' Bloomberg's headline yesterday was almost the same: ``Obamacare insurer WellPoint Sees Double-Digit Rate Rise.''

The President said recently the law ``is working the way it should.'' The President of the United States looked into the camera and said it is working the way it should. What does he think of the people who are on the other side watching him on TV? Does he realize how he is losing credibility with the American people when he makes blatant statements like that, when they see how poorly it is working?

I believe the President has no idea how the law is working, how poorly it is working or what is going to happen next. Does he really think the law is working or is it just a line that somebody wrote for him and that he read? It is hard to know. Does he think that double-digit premium increases are a sign that the law is working? I heard from one of my constituents the other day, as we were away for the week talking to people around Wyoming, and he put it in writing. He is from western Wyoming. He said:

Senator Barrasso, I am sorry for the snide subject of our e-mail but the truth hurts. I know I am preaching to the choir but I just wanted to share our story and frustration.

Now I know the majority leader has been to the floor and said all of these stories that we tell are all lies. This is a person who lives in Wyoming. This is what is happening in that person's life. He said:

We have finally just finished applying for health care through the exchange and found out that our health insurance will double if we sign up. Fortunately for us, we are covered under our own insurance until this December. Our current plan is $505 a month, and it has a $15 thousand deductible after which it is an 80/20 split. The rub for us is the following:

Under the construct of the subsidy plan we would theoretically qualify, based on our family size (5 girls) and our income. But since my employer offers health insurance for me and my family, we don't qualify. So we are stuck in limbo. Nonetheless, if we go on my employer's health insurance, we will be paying over $1000 more each month. If we go on the health care market place plan, the least expensive is $1,054/month. This is a significant increase for our middle class family.

I thought the affordable health care act was supposed to help us not hurt us.

The affordable health care act was supposed to help us, he said, not hurt us.

We are panicked on how we are going to pay for this in December? We will be taking all of the money that was going into savings to pay for a terrible insurance plan. Please help us and share our story with people who say this act is helping the middle class.

I wish the majority leader were here to hear this. Please share this story--our story--a true story about a family in Wyoming, with those who say the act is helping the middle class.

Madam President, it clearly is not. Does it sound like the law is working for this man and his family? President Obama says it is working just the way it is supposed to work. It is not working for this man and his family.

Our health care system needed reform. It needs it now more than ever. We all know that. What Americans got with the Obama health care law was a monstrous new bureaucracy. It is raising costs for millions of people. It is leading to worse care and other unintended consequences. Now these questions are just a small part of what the American people want to know.

In fact, as of last night, I can think of another question. How does the Obama administration define the word deadline? Kathleen Sebelius in the House the other day said the deadline is March 31. We are not going to extend it. We are not under any circumstances going to extend it. The White House press secretary said the same. Are there any deadlines at all for anything in this administration? Is it all on the honor system?

As we start to get answers to these questions, we are going to see even more clearly that this health care law has failed patients, it has failed health care providers, and it has failed taxpayers. The President needs to admit that his law is not working. He needs to accept Republican ideas to replace it. Americans need better access to quality, affordable health care, not just broken promises, tired excuses, and unanswered questions.

Thank you, Madam President. I yield the floor, and I suggest the absence of a quorum.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT


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