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Nomination of Michelle T. Friendland to be United States Circuit Judge for the Ninth Circuit -- Resumed

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. BARRASSO. Madam President, I come to the floor today, as I have repeatedly since the health care law has been passed, with concerns I have and to share some information with the Senate because of my concerns that in order to help some people who did not have insurance, I am afraid we have hurt many people who did have insurance, did have care they liked. The President continued to focus on coverage, and I have more concerns, as a doctor, about people actually getting care, getting health care, the care they need from a doctor they choose at lower costs.

So I come to the floor today to talk about a new story out this morning, actually in the Huffington Post, called ``How Obamacare Leaves Some Patients Without Doctors.''

I recall how the President had said: If you like your policy, you can keep your policy. He said: If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor. Yet we are hearing stories from all around the country of people who have found that not to be true.

I have heard the majority leader come to the floor and say in a statement that so many stories are lies, they are made up. But I will tell you that this morning, in this publication, there is a lengthy story of several patients in California who have had pain, problems, medical concerns, signed up for insurance, and, as a result, have found out they have insurance, they have coverage, but they cannot find care.

So I would like to share with the Senate today a story, and it has some of the concerns I raised during the debate and the discussion of the health care law. But the Speaker of the House at the time, Nancy Pelosi, from California--the State where this happened--said: First you have to pass it before you get to find out what is in it. Well, now people all across the country are finding out what is in it, and they are finding out they are terribly disappointed and they feel they have been sold a bill of goods and they are getting stuck with a bill, and they are finding out it is not very good for them.

The report in this morning's Huffington Post starts out:

In January, a doctor told [Ms.] Friedlander, who was suffering from excruciating lower back pain, that she needed surgery to remove part of a severely herniated disc.

Well, she had Blue Shield insurance, as they report, through Covered California, which is California's version of ObamaCare, and she planned to use that coverage to pay for the operation. It makes sense.

This is what happened. It says:

But when she started to call surgeons covered by Blue Shield, she ran into a roadblock. Surgeons who were covered by her insurance--

amazingly--

operated out of hospitals no longer covered by her insurance. .....

So if the surgeon was covered, the hospital was not or, vice versa, she could find a hospital that would cover her surgery but could not find a surgeon who was covered by her insurance that was on the staff of that hospital.

It says:

[Ms.] Friedlander spent days on the phone, hours on hold, making dozens of calls across Southern California, trying to match a surgeon with a hospital that would both be covered. In total, she reached out to 20 [different] surgeons and five [different] hospitals.

``No one could help me. Some expressed sympathy,'' Friedlander, 40, told The Huffington Post in an email. ``They told me, `I'm so sorry--it's all just so new. You're a victim of the changes. No one knows what they're doing.' ''

So what we have here is a victim of the Obama health care legislation because first we had to pass it before we get to find out what is in it.

Unable to match a hospital and a surgeon that were both covered, [Ms.] Friedlander started haggling between doctors for a cash price for the surgery. She chose a surgeon who wasn't covered by her insurance but who operated in a hospital that was covered.

Because she could not, with her insurance, get both the hospital and the doctor.

She expects her insurance to pay the hospital bill, but she had to pay her surgeon's bill herself.

All out of her own pocket.

The article goes on to report:

..... nationwide, about 70 percent of Obamacare plans--

About 70 percent of the plans purchased on the Obama health care law--

offer fewer hospitals and doctors than employer-sponsored group plans or pre-ACA individual market plans, according to a study by consulting firm KcKinsey & Company released in December. This narrowed number of doctors and hospitals is what [Ms.] Friedlander encountered when trying to match a surgeon and hospital that would both be covered.

What we are hearing today is that about 70 percent of ObamaCare plans offer fewer hospitals, fewer doctors, in spite of the President's promise to the American people that if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor; if you like your plan, you can keep your plan.

Now, Covered California says they are aware of the problem. A spokesman for the group--a senior medical adviser with the ObamaCare plan in California--says:

We understand that some people are having trouble getting access to the doctors and hospitals they need. And we're working very hard to fix [that] as fast as we can.

Well, perhaps if people had actually read the law, understood what was in it, they would have seen this coming.

The President said your insurance premiums would drop. He said families would save $2,500 a family. But the article says:

To make up for ACA costs and keep premiums low, Blue Shield asked its doctors and hospitals to accept payments from the insurer at rates [well] reduced--

Reduced from what they normally got--

reduced [by] up to 30 percent.

The article goes on:

Not surprisingly, some doctors and hospitals rejected Blue Shield's reduced payment rates and decided not to re-sign contracts with the insurer. At least three major Los Angeles hospitals previously covered by Blue Shield--

And, Madam President, I will tell you, these are first-class hospitals, these are highly thought-of hospitals, hospitals with incredibly good reputations.

..... three major Los Angeles hospitals previously covered by Blue Shield--UCLA--

The University of California-Los Angeles--

Cedars Sinai and Good Samaritan--have opted out of the insurer's new network. .....

According to [the communications manager from Blue Shield], Blue Shield of California now has about 40 percent fewer physicians and 25 percent fewer hospitals in its network than last year.

You listen to what is happening, and they talk about the significant gaps occurring in California.

These are the concerns I hear about when I go home to Wyoming every weekend. These are the concerns I heard about this past weekend in Casper, in Douglas, in Riverton, in Thermopolis, and in Newcastle traveling around the State. People are not able to keep their insurance. They are not able to keep their doctors. It is happening all across the country, and we see this story out of California today.

The interesting part of the issue with California is that--the article goes on and they talk to an insurance agent in Sacramento who says: `` ..... people who already had insurance''--`` ..... people who already had insurance''--``especially healthy, young people, may be paying more under Covered California''--``may be paying more''; not what the President promised--``for fewer hospitals and doctors.''

That is not what the intent of the health care law was but it is what the health care law has delivered.

This is what is happening to real people, real families, all across the country. The majority leader says: false, made up, whole cloth. But I will tell you, these stories will continue to occur.

It is interesting, in today's article in the Huffington Post it says:

And when signing up for a plan, it's difficult to determine which doctors and hospitals are still covered.

They are talking about California now. The article says, quoting an insurance agent in California:

``You can sign up on Covered California and think you're totally fine, only to find out later that you're totally hosed''. .....

This man, David Fear, goes on to say:

Specialist doctors, such as surgeons, ob-gyns and urologists, declined Blue Cross and Blue Shield's lower payments most frequently. Fear estimates that about two-thirds of Blue Cross and Blue Shield's specialists have opted out of the networks.

It is not just that one patient whom I talked about. There is, like Ms. Friedlander, Ruth Iorio, a 35-year-old new mother from Los Angeles. She is struggling to find the care she needs in Blue Shield's smaller network.

She signed up for Blue Shield through Covered California in November because the Covered California website listed her hospital--

The Web site, the President's Web site, the Covered California Web site--

listed her hospital, UCLA, as accepting Blue Shield. .....

Continuing:

However, after Iorio gave birth in December, she was told that her ob-gyn at UCLA was not covered by her insurance. So she paid out of pocket.

Iorio has not been able to find a urologist for her son or an ob-gyn who is both covered by her insurance and practicing in a hospital that is covered.

The President said: You can keep your hospital, you can keep your doctor, you can keep your plan.

She's called over a dozen doctors who are covered by her insurance, and each has told her that if she or her son needs an operation in the hospitals the doctor contracts with, it won't be covered.

So even if they get a doctor who is under their plan, they cannot go to a hospital to get actually a procedure done.

As this lady says:

``My insurance is pretty useless. And I'm not fussy about what doctor I see,'' Iorio said. ``I don't know what to do. I may just drop it for myself and keep my son on it. It's really depressing.''

It is really depressing what the President and the Democrats have forced down the throat of the American people with this health care law.

The article continues:

Before joining Covered California, Iorio had an individual Blue Shield plan that was cheaper than what she now pays and that gave her wider access to doctors and hospitals.

Cheaper, wider access. Exactly what the President had promised her is exactly what this woman has lost because of the health care law.

She goes on and says:

``I'm paying $500 a month and every doctor I'm calling is saying, `No, I can't see you,' '' she said. ``I feel like a second-class citizen.''

Is that what the President's health care law is all about: making people feel like second-class citizens, hearing from folks when they call and ask for help that, sorry, you are just a victim of the Obama health care law--a nation of more and more victims? It does seem, as you look around the country, for those who have been helped, we should not have had to hurt this many people because of a law the American people said ``we do not want'' and was forced, on single-party lines, down the throats of the American people.

This law is bad for patients. We have seen that today. It continues to be bad for providers--the nurses, the doctors, who take care of those patients--and it is terrible for taxpayers. Tax rates will continue to go up. Taxes are continuing to go up as a result of the health care law and the expenses related to it. It has failed repeatedly in dealing with the needs of the American people, who knew what they wanted in the first place, which was they wanted the care they need from a doctor they choose at lower costs. Instead, they got this.

I yield the floor.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT


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