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Public Statements

Making Continuing Appropriations for Fiscal Year 2014

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. THUNE. Mr. President, I would like to elaborate on the comments from my colleague from Texas who I think laid out in very clear terms what is at stake and the debate we are having and really what the vote that we are going to have here in the not-too-distant future means.

I think it is pretty clear--if we look at any objective measurement or metric--ObamaCare is a huge disaster, and obviously we have seen tremendous anecdotal evidence of that. Anybody who travels in their State or around the country or talks to anybody who is in business, the message comes back very clear that ObamaCare is making it more difficult and more expensive for them to create jobs.

It is creating uncertainty; there are mandates and requirements associated with the new law because employers are being forced to provide a government-approved plan, and so costs go up. As a result, that means there are people who are not getting hired who otherwise might have gotten hired. Companies are looking at reducing their workforce and obviously creating a tremendous amount of disruption in our economy.

I think it is pretty evident that the middle class in particular is being crushed by the President's policies, and ObamaCare is certainly no exception.

Yesterday, in Forbes magazine, Avik Roy reported on a recent study done by the Manhattan Institute that ObamaCare will increase insurance rates for younger men by an average of 97 to 99 percent and for younger women by an average of 55 to 62 percent.

In my home State of South Dakota, that is more than just a statistic, it is a grim reality facing thousands of young men and women. By comparing a typical low-cost plan for a healthy 30-year-old in South Dakota this year with a bronze plan in South Dakota's health care exchange next year, the premium increases are staggering. Younger women are going to face a 223-percent premium increase and younger men are going to face a 393-percent--393-percent--premium increase when comparing new data from the Health and Human Services Department with data that came out from the Government Accountability Office about premiums in my State just this year--earlier in January.

For those millennials in South Dakota, that is a $1,500 increase in health care premiums each year for women and a more than $2,000 increase in health care premiums for men. So the money that could be used for other things will now be put toward this increase in health insurance premiums that people are going to have to pay to get covered. They could have used that money to pay off a student loan. They could have used it to save for a home or to start a family. So this has a tremendous impact on the economy and particularly on those who are going to get hit hardest, and in my State of South Dakota, not unlike other States around the country, it is young people, younger men and younger women.

Interestingly enough, the President is talking about how the HHS study or report confirms what they have been saying, which is that somehow premiums are going to go down. The reason they are saying that is because they are comparing the exchange premiums--what they think people are going to pay--with what the Congressional Budget Office predicted they might pay earlier this year. So it is a hypothetical. It is a mythical comparison. There is nothing to it. It is fiction, if you will.

What we have to do is make this real for people. When we make it real, when we compare it to what they are paying today, young people in particular are going to see dramatic increases in their premiums. So the report was a complete fraud in terms of informing people with real information about what their health insurance premiums are going to be under these exchanges. As I just pointed out, when we compare what they would be paying in the exchange in my State with what people are paying today with similar-type coverage, the increases are staggering--a 223-percent premium increase for younger women and a 393-percent increase for younger men.

They are saying that some of these individuals are going to be eligible for premium tax credits to help cover the increased costs, but not everyone is eligible for those premium tax credits. A lot of people are not going to be eligible for the credits, and they don't cover all the costs. According to a new analysis by Avalere Health, Americans could face steep cost-sharing requirements, such as copayments, coinsurance, and deductibles, layered on top of the monthly premiums, which are going to increase dramatically. It is clear that health care costs are going up, particularly for younger Americans.

President Obama promised that health care premiums would go down by an average of $2,500 per family. If we look at what the real situation is with regard to families, those premiums have actually jumped by more than $2,500 since the President took office and since ObamaCare became law. So we have costs that continue to increase despite the President's promises to the contrary, and household income has been dropping since the time the President has been in office--about $3,700, according to a recent study. So when an American family is looking at their economic situation, they are saying: Let me get this straight. I have higher costs and lower income. How does the President expect that we are going to be able to cover these higher costs?

That is the reality, as I said, that most Americans are dealing with and that people in my State of South Dakota are dealing with, particularly millennials, who are going to be most adversely and harmfully impacted by the new plan.

With respect to jobs, the other thing I wish to point out--obviously the cost of health care is a very important situation and something every American has to think about as they think about their own personal economic circumstances, but we also have to have jobs, and most people get health insurance coverage--a lot of them do--through their job. Well, what is the ObamaCare legislation doing to our jobs and to our economy? Nearly three in four small businesses plan to fire workers or to cut hours as a result of ObamaCare. According to Investor's Business Daily, more than 250 employers have cut jobs or slashed hours as a direct result of ObamaCare's high cost and job-killing regulations.

Another thing that is important to point out is that 60 percent of the jobs created this year are part-time jobs--not full-time jobs, part-time jobs. The way the ObamaCare legislation and the law is structured, there is a disincentive for companies to grow because if they get bigger, if they get more than 50 employees, they will be subject to a lot of new regulations and mandates when they provide government-approved health care.

There is also a definition in the law of what a full-time employee is. If someone works more than 30 hours, they are a full-time employee. So what are companies doing? What are businesses doing? They are hiring more and more people to work 29 hours a week. The President is probably going to go down in history as the President who created the most part-time jobs. But Americans want full-time jobs, they want to be able to have a job that allows them to make ends meet for their families, to plan for their children's education and for their own retirement, and having to work more than one job--multiple part-time jobs--just doesn't get it done for them. So this trend we are seeing occur of part-time jobs being created is largely because of mandates imposed in ObamaCare.

The middle class is being squeezed from both ends. Americans' premiums are going up, while their hours and take-home pay are going down.

The job impacts are as clear across the country as they are in my State of South Dakota. I wish to give one example of a South Dakota business owner who was recently interviewed. He was asked in that interview about the higher costs and mandates of ObamaCare, and this is what he said:

You'll just have to adjust accordingly and you'll have to cut jobs, and you probably won't hire as many people, and I think you'll see a lot of that.

That is a small business owner in my State of South Dakota responding to a question about the impact of ObamaCare on his ability to hire people, to create jobs, and to help expand his business and grow the economy in my State.

It is no wonder the President's approval rating is underwater. Nearly 60 percent of Americans say they oppose ObamaCare, the President's signature accomplishment. So while support for the President's signature law continues to fade, we are also seeing an impact on the President's personal approval rating. For the first time, more Americans view the President unfavorably than they do favorably. According to yesterday's Gallup poll, the President is struggling with his own base. Support among Democrats has dropped 13 points since December of 2012.

I say all that to point out that the effects of these policies--particularly ObamaCare in the specific--are having an impact on the President's standing. I think people are understanding what the impacts are, what the effects of this are, what the results of this are, and they are starting to react accordingly.

What is also of great concern to anybody who is thinking about going into an exchange or looking to do this next week when the exchanges ``go live'' or go online is that there are an awful lot of glitches and bumps. As I said, premiums are on the rise, workers' jobs, wages, and hours are being cut, and now we have glitches and bumps when it comes to implementation. The latest example of an ObamaCare glitch comes from the District of Columbia exchanges. A report that came out just yesterday said the District of Columbia ObamaCare exchange is experiencing ``a high error rate'' in calculating the tax credits that low- and middle-income people are going to receive. You can't make this stuff up. The government-run exchange is experiencing ``a high error rate'' in handling health care. Who would have thought that would be the case? These exchange shoppers are not going to have access to the premium prices now until mid-November. This is according to the recent report on the District of Columbia.

There are similar glitches happening at the Federal level as well and in other States. Oregon and Colorado have faced setbacks.

Reuters reports:

On Monday, employees running Connect for Health Colorado told board members that the exchange would not be able to calculate federal subsidies either, at least for the first few weeks.

Inaccuracies, glitches, and malfunctions mean this law is not ready for prime time.

Meanwhile, we have top Democrats here in the Congress who I think are in complete denial. The President said earlier this summer, ``I think it's important for us to recognize and acknowledge this is working the way it is supposed to.'' Representative Pelosi on the House side said, ``The implementation of this is fabulous.'' Senator Reid said on ``Meet the Press'' not too long ago, ``ObamaCare has been wonderful for America.'' Well, that message is being lost on Americans.

We have an opportunity to correct that. We get a chance at a do-over. We can fix this. We can correct this wrong. We can do this in a much better way. It doesn't take a 2,700-page bill and 20,000 pages of regulations to fix the problems we have in our health care system today. What we have now is a government takeover of one-sixth of our economy, and we are seeing what that means for many Americans: higher premiums, higher costs, fewer jobs, lower take-home pay, and glitches and bumps when it comes to implementation.

At a minimum--at a minimum--we ought to delay the implementation of this not just for a favored few, not just for those select constituents the President wants to grant waivers and exceptions for, but we should allow a delay of ObamaCare for all Americans because it is not ready for prime time.

I think ultimately what maybe drives or motivates people to stay with this in spite of all this--every day, news stories, news organizations talking about the flaws, the errors in implementation; the, I guess, overpromises made by the administration when it comes to what costs were going to be for people and whether they would be able to keep their old insurance--but when we look at all that, the cumulative effect of all of that, the wise thing for us to do is to recognize that this was a mistake and, at a minimum, delay its implementation. At best, my favorite scenario would be to repeal it and start over.

I think we have a lot of people here, as was mentioned by Senator Reid not too long ago, whose goal really is to get to a single-payer system. If that is the goal, then people want this thing to muddle along and get so bad that the only thing people are left with is a single-payer system--in other words, socialized medicine. I don't think that is consistent with what the American people want. It is certainly not consistent with our history and heritage of freedom and competition and giving people in this country more choices. That might explain why many of the things we have proposed, alternatives we have proposed on this side of the aisle, consistently get voted down.

Why don't we allow people to buy insurance across State lines and create interstate competition that drives prices down? Why don't we allow pooling for small businesses so they can get the benefit of group purchasing power? Why don't we reduce the cost of defensive medicine by ending junk lawsuits in this country? Why don't we allow people to have their own refundable tax credit so they can buy their own health insurance? We want to come up with a system that is portable, that creates competition, that allows people to have more choices, and that is based upon market impulses and market principle. When we have a free market and it is working, we get much lower costs because competition brings that about.

I hope we can get to the point where we acknowledge that this was the wrong direction. We are going to have a chance to vote on that later today. The vote that is going to be before us--and I am not aware of any Republican in this Chamber who is not going to vote to defund ObamaCare--will present us with an opportunity, as Republicans and Democrats, to acknowledge what the American people have already recognized, which is that this is not working. It is not working as it was intended, it is not working as planned, and the best thing we can do is acknowledge that and give the American people a break and give the American economy a break by delaying its implementation or, more importantly, just repealing it and starting over and doing this the right way by building upon the strengths we have in our health care delivery system today, acknowledging the challenges and weaknesses but things that can be fixed without passing a 2,700-page bill and 20,000 pages of regulations.

I yield the floor.


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