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Making Continuing Appropriations for Fiscal Year 2014 - Resumed

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. THUNE. Madam President, I listened to the Senator from Alabama talk about the current budget debate we are having on the floor, and I couldn't help but think of the discussion we had when we were debating the ObamaCare legislation a few years ago and how many of us at the time were making the argument that this is the biggest expansion of government in literally half a century. I think that it is becoming increasingly clear that was, in fact, the case.

We are seeing dramatically more levels of spending. I think we are going to see dramatically higher levels of debt over time. But you would think that with $ 1/2 trillion in cuts to Medicare, $ 1/2 trillion in tax increases--and when it is fully implemented, it will be much bigger than that. The overall cost of the bill, when it is fully implemented, goes to about $2.5 trillion. The expansion of government that occurred as a result of the passage of ObamaCare was, frankly, stunning relative to anything we have seen in recent history. You would think with that you would see some relief, if you will, in terms of the burdens being placed upon middle-class Americans, but we are seeing the opposite.

Many Americans are already feeling the effects of ObamaCare, whether it is higher insurance premiums, canceled health plans, or the loss of a doctor they like. Middle-class Americans are going to be hit the hardest.

Lower income families will face steep premiums and deductibles under ObamaCare, but they will get some help in the form of subsidies from the government to pay for some of their health care costs.

Upper income families are also going to face higher health care costs. In fact, the majority leader told a Nevada newspaper that his premiums under ObamaCare will rise by $4,500 next year. Affluent Americans will be able to absorb those increases. What about a middle-class family facing a $4,500 increase in health care costs, a family whose budget is already at its limit between housing costs, school expenses, and grocery bills? That family won't be able to absorb those costs. That family doesn't have a spare $4,500 anywhere in its budget. For that family, the $4,500 will have to come from money that was allocated for orthodontic payments or college tuition bills or money for a new car.

Back when the President was trying to sell his health care proposal to the American people, he promised that ObamaCare would ``cut costs and make coverage more affordable for families and small businesses.'' Unfortunately, the last few months have made it abundantly clear that this promise is not being kept.

Instead of seeing reduced costs and more affordable coverage, middle-class Americans are seeing steep premium hikes and soaring out-of-pocket costs. Those Americans who have been lucky enough not to have their plans canceled have been receiving insurance plan renewal letters with staggering premium increases. In some cases it has doubled or even tripled what they have been paying before. One constituent emailed me to tell me that thanks to ObamaCare her premiums will increase more than 100 percent, which she goes on to say is equal to 45 percent of her monthly income--45 percent just for health care. That is more than most Americans pay for their mortgage.

Americans whose health care plans have been canceled as a result of ObamaCare and who are being forced to shop on the exchanges are frequently facing higher premiums and drastically increased out-of-pocket costs.

A couple of days ago an article in Chicago Business reported that an average Chicago family with a midlevel health plan in the individual market would go from a $3,500 deductible to a $10,000 deductible if they obtained a similar plan in the exchange. That is $10,000 on top of the $9,000 a year that family would already be paying in premiums.

In Federal exchanges, many families are facing deductibles as high as $12,700. Barring catastrophic illness or injury, in many cases a family with a deductible that high might as well not have insurance at all.

Of course, a family could buy a more expensive plan and greatly reduce those out-of-pocket costs. Many of the platinum plans, which are the high-end plans, have no deductible at all. As CBS News points out--and this was for a Houston, TX, family--``that means shelling out almost $12,400 per year in monthly premiums, or about the same as the deductible for the bronze plans. Either way, families and individuals who don't qualify for tax credits may find ObamaCare failing to deliver on its promise of affordable health care.''

That is from CBS News when talking about a specific family in Houston, TX.

What makes it even worse--and this is what the Associated Press reported--many families don't fully understand the expenses they are taking on when they sign up for plans with high out-of-pocket costs. The Associated Press notes that ``only 14 percent of American adults with insurance understand deductibles and other key concepts of insurance plans, according to a study published this year in the Journal of Health Economics. If people with insurance don't understand it, it's likely that uninsured Americans' grasp is even fuzzier.''

A family shopping on the exchanges may snap up plans with relatively low premiums without realizing that they are, in effect, purchasing nothing more than catastrophic coverage that may leave them on the hook for thousands of dollars in medical costs each year.

So far, I have talked about the direct financial consequences of the President's health care law, but its effects don't end with higher premiums and skyrocketing out-of-pocket costs. Middle-class families will also take a financial hit thanks to the damage ObamaCare does to businesses.

ObamaCare puts in place a slew of new regulations, new taxes, and new fees on businesses large and small. When faced with that, businesses will have two choices: They can absorb the costs of new taxes and fees, thereby reducing the amount of capital they have to expand their businesses, hire new workers, or promote existing ones, or they can pass on these costs directly to their workers, further burdening families already facing steep health care costs. It is a lose-lose situation.

Small businesses are being hit particularly hard. Susan Gabay, cofounder and managing director of a small business investment banking firm, published a column on Saturday in the Washington Times in which she discussed the effect the President's health care law is having on her business. Thanks to ObamaCare, the health plan she offered to her employees was canceled. The new coverage she was offered contains a 48-percent premium increase, which she says ``translates into approximately $1,676 in added costs per year for every individual covered on our plan.'' That is a $6,704 premium increase for a family of four. She says that is approximately $44,000 in added annual costs for her business that otherwise could be used to hire a college graduate.

Maybe her employees are getting better coverage thanks to ObamaCare's regulations, right? Well, actually, the answer is no. Let me read her answer to that observation. She says:

The response to our plight is that we are getting much better coverage. But that isn't true, either. We have historically provided our employees with a generous plan with 100% coverage for in-network preventative care and low out of pocket maximums. Conversely, our new ``great alternative'' plan offers comparable benefits with much higher out of pocket maximums.

So thanks to ObamaCare, Ms. Gabay's business will pay more for health care and so will her employees without receiving any meaningful increase in benefits.

As every middle-class parent--wondering where money for the next dentist bill or tuition payment will come from--knows, America's economy is still struggling to recover from the last recession. Burdening any business--particularly our Nation's small businesses, which are responsible for a majority of the new job creation in this country--is the worst possible thing we could do for our economic recovery and for the millions of middle-class Americans searching for better jobs and opportunities.

Democrats and the President made the American people a promise. They said: We will make health care more affordable. As long as ObamaCare is in place, that promise will continue to be broken, and middle-class families will suffer as a result.

In fact, just recently, when asked a question in an interview about the health care plan, Secretary Sebelius said:

There are some individuals who may be looking at increases. I think you cannot make a statement based on cost unless you compare what they had to what they are going into.

That was Secretary Sebelius saying there are some individuals who may be looking at increases. I think that is the understatement of the year based upon the experience of literally millions of Americans, some of whom have lost coverage entirely, but millions of Americans who are suffering with the sticker shock of dramatic increases in the premiums they pay for their health insurance coverage, dramatic increases in the deductibles now available under their policies, and dramatic decreases in the take-home pay they have to meet the other obligations they have for their families. This is a direct hit to the pocketbooks and the future economic vitality of middle-class Americans.

I yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.

The bill clerk proceeded to call the roll.


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