Yesterday, Congress took the first step in fulfilling the promise of repealing Obamacare, which will pave the way for real health care reforms to strengthen the doctor-patient relationship, expand choices, lower health care costs and improve access to quality, affordable, innovative health care.
As I discussed yesterday, while Republicans will start by repealing Obamacare immediately, we will ensure a stable transition in which those with insurance will not lose access to health care coverage. This will allow us to move step-by-step on a new set of reforms, listening carefully to the advice of the millions of Americans affected and making sure that we proceed wisely, doing no harm.
There is a common misconception that some of my friends across the aisle have promoted – it’s the idea that Obamacare was a success and that repeal will be tearing down a functioning program. This is not true. Obamacare has put our health insurance markets on the brink of collapse in many parts of the country, and what Republicans face now is an imperative to do something that Democrats couldn’t bring themselves to do when they had control: fix the problem they created. Obamacare became the epitome of a sacred cow for them and any changes, unless done by Executive action, were out of the question.
Interestingly, President Obama recently admitted in October of 2016 at Miami Dade College, that the law has real problems and that in his words:
“There are going to be people who are hurt by premium increases or lack of competition and choice.”
In that same speech he went on to call these issues “growing pains.” I think that is a troubling blind spot about this law that he and many of my Democratic colleagues share. Millions are facing impossibly high health insurance premiums for plans that they may not even want to have, costs are going up, and they can’t afford it. Somehow, these casualties of Obamacare don’t deserve relief – they’re just written off as growing pains by the authors of the law. My colleagues will recall Obamacare architect Jonathan Gruber was famously exposed in 2014 for stating, amongst other things, that while crafting this bill, he believed “the lack of transparency is a huge political advantage,” and that it “was written in a tortured way to make sure the CBO [Congressional Budget Office] did not score the mandate as taxes.” Mr. Gruber may have succeeded in masking the consequences of Obamacare to obtain passage, but there is no hiding the results.
A recent poll by the GALLUP ORGANIZATION showed that more Americans continue to disapprove (53%) than approve (42%) of the law and that a majority of Americans want to see the law changed. Let me highlight that point again – A MAJORITY OF AMERICANS WANT TO SEE OBAMACARE either CHANGED or REPLACED altogether. In fact, since passage of Obamacare in 2010, there has never been a majority of Americans who have supported this law.
A quick glance around the nation quickly explains why. For more and more Americans, there is only a single insurer from which they can select health plans. In fact, on federal exchanges, one in five consumers will only be able to select plans from a single insurer. Many residents across the country will only have one choice of health insurer, including my entire home state of Wyoming as well as entire state of Alaska. What does this lack of competition mean? Prices are surging for hardworking families, who now have to choose between unreasonable insurance rates or an unreasonable fine. The irony of a Democrat led effort to ‘help’ resulting in the creation of a lose/lose proposition for families rang true to voters in the most recent election who voted for change.
In Wyoming, some families will be forced to pay more than 30% of their total income on premiums[BT(1] to obtain health care coverage, which often includes deductibles of over $1,000. One family faced premiums of more than $1,600 per month. As an alternative, their tax penalty for not carrying coverage was only $1,700 for the year. So guess what they did? They paid the fine because they couldn’t afford the insurance premium.
For those lucky enough to be able to afford insurance, particularly in the individual market, under the new health law, premiums are expected to increase faster in 2017 than in previous years. Some states will see insurance premiums rise by as much as 53%.
This is truly an emergency.
After discussing the WHY, it is important to also talk about HOW we are going to do this.
Passing this REPEAL RESOLUTION that we are currently debating today will allow Republicans to use the budget reconciliation process to untangle the country from this unworkable, unpopular and unaffordable law. This is the exact same procedure Congressional Democrats and President Obama used to secure passage of portions of Obamacare.
After Congress passes this Repeal Resolution, it can then move forward on reconciliation legislation that will provide for the repeal of Obamacare and pave the way for real health care reforms.
I think members are looking forward to an open and serious debate about the future of America’s health care system and the importance of restoring the trust of hardworking taxpayers. I hope that is something both sides can agree upon.
Thank you Mr. President, I yield the floor.