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Repeal Resolution Speech

January 5, 2017

Today, we have a new Congress, soon we will have a new president, and for the first time in years, hardworking Americans will have their voices heard as we take the first steps to repair the nation’s broken health care system, removing Washington from the equation and putting control back where it belongs: with patients, their families, and their doctors.

The President’s health law has pushed insurance markets to the brink of collapse. Premiums for hardworking families are soaring, while patients’ choices are dwindling. I urge my friends on the other side of the aisle to face the facts that Obamacare has failed to deliver on its core promises, and is hurting far more than it is helping.

I know our colleagues on the other side of the aisle share our goal of a robust health care system for hardworking families, and I truly hope that they will work with us to find common ground that delivers more choices and lower costs. I welcome the input from all our nation’s lawmakers as we endeavor to listen to the American people in this pursuit.

But first, it is important to remember how we got here, so that the actions that we will be taking this year are considered in the proper context.  After the 2008 election, Democrats controlled the presidency and had a majority in the House and a super majority Senate.

This allowed Senate Democrats in 2009 to pass a health care plan without any Republican support, which is exactly what they did.

House Democrats had initially approved a health care reform bill with several important differences. So Congressional Democrats needed to address these concerns in a conference committee.

But plans to iron out the differences between the House and Senate versions were derailed in early 2010 when Democrats lost their filibuster-proof majority with the Massachusetts special election result that placed Senator Scott Brown in the seat formerly held by the late Senator Ted Kennedy since 1962.

With the filibuster-proof majority lost, Democrats in the House approved the Senate-passed health care bill without any Republican votes and sent it to the President, while vowing to use the budget reconciliation process to address their colleagues’ concerns with the Senate legislation.

Subsequent budget reconciliation legislation was passed by Democrats and signed into law by President Obama. Combined with the initial health care bill, Obamacare was created.

I share this brief history of Obamacare only as a reminder that while my colleagues will surely complain about using the reconciliation process to untangle the country from this unworkable, unpopular and unaffordable law, they should remember that they actually employed the exact same procedure to secure the passage of Obamacare.

Recent headlines show the Obamacare problem is only getting worse and discourages people from seeking so-called coverage.  Last October, at Bloomberg’s “The Year Ahead Summit” in New York, the CEO of Aetna discussed the issues surrounding their decision not to participate in Obamacare exchanges, saying:

“As the rates rise, the healthier people pull out because the out-of-pocket costs aren’t worth it …Young people can do the math. Gas for the car, beer on Fridays and Saturdays, health insurance.”

If you’re young and healthy, Obamacare has made it an easy choice to opt out of health coverage.  But for those not so fortunate – for those who must have coverage, it quickly becomes a frightening reality.  I have constituents in Wyoming who have written to me, with worry and concern about their surging health insurance premiums. I recently heard from a young woman who is experiencing the worst of this law.  She said: 

“Dear Senator Enzi,

I am writing with concerns specifically in the way that our country is heading in respect to healthcare services.

I am a 25 year old with no medical conditions, I rarely need a doctors visit, however as I have looked into health insurance for me and my 8 month old son, also without health problems, I have found insurance to be incredibly expensive. Based on the cost of our health care last year, which included a c-section and the birth of our son, our family would spend less on health care if we paid for medical expenses out of pocket and did not have health insurance. However, in order to obey the law this is not an option.

I have researched and calculated the most cost effective health care option for our family. We are looking at paying almost $800 a month for insurance, even with my husband receiving insurance through work. This is almost 1/3 of our family’s monthly income. … Insurance is becoming a huge burden for our family. “

That is the reality for many of our constituents across the country. She is trying to do the right thing for her family’s health, but the law is crippling them financially.

Our answer must not be to ignore these problems. For many Americans caught up in Obamacare’s tangled, and expensive web of regulations, the situation is grim and only getting worse by the day. It’s time to act.

One of the most disturbing parts of this law is that Americans are now paying more in taxes to pay for the very health law that is driving up their insurance premiums.

The law will saddle American households with $1 trillion in new taxes and penalties over the next 10 years, unless Congress acts.

Obamacare’s crushing regulations mean smaller paychecks for families, while holding back small businesses from expanding and hiring new workers. For every American, Obamacare has meant more government, more bureaucracy, and more rules and regulations, along with soaring health care costs.

It is time to lift the burdens and higher costs this law has placed on all Americans. The Senate is poised to pass a REPEAL RESOLUTION that will set the stage for true legislative relief from Obamacare that Americans have long demanded, while ensuring 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 to do our best to make sure that we proceed wisely and do no harm.

Fortunately, America now has a president committed to repealing Obamacare and moving toward a system that offers more choices, lower costs, and more individual control for millions of hardworking Americans.

The American people have endured a lot under Obamacare – and its broken promises.  As a presidential candidate not so long ago, then-Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) promised Americans that they could keep their health plan if they liked it. Millions soon learned that they couldn’t and soon wouldn’t.  This is because Obamacare has drastically reduced Americans’ choice of healthcare plans through a federal takeover of the insurance marketplace. In fact, the President’s promise – “If you like your plan, you can keep it” has proven to be one of the many unfulfilled and unattainable promises of Obamacare.

In Wyoming we have seen the real impact of Obamacare on our health insurance market.  Wyoming now has only one health insurer in the individual market, both on and off the Obamacare exchange.  Many states are experiencing a similar issue of having insurers leaving the exchanges entirely. So for Wyomingites, the Obama administration’s talking points about “choice” were in the end just more empty promises.

Americans were also promised lower health care costs, but even the Administration admits Obamacare is failing to address costs with average premiums rising by 25 percent for silver-level plans on the federal exchange. This means that families have to decide whether to purchase unaffordable insurance, or pay a fine. In most cases, they are literally paying more money for less control over their health care.

Health care costs in Wyoming continue to be among the highest in the nation, with other states not far behind.

Obamacare’s mandates and taxes on employer-sponsored health plans are not only leading to higher out-of-pocket expenses, but also fewer choices and services for the 150 million Americans with employer-sponsored health benefits.

According to the non-partisan Kaiser Family Foundation, individual employees who have job-based insurance have seen their out-of-pocket expenses climb by hundreds of dollars year after year. Employees working for small businesses now have deductibles of over $1,800 on average.  And since Obamacare became law, several large employers have stopped offering benefits to part-time employees altogether.

Over the past 50 years, our nation has made great strides in improving the quality of life for all Americans, but these transformative changes are almost ALWAYS forged in the spirit of bipartisan compromise and cooperation. These qualities are essential to the success and longevity of crucial programs such as Medicare and Medicaid

This is a crucial time for health care in America.  We do not have the luxury of ignoring the growing problems in the health insurance markets and the crushing premiums faced by families across our country.  The failures of Obamacare have metastasized since its passage.

We must act now to repeal Obamacare and provide relief to the millions of Americans who have been harmed by this law. Relief will require a stable transition period, which ensures those with coverage TODAY continue to have access to health care TOMORROW.

Unwinding this tangle of partisan gridlock to make meaningful changes will not be easy. Our goal is to create a health care system where Washington makes fewer decisions, and families are empowered to control their own health care with more choices and lower costs. 

So, this is where we find ourselves today. Congress and soon the new president will be in a position to begin the process of repealing Obamacare. Passing this resolution is the first step on a path to repair health care for millions of hardworking Americans, whose experiences with Obamacare have meant broken promises, higher costs and fewer choices.

We invite our Democratic colleagues to join us in this effort.