Mr. President, I don’t always agree with what I read in the New York Times, but this caught my eye and I want to share it with my colleagues.
“So much for choice. In many parts of the country, Obamacare customers will be down to one insurer when they go to sign up for coverage next year on the public exchanges.” (Aug. 19, 2016, NYT The Upshot)
Just a few years ago in 2013, President Obama was telling us:
“Just visit healthcare.gov, and there you can compare insurance plans, side by side, the same way you’d shop for a plane ticket on Kayak or a TV on Amazon. … You’ll find more choices, more competition, and in many cases, lower prices.”
Last year, Wyoming became one of the growing number of states with one insurer on the Obamacare exchange. And in the environment created by Obamacare, we have to hope that we can hold onto the one we have left.
Before Obamacare, Wyoming had many challenges in our health care system – particularly high costs and the serious access challenges that come with being a frontier state. But we at least had choice. Under Obamacare, we saw one of our two carriers shut down by costs. Like other insurers across the country, this company focused on and dominated the Wyoming Obamacare exchange in the first year, and then the economics of Obamacare took hold – Patients were more costly than expected, premium rates don’t quite cover medical expenses, and then… insolvency.
The changes to the health care system that President Obama and a completely Democratic controlled Congress hammered through were sold as a positive change. Many of us thought otherwise, and said so at the time. But we were ignored or called fear mongers. And here we are today. Today, Wyoming continues to be one of the most expensive states for health care premiums.
Do you know the one thing Obamacare has done for Wyoming? We have more competition from other states for the most expensive health insurance premiums. Misery loves company I guess. This year, there are some states with premiums increases over 50 percent for 2017.
We’ve seen our individual market damaged, and we are seeing changes in our employer sponsored insurance as well. Everyone from the biggest corporation to small, one person operations are paying more and most are getting less.
As a former small business owner, I tend to look at these issues from that perspective. In Wyoming, according to the Small Business Administration, there are 63, 289 small businesses. Those small businesses employ 132,085 people. In Wyoming, that’s almost a third of all the adults in the state. Small Businesses are the backbone of our economy.
Small business owners in Wyoming and across the country are trying to figure out how to stay afloat. And so many, even though they aren’t technically required to by Obamacare, try to offer help to their employees for health care. They do it because their employees need it, they feel like it’s their responsibility, it may be a competitive advantage. But in today’s health insurance market, they face the Obamacare combination of limited choice and seemingly limitless premium increases.
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, since 2004, the average annual family premium for covered employees in small firms increased from $9,812 to $16,625.
It’s clear to anyone paying attention that our health care system is hurting, but my Democratic colleagues and President Obama have essentially dismissed us as hypochondriacs. They tell us: it’s working well, it’s a success. Your premiums are high and you can’t afford your deductible? Nonsense, your coverage is wonderfully comprehensive so you can’t complain that your mortgage is less than your health insurance premium!
The American people are facing more costly health care than ever before. There has been a complete refusal by the Administration, and Democrats in both chambers, to entertain any real changes to Obamacare. Their roll out was a mess, their rules and regulations are crushing, and their costs are sky high. And at the end of the day, anybody can get covered but nobody can afford it. Not much of a choice.
I urge the Senate to look at this issue and acknowledge what the law is really doing. And we need to go beyond simply providing short-term relief like the President’s waivers, exceptions and delays. We need long-term, comprehensive changes that will lead us to sustained recovery.
I have been working to find a path forward that will give more flexibility to states, fewer restrictions for how employers help their employees with medical expenses, and to find practical ways to offer more choices and lower costs for getting the health care that Wyomingites and all Americans should be able to access. We need meaningful, comprehensive change in health care that will take us away from Obamacare, and in a new direction.