Affordable Care Actby Senator Johnny Isakson
Posted on 2014-01-09
ISAKSON. Mr. President, before I make my remarks, I commend the
Senator from South Dakota and underscore what the Senator said
regarding the SKILLS Act passed by the House of Representatives.
I am the ranking member of the labor subcommittee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. Six years ago the Workforce Investment Act expired in its authorization, and for 6 years it has languished in the bowels and in the heart of the Senate and the House of Representatives, going unauthorized.
During that same 6-year period of time between 2008 and today, America has experienced terrible unemployment, terrible job loss, terrible increases in unemployment, and extensions of that unemployment.
The Senator from South Dakota is exactly correct: If we were doing our job and reauthorizing programs in the law today--such as the Workforce Investment Act--and training people for the skills of the 21st century and the jobs of the 21st century, we wouldn't be talking about unemployment compensation, we wouldn't be talking about the great tragedies of America. We would be talking about America's greatest prosperity. So I commend the Senator from South Dakota for pointing out what is critically important for us to recognize as Members of the U.S. Congress.
I come to the floor, though, to talk about the Affordable Care Act, I will tell a couple real-life stories which came to me by email. But before I do, my job is to do what the people of Georgia want me to do. I have office hours when I am home. I answer my own phone calls. I try to respond to the concerns they have. I try to see that people get referred to the right place.
Since January 1, I have dealt with almost nothing but the Affordable Care Act--or ObamaCare--and the consequences of that act, and what effect it is having on the American people and the people of Georgia-- and, in particular, on the two great promises used on the floor of this Senate to sell that legislation to the American people: One, if you like your policy, you can keep it; and, if you like your doctor, you can keep him or her. Both were clear, unequivocal promises.
I will tell two stories today that came to my attention which illustrate how it was not true. And these are just two of many stories. The first is from Jane.
Congressman, This is not my story but my friend's story, Steve. . . . He has suffered with multiple myeloma for more than 10 years. This is a disease that usually kills within 5 years of being diagnosed. But with the excellent health care he has been able to receive through his health care program he has had access to the Mayo Clinic and a myriad of drugs. Now he has been told that his plan will be cancelled since the plan does not meet the minimum standards set forth in the ACA.
Now he can no longer continue his treatments because the various plans have deemed the drugs he needs to stay alive as experimental. WOW! Really that is just awful and not enough is being said about this government take over of our lives is affecting those that are critically ill.
And what about the promise made that if we liked our plan we can keep it? Steve doesn't have a plan, but he still has multiple myeloma.
This story comes about the promise that: If you like your doctor, you can keep them. This is from Felicia in Alpharetta, GA, a story I hear more and more as I travel my State: My husband and I are both currently paying individual health care policies as he currently has a small business and I used to own one. He is on a Kaiser HMO and I am on a PPO with Blue Cross Blue Shield. We have [[Page S193]] both received numerous letters with conflicting information regarding changes to our current policies. We are reasonably intelligent people and yet we cannot figure out what is actually happening with our health care nor do we believe the government has any clue what is happening with this new legislation. Also, in comparing an equivalent Obama care policy to my current policy, I have only 10% of the doctors available in network to what I currently have and of course, my doctors are not in network. Please STOP and REPEAL this ridiculous legislation. I DO NOT SEE ANY EVIDENCE that the government can improve our current health care, only EVIDENCE that it has caused much confusion, created wasted time, wasted money, and driven Americans crazy! These are two emails sent to me out of many more I could be reading. But it is important for us to understand the impact the Affordable Care Act is having on the American people and the people of my State. In fact, I will share my personal experience from just over the Christmas holidays.
In December, I enrolled through the DC health care plan to buy my health care because all of Congress was moved into the DC health exchange to comply with the ObamaCare legislation. I worked hard to try and match the same care I had before under plan 105 Blue Cross/Blue Shield under the government health care. I couldn't find exactly a good enough match of PPO, but I came close--close in everything except premium. The premium went up 20 percent. And I think most of the American people--certainly people of my age--are realizing the same type of experience where premiums are going up and up.
I would suspect the reason for the Executive order to extend next year's open enrollment date beyond the election is in part because the administration suspects what I suspect; that is, the realities of less enrollment than thought, and fewer young people going into coverage than thought is going to mean higher premiums, less access, and less affordability.
But let me share another story which is really poignant. Fortunately, I was able to help, but when I found out, it broke my heart. It is a story about my grandson Jack and his speech therapist.
Jack is a great kid, a highly intelligent kid, but had some speech problems and so had a special speech therapist named Dr. Tim. Over the Christmas holidays I got to meet Dr. Tim, and we were talking about his job, what he does as a speech therapist, and about Jack and all of his improvements.
Dr. Tim turned to me and said: I don't want to burden you with my personal problems, but my youngest daughter has cystic fibrosis and has had it into her teenage years; and I have had health care coverage up until a week ago, when I was notified my health coverage would no longer pay for the drugs it takes to keep her alive.
For anybody in this Senate or in America who understands cystic fibrosis, it is a terrible debilitating disease of the lungs and people never used to live to the age of 21. But because of medicine, health care, and breakthroughs in pharmaceutical therapy, people live past the age of 21. In fact, we have a Georgian who lived into his 50s before he passed from cystic fibrosis. But they cannot live if they don't have the pharmaceutical therapy. And there are no substitutes and there are no replacements.
This doctor lost his health care reimbursement for pharmaceuticals for cystic fibrosis in part because of the judgments and the applicability of the Affordable Care Act. To his credit and to the credit of the health care system and the insurance industry, he was able to in part replace it but not nearly as close to what he had on the policy before.
These are just a few stories about Americans who are experiencing terrible problems because of the change in our health care system.
The promises we made are not being kept. The promises that were made to sell the Affordable Care Act to the American people and to the Congress of the United States are not being kept. It is important for us to understand that cannot stand. And if what happens next year happens as I think it will, costs will skyrocket again for the American people, access and affordability will go away or will not be nearly as good as it is, and we will have taken a health care system which was the envy of the world and turned it into a health care system that is the biggest problem in the world.
I want things to work. I want to help the American people. I want them to have access to affordable health care. I want them to have access to their doctors and to be able to keep their policy. We need to work toward that as we go through the tragedies of the implementation in 2014 of the Health Care Act--ObamaCare--which today is America's No. 1 personal problem for the average American citizen.
I am grateful for the time, and I yield back the remainder of my time.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Indiana.