Comprehensive Veterans Health and Benefits and Military Retirement Pay Restoration Act of 2014—Motion to Proceed—Continuedby Senator John Barrasso
Posted on 2014-02-25
BARRASSO. Madam President, I ask unanimous consent that the order
for the quorum call be rescinded.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
Mr. BARRASSO. Madam President, I ask unanimous consent to speak for up to 15 minutes as if in morning business.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
Health Care Mr. BARRASSO. Madam President, late in the day on Friday--after reporters had gone home for the weekend--the Obama administration quietly released its new Medicare Advantage payment rates. The cuts the President wants to make to this program are potentially devastating to millions of Americans.
The next morning the New York Times' headline read: ``U.S. Proposes Cuts to Rates in Payments for Medicare.'' Politico wrote about it too. They said: The Obama Administration is proposing a major cut in 2015 payments to Medicare Advantage.
Fifteen million Americans depend on these health insurance plans the President wants to cut.
Instead of listening to seniors and investing in a program that works well, the Obama administration is doing everything conceivable to make sure Medicare Advantage fails.
Back in December the press gave President Obama the Lie of the Year Award for his statement that if you like your health care plan, you can keep it. Millions of people across America have now gotten letters saying their insurance plans are being canceled because of the Democrats' health care law. By cutting Medicare Advantage, I tell my colleagues, the Obama administration is now ensuring that even more Americans can't keep the health care plan they like.
Twenty-nine percent of all Medicare patients have chosen to enroll in Medicare Advantage. There is a reason for that. The Medicare Advantage Program lives up to its name by delivering clear advantages. The plans give extra benefits such as dental coverage, vision coverage, hearing benefits, wellness programs, and other benefits that are important to our seniors. Sometimes they offer smaller copayments, lower deductibles, and less out-of-pocket costs than the traditional Medicare Program does. Sometimes seniors even pay a higher monthly premium for these extra benefits, but often the benefits are financed through plan savings due to the programs and the way they work.
For many seniors Medicare Advantage is a good option. It is the right option for them. These are people who don't have a lot of money but who still want the peace of mind that comes with good health insurance. Those seniors are now facing much higher costs or lower benefits because of the Obama administration's decisions rolled out last Friday night. Because of this proposal and the administration's way to try to sneak it out on Friday, seniors are concerned and anxious about what the administration is also hiding.
Ever since the President and Democrats in Congress passed their health care law, they have been going after seniors who rely on Medicare. They raided a total of over $700 billion from Medicare--and we discussed that during the debate over the health care law. The money was taken from seniors on Medicare not to strengthen Medicare, not to secure the future of Medicare but to start a whole new government program for other people. There is a whole new bureaucracy, and it has been created by Washington Democrats in the health care law.
ObamaCare specifically targeted the Medicare Advantage Program, significant amounts of direct and indirect payment cuts totaling over $300 billion. That is 43 percent of the total Medicare cuts, just for this one program. So 29 percent of America's seniors rely on Medicare Advantage. Because about 29 percent of seniors on Medicare are in Medicare Advantage, they are responsible for 43 percent of the cuts.
Because of these cuts and other changes in the law, fewer private health care plans are going to be able to participate in Medicare Advantage in the future. That means a number of things. It means some people who rely on these plans are going to find out their plan is being canceled entirely. Some people in Iowa--thousands of people in Iowa--have already gotten letters canceling their Medicare Advantage plan.
The Kaiser Family Foundation looked at what the President's health care law does to seniors and they said that about a one-half million patients will lose their existing coverage--seniors on Medicare Advantage. These seniors are going to have fewer options to get the care they need from the doctor they choose at a lower cost. More of these people are going to be forced into a one-size-fits-all government plan. They are going to lose the insurance they had, insurance they liked and that worked for them.
Some people may find their new insurance network doesn't include the doctors they had before. We have seen this happening all across the country. As the major provider of Medicare Advantage had to try to make it all work, they had to eliminate many doctors from their plans, so that those doctors are not going to be able to keep their patients and those patients are not going to be able to keep their doctors, in spite of what the President told the American people when he looked into the camera and said: If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor.
A lot of these people are going to see their costs increase. The Kaiser Family Foundation says the average out-of-pocket limit for Medicare Advantage plans is going to increase by $464 this year. The President and Washington Democrats said their health care plan was going to save people money. That is what the President told the country. That is why he said he did this whole health care law. He said it was going to save people money. That is what people wanted. The President told people what they wanted to hear, but he failed to give them what he promised. That is why his credibility ratings are down. That is why people believe he misled them intentionally, and that is why this administration is viewed to be incompetent by a majority of Americans. It turns out costs continue to go up because of the law.
This new round of cuts to Medicare Advantage is just another example of how the health care law is wrecking our health care system, not fixing it. America's health care system wasn't working before, but the President and the law Democrats voted for has made it worse.
[[Page S1034]] Medicare is headed toward bankruptcy, but the Obama administration has rejected bipartisan solutions to reform and to strengthen the program. Through cuts such as the ones announced last Friday, the President's health care law takes money from Medicare and uses it to pay for something else.
There was actually a double data dump that occurred on Friday: the Medicare Advantage cuts that were announced late in the day, and then later than that the CMS--the Medicare/Medicaid services for the country--came out with their report and it reported that two-thirds of small businesses that provide health insurance for their employees would see their prices go up because of the health care law--two-thirds of small businesses. These are ones that by law don't have to provide health insurance--with employees of less than 50, they don't have to, by law, supply it, but they often do supply it. They do supply that insurance. I think about 17 million people get insurance that way, through work--businesses that are not mandated to supply the insurance, but they do it to get good workers. As a result, what they are seeing is that their rates are going up.
So that was part of the double data dump that occurred on Friday.
It was interesting to see a note that came out of the Democrats' lunch meeting today. It was just reported in Roll Call magazine. It said: ``A group of Senate Democrats is expected to launch a counteroffensive in favor of ObamaCare on Wednesday, a response to persistent attacks on the law from their Republican counterparts.'' First, I will point out the attacks on the law are coming from American citizens all around the country. It is what we hear at townhall meetings and it is what we hear as we travel around the country, people whose families are noting that they are paying more and getting less, losing their doctors and losing their insurance. But the report in Roll Call says: Democrats discussed the new endeavor touting benefits of the Affordable Care Act during Tuesday's weekly caucus lunch to a warm reception, according to Connecticut's Christopher S. Murphy, who is one of the senators leading the effort. A Senate Democrat aide said the formal rollout will come Wednesday.
I welcome the opportunity to hear what the Democrats have to say because the damage being done by this health care law to people all across the country is significant.
It is interesting because all we need to do is turn to Friday's New York Times, Robert Pear, an excellent writer for the Times, who had, I thought, a fascinating story. He took two pages of the paper: ``Public Sector Capping Part-Time Hours . . . '' Public sector capping part-time hours. Why? Right here in the headline: ``to Skirt Health Care Law.'' Let me start: ``Cities, counties, public schools and community colleges around the country''--we are not talking about businesses or fast food chains; we are talking about cities, counties, public schools and community colleges around the country--``have limited or reduced the work hours of part-time employees . . .'' Why? ``to avoid having to provide them with health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, state and local officials say. The cuts to public sector employment, which has failed to rebound since the recession''--it says right here-- ``could serve as a powerful political weapon for Republican critics of the health care law, who claim it is creating a drain on the economy.'' It is creating a drain on the economy. We have two folks in the picture in Medina, OH, working on a trash truck. One of the gentlemen talks about his hours being limited to 29 hours. He called it ``a hit to his wallet.'' The President is fighting to talk about raising the minimum wage, when people are actually losing take-home pay. It is impacting their wages, the health care law is. It is impacting how much money they take home at the end of the week.
The next page talks about somebody who works as a clerk in the parks department saw her hours drop from 38 a week to 35 and then to 29. Why? Because of the health care law and the 30-hour limit.
It is interesting to go through the list of the different jobs of people who are losing hours, who want to work. These are hard-working Americans who are having their hours cut--public sector workers, people who work for cities, counties, public schools, community colleges. The list goes on: police dispatchers, prison guards, substitute teachers, bus drivers, athletic coaches, school custodians, cafeteria workers, and part-time professors; office clerks, sanitation workers, park inspectors--all in all, people who are being hurt because of the President's health care law and the mandates and the way it is put together by this President and the Democrats who voted for it.
It is interesting to see the Senator from Connecticut mentioned here as leading the effort, and I would recommend to him this article by Robert Pear in Friday's New York Times, who goes specifically to the core of what is happening in Connecticut, in that Senator's home State. It says: Mark Benigni, the superintendent of schools in Meriden, CT--a public school, public sector--and a board member of the American Association of School Administrators said in an interview that the new health care law is having ``unintended consequences for school systems across the Nation.'' This health care law is full of unintended consequences. Now we have someone who is a board member for the American Association of School Administrators saying that the health care law is having unintended consequences for school systems across the Nation. He specifically says, in Connecticut, as in many States--this is the article now: In Connecticut, as in many States, significant numbers of part-time school employees work more than 30 hours a week and do not receive health benefits.
Quoting the superintendent in schools in Meriden, CT: Are we supposed to lay off full-time teachers? Are we supposed to lay off full-time teachers so that we can provide insurance coverage to part-time employees? The superintendent goes on to say: If I had to cut five reading teachers to pay for health benefits for substitute teachers, I am not sure that would be best for our students.
So I would ask the President of the United States: What do you want? These are the choices that because of your health care law, crammed down the throats of the American people, you are asking the public sector of our country to make. Get rid of five reading teachers in Meriden, CT, to pay for expensive health insurance policies for substitute teachers. That superintendent is trying to say, I am not sure that what the law requires would be best for our students.
I think this law was not well-thought-out, was not well planned. So I will be interested tomorrow to see Senate Democrats come to the floor with their ObamaCare PR counteroffensive and explain to the American people why they are being faced with a disastrous Web site rollout 4 days after the President told the American people it will be easier to use than Amazon and cheaper than your cell phone bill and you can keep your doctor if you like your doctor. Let them explain why 5 million people then got letters from insurance companies saying their insurance policies have been canceled; why the Web site failure is just the tip of the iceberg that the American people are seeing right now in terms of premiums going up, canceled policies, can't keep their doctor, higher out-of-pocket costs, higher copays, higher deductibles, all in spite of the President's glowing promises which, in my opinion, were made to deceive the American people in an effort to pass a health care law which many people see as bad for patients, bad for providers, and bad for the taxpayers.
I will continue to come to the floor and talk about what I hear as I go home to Wyoming each week in terms of a health care law which is not providing the patients what they asked for, what they need, and what they were promised.
Thank you. I yield the floor.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Illinois.