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Roy B.
Republican MO

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  • Emergency Unemployment Compensation Extension Act—Motion to Proceed

    by Senator Roy Blunt

    Posted on 2014-01-08

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    Read More about Emergency Unemployment Compensation Extension Act--Motion to Proceed

    BLUNT. Madam President, first of all, on the bill before us, we should be sure to continue to remember, if you are an employee and do lose your job today or tomorrow or in coming weeks, in every State you immediately qualify for 6 months of unemployment. In States that have high unemployment you immediately qualify for an additional 13 to 20 weeks.

    There are really two different debates going on here today. One is, is this really a long-term plan or a long-term policy? I suggest if this Congress and the administration spent the kind of effort and time on what it takes to create private sector jobs or encourage the environment where that happens, we would be spending our time much more wisely than we are as we continue to perpetuate a program that the majority would suggest should not even be paid for and many would suggest is just not a program at all.

    Other things that are affecting our economy is why I came to the floor today. There are a number of things, from constantly talking about more taxes to higher utility bills to more regulation to, obviously, this overwhelming discussion about health care. I noticed the majority leader this weekend said that roughly a third of all the people who have been added to the insured roles because of the Affordable Care Act were because of a bill I introduced in 2009 that would allow dependents or children to stay on their family policies longer. I was the only one who introduced that bill in the House. I don't think it was introduced in the Senate. I thought it was a good idea then. I think it is a good idea now. Apparently, it is such a good idea that a third of all the people who have insurance that did not have insurance before are just because of that bill.

    I have the bill before me. It was H. Res. 3887. It is 3\1/2\ pages that could have passed by itself--not 2,700 pages, 3\1/2\ pages that would have added a third of all of the people the majority of the Senate said had been added because of the Affordable Care Act. No taxpayer money involved; 3\1/2\ pages that would not have disrupted anybody else's insurance.

    There were other solutions out there that would have made a lot more sense. I am tired of hearing from the administration that nobody else had any other ideas. Apparently my idea was one-third of all the people who have been added to insurance, according to the majority leader. Apparently, I had a third of all of the ideas, and they were in 3\1/2\ pages with no taxpayer cost.

    [[Page S93]] Just as I suspect is the case with every Senator, I am getting letters, postings on our Facebook page, contacts through all of the social media every day, from Missourians who are seeing this is not working out like they thought it was going to work out. At Ozark Technical Community College in Springfield, MO, my hometown, the adjunct faculty there, as is the case in many community colleges, has taught an awful lot of the courses. I think 58 percent of the courses taught are taught not by full-time faculty members but by part-time members. The problem is those faculty members are now more part-time than they were before. Many of them were teaching 30 credit hours per year prior to this year. But largely because of the Affordable Care Act, they are now teaching 24 credit hours. They lost that percentage of their work, that percentage of their pay, that percentage of their ability to work with and be dedicated to students.

    According to the Springfield newspaper, the Affordable Care Act is one of the reasons that for those faculty members, 58 percent of all the credit hours taught are taught by people many of whom were teaching 30 credit hours and are now are teaching 24 credit hours. There is only one reason that they are working 24 hours a week instead of 30, and that is because 30 is the point where benefits, according to the Affordable Care Act, have to be offered at a level that is defined by the Affordable Care Act, not defined by the community college.

    In fact, some community college in America, I am sure, gave some benefits before for people who were part of the adjunct faculty, just not the benefits the Federal Government appears to think are absolutely necessary.

    Let me go through a few emails from people who reached out to our office in recent days.

    Jeffrey, from Blue Springs, MO, is a small business owner who offers health care benefits to his employees. Jeffrey said: It feels like a bait and switch. Get everyone to drop the coverage they liked, then stick it to them once company provided healthcare is no longer available.

    When I was home--as I was for much of the break we just had--I asked people: What are you doing with your health care? Employer after employer who doesn't have 50 employees and is not impacted by this is saying: I think the government is about to take this over, and before they get in, I am getting out.

    The 12 people at the dentist's office and the 36 people at the radio station either lost their health care January 1 or already know they are going to lose it next January 1, and the only reason is the so- called Affordable Care Act.

    Marsha, out of Auxvasse, MO, has three children who are all under the age of 5. Her husband's employer has been informed that because of ObamaCare, they will have to absorb more than $1 million in order to keep providing insurance for their employees. The employer is still trying to do that, but the coverage is not what it was, the deductible is higher than it was, and one of the messages is ``We may not be able to do this much longer.'' Sabra and her husband, from Purdy, MO, were notified that they will lose health care--and did lose their health care--on December 31 because of the health care act. She said: We live on less than $14,000. Now we are at a point where we have to make a choice, food or medication, both of which I can no longer afford. So I choose to go without the much needed medication.

    Theresa's husband--they are from Joplin, MO--lost his coverage on December 31. When she tried to sign up for health coverage at healthcare.gov, she was told they were ineligible because they were incarcerated. It turns out neither of them has ever been arrested or incarcerated at all, but they were ineligible because they were incarcerated.

    I guess the greater point there is that he lost his health care. She would not have been on healthcare.gov and found out--much to her surprise--that the government believes she is incarcerated if her husband hadn't lost his health care at work.

    Melanie, from St. Charles, MO, is a single mother of three. Her employers cut her hours because of ObamaCare. She is no longer able to work more than 28 hours a week and had to find two additional part-time jobs to make up for the job she lost.

    Here is what she said: I feel like the government is working against me, and I am the person they say they are trying to help.

    Jean, from St. Louis, said her insurance was canceled because of the President's health care plan. The most similar plan she could find in the exchange to the one she had before cost $775 per month, which is more than double what she was paying before the Affordable Care Act.

    She said: Why did we break a healthcare system that allowed people to find what they needed, instead of just government making improvements to it? Jefferson City Schools, which is in the same city as our State capital, said the health care plan will cost their school district $150,000. They have to pay for health insurance for substitute teachers, which they didn't pay for in the past. There are people who are listening to this who will think: That is fine; they are paying for substitute teachers. Many of those substitute teachers are no longer allowed to work 30 hours a week in school districts all over America, and then there are others in districts, such as this one, where it costs $150,000 more than it did.

    The district officials in the article I read didn't go as far as to say the Federal Government is hurting more than it is helping, but they did point out that $150,000 is about three full-time teachers whom they won't hire whom they might have been able to hire otherwise.

    Barbara, from Novinger, MO, said: For the first time in 50 years, my husband and I do not have health care. My hours have been reduced from 40 to 28 hours a week and they pulled out our insurance at work.

    Interestingly, employers who provided insurance for years because they thought it was the right thing to do and the competitive thing to do are now taking a different view of this when the government begins to tell them what they have to do.

    I think it is one of the most interesting applications of the health care law. When the government begins to tell you what you have to do, then suddenly it is OK not to do anything except what you have to do. How do you meet that criteria? How do you draw that line? You have people work less than 30 hours, you don't create new jobs, or you outsource your work.

    Let me give three or four more examples as I finish with my time on the floor.

    Sandra, from Springfield, is upset that her health care plan will require them to have pediatric dentistry and maternity care.

    She said: I'm upset that my health care plan will require my husband and I to have pediatric dentistry and maternity care that we do not need to have.

    I don't know how many letters like that all of us have received. The benefits are supposed to be better than the insurance they had, but for a whole lot of people, it turns out these are benefits they simply don't need. Suddenly, they are paying for benefits they don't need, and people who don't have insurance can have insurance once they get sick. How is that supposed to make any kind of economic sense or health care sense? Mark, from Chesterfield, MO, said that his plan was canceled because his plan--back to my point, I suppose--didn't meet the requirements of the President's health care plan.

    Here is what he said: My current plan will no longer be offered after December of 2014. This is a direct contradiction to President Obama's promise that I could keep my plan.

    Some people lost their insurance on December 31 of last year. Other people have already been told they are going to lose their insurance December 31 of next year.

    This letter is from somebody who works at the Ozarks Medical Center and lives in West Plains.

    We are a sole community provider, with the closest hospital providing the same level of care or above over 100 miles away. The loss of this healthcare system will devastate the economics of this community and surrounding communities.

    What we are going to find is a system that is not designed to meet the needs of the people of the country. What we could have done is we could have given [[Page S94]] them more choices to figure out what they need to meet their needs instead of coming up with a system that simply is going to leave so many people who had insurance 2 years ago without insurance 2 years from now. Surely that wasn't the goal, but people in this Chamber and Washington, DC, had better wake up and figure this out. Whether that was the goal or not, it is going to be the result if we don't do something about it.

    The best thing to do is to start over--now that we have learned all we have learned over the last 4 years--and make changes to the best health care system in the world that will make it even better and work for more people.

    I yield the floor.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Republican whip.

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