Executive Sessionby Senator Ron Johnson
Posted on 2013-12-11
JOHNSON of Wisconsin. Mr. President, I rise to address the
nomination of Cornelia Pillard to the DC Circuit. This nomination is a
good example of the government overreach that has led to the ObamaCare
[[Page S8653]] The good Senator from Rhode Island was talking about how much we spend on health care in this Nation. The very unfortunate fact is the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act does not address that cost.
Let's face it. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is about as Orwellian a name as you could possibly come up with for a piece of legislation. We are watching millions of Americans lose their health care coverage. Those patients are not being protected by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. We certainly are not watching the cost of health care decline.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act did not bend the cost curve down. It has dramatically increased or bent the cost curve up. Of course, anybody who even has the slightest knowledge of basic economics realizes that if you mandate expensive coverages on any insurance policy, the price is not going to go down, the price is going to go up. We are witnessing that.
We are certainly witnessing that in my home State of Wisconsin, where a young man aged 27, on average, is seeing his premium increase by 124 percent, going from a little over $1,100 per year, to closer to $2,500 per year. A young woman of that same age, 27, is seeing her premium increase by 78 percent, going from about $1,400 per year to about $2,500 per year. That is not bending the cost curve down.
That is not even talking about the added or the increased cost of their deductibles, the increases in their maximum out-of-pocket amounts they are going to be spending every year. So again the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act does nothing that it promises. It is a disaster for our health care system. It is a disaster for our Federal budget. It is a disaster for people and their health and their lives.
I am on the floor of the Senate tonight, normally not down here at this time. Normally, I would be sitting at home doing a little bit of homework. So I guess what I would like to do is spend a few minutes doing what I would be doing at home, reading letters from constituents from Wisconsin.
When I introduced my piece of legislation, trying to protect as many Americans as possible from the damage of the health care law, trying to honor the promise President Obama and Members of this Chamber made repeatedly to the American public that if you liked your health care plan, you could keep it, I told a story about a couple in Wisconsin who contacted our office. Initially, this couple wanted to be identified. They wanted their story told. By the time I had gotten ahold of them on the phone, to make sure they were actually getting some help in securing some health care, the husband had second thoughts. He watched his government. He watched the Internal Revenue Service being used as a political weapon. So he feared for his privacy. He feared for his economic security. So he asked me: Please do not use my name. Tell my story, just don't use my name.
That is a pretty sad fact. That is something we need to ponder. It is something we need to address. But that couple, their story is pretty simple and pretty sad. His wife was suffering from stage IV lung cancer. He was recovering from prostate cancer. They were participating in the high-risk pool in the State of Wisconsin, a risk-sharing pool that worked.
It was expensive for them, but it was something they could afford. I knew it worked because in my 31 years of business, as I provided health care for the people who worked with me, every now and again, unfortunately, one of the people who worked for me would have a serious health condition. When we would go to renew our policy, frequently those individuals, if the condition was bad enough, would be lasered out. They would lose coverage under our plan. But that was OK because the State of Wisconsin, very responsibly, made a provision for those individuals, the high-risk sharing pool.
So what would end up happening is because they were denied coverage, they automatically qualified for the high-risk pool. I, of course, would pay for that coverage in the same way we would pay for coverage through our own health plan. What I found over the years, because this happened a number of times, is the coverage was very comparable. It was not a Cadillac plan but solid insurance coverage. So similar coverage and very comparable price.
It was a plan that worked. It was a plan that covered those individuals with high risks. It was a plan that covered 22,000 Wisconsinites until this body, this Congress, passed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which I describe here as neither of those two things.
As a result of the passage of that bill, those high-risk pools are now obsolete. So this couple got the letter saying they would lose coverage as of January 1. Put yourself in the position of people suffering from cancer or recovering from it. You have a lot of worries in life. You do not need the additional worry of losing your health care plan. But that is what this couple faced, as millions of Americans are facing the exact same worry, the exact same harm, the exact same damage. It is unconscionable.
They obviously went onto healthcare.gov, almost 40 times when I talked to them. They were never able to successfully log onto it at that point in time. So we helped this couple get in touch with the insurance carriers that would be operating within the exchange. They started getting quotes. They quickly learned their premiums were going to double. Their out-of-pocket maximums were also going to come close to doubling as well. So the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act did not protect these two individuals, and it certainly did not offer them affordable care.
As I went through letters from our constituents, we did make a few phone calls, knowing I was going to come down here, and asked if anybody would want to be identified. A few brave souls agreed to be identified. I will read their names as I read their letters. The first Wisconsinite, Michael Wagner, writes: I am self-employed and have a family of four. The President said we could keep our plan if we liked it and our doctors. Not true. We are being pushed off our plan for the exchange. He said the average family of four would save an average of $2,500. Not true. I think he just makes numbers up. My equivalent policy on the exchange will cost $7,500 more per year. That is almost a 100 percent increase.
He said we can keep our doctors. Not true. Our current company and PPO network is not offered on the exchange. The list goes on and on. The bottom line is that this needs to be stopped. If it is not, the American people will stand up and the landscape of Senators will be unrecognizable after the next midterm election. Thank you for your time, and I hope you have the gall to stand up for your constituents.
Mr. Wagner, I definitely have the gall to stand up for my constituents. The reason I ran for the Senate was not because I wanted to be a Senator. The primary reason I ran for the Senate was to be the vote to repeal this monstrosity, to be the vote to protect Americans from the damage I full well knew this law would inflict on millions of our fellow citizens.
The next constituent who wrote to me, Darren Schauf, wrote: We are a small manufacturer in Sparta, Wisconsin, who has been in operation since the mid 1960s. We currently employ 24 people and are a family-owned business, fabricating large fiberglass statues and water slides that are shipped all over the U.S. and Canada. We have been providing our employees health insurance for 15 years, paying for 100 percent of the premium.
Pretty responsible employer. Those are the types of businesspeople I know. Those are the types of businesspeople who are very concerned about the people who work with them. Those are the types of businesspeople who this President demonizes in his class warfare. Let me go on: We have experienced the increases in health care cost over the years and weathered them fine. I received our renewal this week for next year. Because of the Affordable Care Act, our premium went from $3,887.77 per month to $7,103 per month. How does this happen? What definition of ``affordable'' is being used to describe this effect? We will not be able to pay 100 percent of our employee's premium at this rate. How can we get a plan that is at least close to the cost that we were paying last year? Mr. Schauf, I know how you can get a plan close to what you were buying last year. If this body would take up my bill, If You Like Your Health Plan, You Can Keep It Act, that is a true grandfather clause that actually would honor that promise for millions of Americans. We cannot save the policies that have already been lost. We cannot repair all the damage already done by this health care law. But we can still help millions of Americans if we act, if we are responsible, if we care.
[[Page S8654]] The next two constituents to write me are Brad and Dawn Nielsen. They write: My wife and I just received a notice that our monthly health care insurance cost will increase by 184 percent, increase by $1,330 per month starting in January 2015, and you need to understand how cheated we feel with this and what you have done.
I am assuming he is referring to President Obama and Democratic Senators and Democratic Members of the House who voted for this monstrosity. Again, I ran to be the vote to repeal this law.
We are both retired and have been paying our health care insurance for the past 3 years. We have what would be considered a good policy that falls in line with what would be considered a gold package as it relates to the ACA guidelines. We will be able to keep this policy with our insurance carrier through 2014 with a 7\1/2\ percent increase in the monthly premium that is to cover the new-- He puts in quotes-- ``the Affordable Care Act'' cost. Although we were not happy about the increase, we were told by our carrier that the monthly premiums will increase to $2,054.51 per month starting January 2015. This is not right. You as our representative need to understand what you have allowed to happen to us as well as others.
Again, Mr. and Mrs. Nielsen, I wish--I wish we would have prevented this.
I wish the Members of this body would hear your plea and do something to protect you, as the bill claims to do, to repair the damage.
We have worked hard, made sacrifices to be able to retire, saved through our company's retirement plan, invested when we could and even put both our kids through college. Now to be forced to pay an outrageous amount for something we have had for the last 3 years isn't right. This increase is a game changer for us and will dramatically affect our standard of living moving forward.
It is important that you understand what is happening and the need to change this unfair law.
I hope the President, I hope Members are listening.
The next constituent, Jeff Cubinski, writes: I am sending you this email about the 2014 ACA. I just received my letter from Humana stating my insurance is going to increase nearly 300% from $550/month to $1559/month. I cannot afford this--how is this Affordable Care? I have carried insurance all my life being self-employed--what is this plan trying to put the self-employed out of business???? I want to keep my plan the way it is--why are we being forced to change to a plan that has benefits we DON'T need?? Please help us citizens that have been carrying health care. Please make Government for the people by the people again! I wish to quickly answer that question. Why is this individual being forced to change to a plan that has benefits that he doesn't need? It is because there are people in Washington, in this alternate universe, who believe they are so smart, so clever, they know what is best for every American. They are so compassionate. They are trying to help.
They are not helping much. This law is not helping much. It is doing real harm.
President Obama and Senate, Members of the House, please listen to these constituent letters. Have a change of heart. Work with us to limit the damage before it gets greater.
Those were the individuals we contacted who were willing to be identified. The rest of the individuals were either not contacted in time or decided, as the couple, that they had seen their government be used as a weapon against other citizens and decided to remain anonymous.
The next Wisconsinite writes: I am writing you to inform you that as of January 1st 2014 my family of six and I will no longer have health care. This will be the first time in my life or the life of my children that we will be in this position. The reason for this is the Affordable Health Care Act, laughable name. On that day my premiums through work will go from $250/month to well over $1000/month. In looking through the Market place, my family's premium would also be well in excess of $1000/month.
We are a typical middle class family, my wife and I both work full time, our combined income is in the $75,000 range. We are home owners with a mortgage, we drive 8 to 9 year old cars, our children go to public schools, we do not live an extravagant life style.
I have been struggling to figure what to cut to be able to afford this new health care system the government stuck us in. No matter what we cut it will not add up to $1000. The other option is to put our house on the market and try to find something else outside of Madison. That is not what we want to do. Our kids are in high school, one with special needs and we feel that would be unfair to them.
So do I.
Continuing: Mr Johnson please explain to me how on earth is this affordable and fair.
I can't. It is not affordable; it is not fair; it is utterly unfair. It is utterly unnecessary, but it is a fact. It is one I hope everyone who supported this bill can live with. I hope it is a fact that everyone who voted in support for this bill thinks about and is held fully accountable.
Continuing: I find this Affordable Care Act to be divisive, unfair and an unjust tax on the middle class.
I will not vote for anyone that supported this Act or continues to support this Act given the effect that it is having on my family. Sir, I am begging for your help. Please find a way to help my family and the rest of the Americans like us.
Did we hear that, an American citizen begging for help from the harm that the Affordable Care Act, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, inflicted on his family. He is begging this Congress, this chamber, this President, for help. Please hear him.
Another constituent writes: I'm feeling very upset and stressed over the new health care laws. I feel they are unfair and hurting working families. Our household income has shrunk and our health care cost is going up over $300 a month. According to healthcare.gov if insurance costs more than 9.5% of gross income it is considered unaffordable. When a single person applies only his/her income is taken into consideration. When a family applies total household income is used to figure out affordability of single-only coverage. Single only coverage for myself is about 8% of our family income; single only coverage for my husband is about the same. That means 16% of our income would be used for insurance (throughout employers) just for us. 16% of our income would be gone and our 4 children would be uninsured. Family coverage costs 12% of our family income still higher than 9.5%. Where is our tax credit? We don't qualify for tax credits because we have ``affordable insurance through our employers.'' If total household income is used why isn't family coverage affordability taken into consideration. Last year my family made about $55,000 (174% of the poverty level.) Next year we will make less due to reduced hours. Money is already tight, this new law will make things very uncomfortable for my family. I am turning to my representatives for help. Please help families in the same situation to the best of your ability; we need your help! This law is hurting us; be our voice.
Another Wisconsinite writes: I just called Physician's Plus to find out about the status of our Health Insurance policy. Our policy will not be renewed due to the Affordable Care Act.
It seems these constituents decided to drop the patient protection because he obviously wasn't feeling particularly protected.
Continuing: My husband and I are freelancers in the video production field. My husband works so hard to support and take care of me and our two children. We are not rich, by any means, just taking care of business. We have paid 100% of our premiums for 15 years. We have bought coverage that makes sense for our family at different times. Currently, we pay $513.60/ month with a $3000 deductible. When I called Physician's Plus yesterday, the person there said that my plan cannot be renewed. He said the new premium for a comparable plan will be $1743.00!!! Again, that compares to $513 and it will be $1,743.
Continuing: We cannot afford this in any way. I guess we are the collateral damage? I have tried to get on the ACA to find out our options. I refuse to give them personal information so I can only go by the Kaiser Foundation estimate. There is only one plan that will keep our Pediatrician and it looks like we will be looking at a $12,000 deductible with close to a $1000/month premium. We are on the high end, so get a very minimal subsidy. We do not want to get any help from the government, we want to be independent, but the government is forcing their hand on us! Again, we live in the land of the free, the home of the brave, and yet these brave Wisconsinites are being forced. They are being coerced. This is the antithesis of freedom of choice.
Continuing: Please understand we want people to have health care, but why are they destroying us in the process? I am in the process of scrambling to find a job that provides insurance. I was offered a Educational Assistant job that has been changed to 29 hours, no health insurance.
I wonder what caused that change in employment.
Continuing: Most opportunities I am finding have recently dropped insurance coverage has a benefit.
We are scared about the future.
[[Page S8655]] This is what the Affordable Care Act has done. That is what the patient protection and Affordable Care Act has done to Americans, to Wisconsinites. It has made them fearful. They are afraid, they are scared for their futures. Good job, Congress. Good job, President Obama. My, aren't we a compassionate lot. Didn't we do a fine job. Aren't we smart.
The next Wisconsinite writes: I'm extremely unhappy with the so called ``Affordable Care Act.'' Unfortunately, for my middle class family, the new law is creating un-affordable health insurance. I am a 35 year old project management consultant and my wife and I have 2 children. We currently purchase health insurance on the individual market and are very happy with our coverage. We currently pay $352 per month to cover our family of 4. The plan offers a copay of $35 when going to the doctor, and has a $7,500 deductible for our family.
I have begun researching what our health insurance premiums will cost going forward under ObamaCare and I am outraged with what I've found. The cheapest policy I can find is $761.71-- Let me refer back to the fact that they are paying $352, so that is more than a 100-percent increase.
Continuing: --$761.71 per month for a Bronze plan and a $12,600 deductible! Again, that compares to the $7,500 deductible under the plan that they are ``happy with.'' This is 116 percent more than what we currently pay, with a higher deductible. If I look at a comparable plan to what we have now, the new cost will be around $900 per month, which is a 156 percent increase. Also, our income is slightly above the threshold to get any subsidies.
The new regulations in ObamaCare will not benefit our family, but they will more than double our cost. We need to repeal this terrible law and replace it with simple, market based incentives. Health insurance should be more like car insurance. You don't submit a claim to get your oil changed in your car. Same goes for health care. We should pay out of pocket for routine health care using a transparent price structure that allows consumers to shop for the care they want. Then have a cheap insurance policy for major illness coverage. Republicans need to communicate this alternative, and make it simple for people to understand.
I could not agree with this individual more. He continues: I realize repeal and replace is not possible until after the 2016 elections, but I appreciate and support wholeheartedly your new ``If You Like Your Health Plan, You Can Keep It Act.'' For the millions of people out there like me, we should be able to keep our current plan indefinitely. Hold the President to his promise and pass this law to grandfather in all existing policies.
Let me just stop a minute and talk a little about the bill I did introduce--If You Like Your Health Plan, You Can Keep It Act. It is a pretty simple act. I encourage my colleagues to cosponsor it and pass it as soon as possible. I wrote it a certain way. I wrote it using the exact same grandfather language that was in ObamaCare. The problem with the grandfather language within the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is that, yes, it grandfathered plans, as long as you totally changed them. We took the grandfather language and we just pulled out the you just have to totally change your plan. We made it a true grandfather provision: the same language, the true intent, the honest intent.
So I urge my Democratic colleagues to support that bill. Again, let me emphasize we cannot at this late hour, unfortunately, salvage most of these plans that have already been lost to the individuals whose emails I am reading from tonight. But there are millions of Americans who will lose their coverage in the future.
Let me tell you how it is going to happen. I bought health care for the people who worked for me for 31 years in my business. I always was going to do that. There was no way I was ever going to subject the people who worked with me to the financial ruin of not having a health care plan.
That being said, as the previous writer was saying, I didn't pay for their auto insurance, I didn't pay for their homeowners or property insurance. I always kind of wondered: Why am I having to make these very personal decisions for the people who work with me? Why am I having to decide on their levels of deductible and having to decide is it a PPO or an HMO? I know the reason why. It was government interference in the marketplace back in the 1940s, with wage price controls.
Unions very naturally said: You can't raise our wages, give us some other benefit tax free, and that began the destruction of our health care system in terms of patient involvement, in terms of a competitive marketplace. Back then, 68 cents of every health care dollar was actually paid by the patient. There was free-market competition to ensure cost restraint, to ensure high-quality and high levels of customer service. That is what the free market does. Today, only 12 cents of every $1 is paid by the patient.
But getting back to the millions who are going to be losing their employer-sponsored care, most employers care deeply about the people who work with them. They also would not expose the people who work with them to financial risk. But under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the decision is totally different now. Now an employer is going to be facing double-digit premium increases when these plans they were able to quickly renew before January 1 come due in 2014.
If the exchanges, as they should have been from day one, start operating properly, employers are going to be faced with a decision: Should I pay $15,000 per family for family coverage? By the way, that is up $2,500 per year, not down $2,500 per year as President Obama promised us. Do I pay $15,000 per family coverage and try to comply with the 20,000-plus pages of law and rules and regulation or do I pay the $2,000 or $3,000 fine, and I am not putting my employees at financial risk? I am potentially making them eligible for subsidies in the exchange.
That is the decision employers are going to be facing. Here is the kicker. Even those who are saying: I am not going to do that; I am going to keep providing that coverage, just wait until the first competitor drops coverage and pays the $2,000 fine rather than a $15,000 fine. Marketplace competition is brutal. It is not fun. It is why businesses that succeed should be celebrated, not demonized. But that is a decision to be made by millions of employers. As a result, tens of millions of additional Americans will lose the health care coverage they get through their employers using pretax dollars and get forced into the exchanges.
Maybe some will get subsidies paid for by the American taxpayer-- actually, paid for by a debt burden placed on the backs of our children and grandchildren because we can't afford the Affordable Care Act. That is what is going to happen. That is what this Chamber, this Congress, this President needs to consider.
That is why I am asking my colleagues in the Senate to join with me to pass the If You Like Your Health Plan, You Can Keep It Act--so we can protect millions of Americans, so we can honor that promise that was made repeatedly by this President and Members of this Chamber who voted for and supported this bill. Accept responsibility, be held accountable, act responsibly, and join me in that effort to protect Americans.
Another Wisconsinite writes: Please allow me to introduce myself and my family. We are an average, middle class Wisconsin family that is having a really bad year. My husband was diagnosed with cancer in May, I lost my job and our family health insurance in June. Because of preexisting conditions, our only insurance option was the high insurance risk sharing pool.
Again, that is the plan in Wisconsin I certainly found worked for real Americans. It worked. It will now be obsolete because of the health care law.
This individual continues: For our family of three (myself, husband and college student daughter) our monthly premiums are $783 per month, with a $7,500 individual deductible. With the high insurance risk sharing pool ending December 31, 2013, I am searching for insurance, as I have yet to find employment. I have tried over 20 times to get on the affordable health care Web site with no luck. I have been able to set up a log in and user name, and have entered some information, which is never saved when I have to log out due to a ``please wait'' message that never goes away. I am working with an insurance agent to secure quotes outside of the government Web site, as I am sure we are way too middle class to be afforded any type of subsidy. Although I am unable to determine this through the defective Web site. Our cheapest quote is $1,580 per month-- Again, that compares to $783 per month. Again, basically a 100- percent increase.
--with a $12,500 deductible.
Her previous deductible was $7,500.
Therefore, the Affordable Care Act would cost my family over $9,500 more per year in premiums and our total deductibles to meet [[Page S8656]] will increase to $37,500 from $22,500 for the family. The total effect is $24,500 additionally in 2014. Are we seriously supposed to be able to absorb this into our budget? What does our family do in this situation? We simply cannot afford $1,580 per month for insurance or $24,500 per year. What are our options? My husband will undergo chemotherapy and has a surgery scheduled for 2014. I am feverishly-- Do you hear that word--``feverishly'' --looking for employment with health insurance coverage. I am sure we are not the only family adversely affected by the law. Please provide answers for all of us. I look forward to hearing from you.
Again, my plea is to please provide true protection. Please provide security. Please accept the responsibility of what this law, what your support for this law did and is doing to millions of Wisconsinites, to millions of Americans. It is simply immoral what this law is doing to people, to their lives.
It is not going to be pretty what this law is going to do to our health care system. It will lower quality and it will produce rationing because the only way the government can afford to provide all of this access is actually by limiting access. Of course, we are already seeing a very limited number of doctors who are actually accepting these contracts from the networks that are provided in the exchange, primarily because of all of the mandated coverages that are dramatically increasing the price of health care, as I have demonstrated this evening in these emails and these letters we are receiving from real people, from people who are suffering because of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
I yield the floor.
The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Schatz). The Senator from Pennsylvania.