Health Care Reformby Senator John Barrasso
Posted on 2013-01-31
BARRASSO. Mr. President, this past weekend I had the opportunity
to attend a conference of the Wyoming American Legion. Many of the
veterans I spoke with remain very concerned about their health care and
specifically about the impacts of the Obama health care law on their
lives and on their health.
The men and women whom I met with are very worried they may lose their health coverage. Why? Because of the law. They wonder what happened to the insurance premium cuts they were supposed to have gotten by now--not in the future but promised to have gotten by now.
These men and women have not gotten many of the benefits they were told to expect, but what they are getting are all the costs. That is why the people I talk with every weekend at home in Wyoming understand what the Democrats in Washington still will not admit: that the President's health care law remains unworkable, unpopular, and absolutely unaffordable.
Remember when the President promised that if you like your health care plan, you can keep it? Well, all of America now knows it was an empty promise, just as when President Obama promised health insurance premiums would go down. Over and over, the President said that his law would lower premiums by $2,500 a family by the end of his first term in office. The President has not talked much about that lately. I did not hear anything about it in his inaugural address, and I do not expect to hear very much about it in his State of the Union Address. It is because average premiums across the country for families have not gone down--not by the $2,500 that the President promised, not by even $1,000, not even by a cent. Instead, average family premiums have actually gone up by more than $3,000 during the President's first term. That is a pretty big math error on the part of President Obama, and the American people, unfortunately, are the ones who have to pay for his mistake.
Because of his policies, health insurance is a lot less affordable for a lot of people and for a lot of small businesses. Now many small businesses are facing what is turning out to be an impossible decision. If they expand their business and cross the law's threshold of 50 employees, they will be subject to the employer insurance mandate. If they choose not to expand, then they are holding back potential growth and the opportunities that come with it. In this current economic environment, the last thing we should be doing is making it more difficult for businesses to expand and hire more people. But because of the President's health care law, that is exactly what is happening.
The Wall Street Journal ran a piece recently about a small business owner named Carl Schanstra. He owns a parts assembly factory near Chicago, IL. It is called Automation Systems LLC.
Sales have been growing, and the business is doing well, but he has a problem because he already employs close to 50 people. That means he is getting dangerously close to the law's threshold and the new health care burdens it would place on him, including all the expenses.
As he puts it, he says: ``I'll be hammered for having more people at work.'' The cost of providing insurance would be enormous. The cost of paying the tax penalty for not offering insurance would also be enormous.
That is not a good option for a small business such as Automation Systems--a small business that wants to expand, a small business that has an opportunity to expand and hire more people. So he has to look for ways to stay under the law's limits.
He plans to raise prices to give himself a buffer against the new health care law, and he may even have to break his company into two different companies so they can stay below the limits. He may avoid hiring more people or buy more machinery to replace some of the workers.
A rational and responsible business owner wants to make decisions based on what is best for the business and its employees. Now we have business owners having to make these decisions based on the crushing regulatory burden imposed upon them by Washington.
Carl is not the only business owner who is having to face tough choices because of the health care law. According to a new survey Gallup put out last week, more than half of small business owners say health care costs and taxes are hurting them a lot. Those two things-- health care costs and taxes--led the list of their concerns by a wide margin. When Gallup looked specifically at businesses that were not hiring, 61 percent of them--nearly two out of every three--said it was because of the potential cost of health care.
Washington should be creating policies that encourage businesses to hire and making hiring easier. Again, that is what our economy needs to recover. Instead, this administration has been piling up more costs, more regulations, and more ways to discourage hiring.
That is one person's story. But just down the road from where Carl is trying to do what is best for his business and his workers, the city of Chicago itself is facing some of the same concerns. Chicago has decided it cannot afford to pay the health care costs of its retired city workers. So what is the whole city of Chicago going to do? Well, it is looking at dumping those former workers into the ObamaCare exchange. It would save the city a lot of money, but the taxpayers of Illinois and every other State would have to make up the tab because the city is trying to skip out on paying their own bill.
Federal subsidies for Chicago retirees would be $44 million in 2014, and that amount would only grow over time. Of course, we know the mayor of Chicago is Rahm Emanuel. He was one of the main figures in the room where ObamaCare was being written, and we [[Page S433]] all know--all of America knows--that room was behind closed doors. He knew exactly the kinds of incentives the law was creating. He also knew exactly how many people would be affected. And he knew how people such as him could use the law to push health care costs onto someone else.
Chicago takes that step today. Other cities might be right behind and waiting to do the same thing tomorrow and the day after that, and so on.
We need to reduce health care costs in America. But all we do and all we see is cost-shifting, robbing Peter to pay Paul. We need businesses to hire people so our economy can grow. Those businesses are holding back because of the health care law. We need to reduce Washington's out-of-control spending. But cities such as Chicago are trying to shift their health care costs to hard-working taxpayers elsewhere.
Meanwhile, Democrats in the Senate and the White House refuse to accept that we have any problem at all with entitlement spending and the budget deficits we are looking at. It is time for Democrats to take their head out of the sand, to admit that the President's health care law did not solve our problems; in fact, it made things worse.
Then I picked up the paper this morning--today's Wall Street Journal--and a front-page headline is: ``Some Unions Grow Wary Of Health Law They Backed.'' We all remember the days when unions lobbied for this health care law. Their Web sites said: We need this health care law now. They came to Capitol Hill, lobbying here, members having rallies.
Well, let me read some of the beginning of the article that is on the front page of today's paper.
Labor unions enthusiastically backed the Obama administration's health-care overhaul when it was up for debate. Now that the law is rolling out, some are turning sour.
Union leaders say many of the law's requirements-- Many of the law's requirements-- will drive up the costs for their health-care plans and make unionized workers less competitive.
So there we have it. We have what happens to a small business, why the health care law is hurting it. We see how the city of Chicago is responding to the perverse incentives in the health care law to force its costs onto other hard-working taxpayers, and now we see the very unions that supported the health care law during the lobbying phase and during the time of the vote now saying the law's requirements are going to drive up the cost for their health care plans.
It just seems it is time for people on Capitol Hill to realize how bad this health care law is. We need real entitlement reform that preserves vital safety net programs for future generations. We need real health care reform that gives people the care they need, from a doctor they choose, at lower cost.
President Obama continues to give the American people and give all of us empty promises. Congress should give hard-working American taxpayers the solutions they expect and they deserve.
I yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
The assistant legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.