Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act of 2013—Motion to Proceed—Continuedby Senator Roy Blunt
Posted on 2014-01-15
BLUNT. Mr. President, I want to follow right along with what my
good friend, the Senator from Texas, was talking about.
First, I would like to say, I think one of the philosophies of government was so well stated in such a succinct way by Abraham Lincoln at Cooper Union in New York in 1860 when he said: Government should do for people only those things that people cannot better do for themselves.
There are some things in health care that government actually could do to then let people do things better for themselves. That is why our side, beginning in 2009--and before that--advocated things like buying across State lines, a bigger marketplace. Organize a marketplace. Do not try to operate a system. Do not try to create an environment where people cannot make decisions about what they want and somehow that we think the government can make those decisions better.
As the Senator from Texas said, we all talk to people every day who had coverage they were happy with that met their needs, and now they are told by the government: Your new coverage is better. It does not matter if you do not have any children, you have pediatric dental care. It does not matter if you are retired and plan not to have children, you now have maternity coverage. It does not matter if you have always had insurance, this covers people with preexisting conditions.
The American people have figured this out, and they do not like it. The system we had at the workplace-based insurance was largely a system that developed by accident after World War II, but, interestingly, 85 percent of the people who had insurance, got it at work, and 90 percent of them were happy with it. I think that is going to be the next thing we find out as we walk down the road: how many people are no longer going to get their insurance at work.
But now we know the impact on people who generally did not have insurance at work or have insurance for the first time. I have some stories I want to share from people who have contacted our office in the last few days, and that is since I was here a week ago to talk about some stories I had then from people who were telling me.
Just earlier today--additional anecdotal evidence--I heard from somebody who, at age 27, left their family policy to get their own, first insurance policy ever, with the biggest insurance company in the country. They went to the doctor they had always gone to, and the receptionist, the people dealing with her, said: We don't take that insurance here anymore. Then her request was: Well, I want to see the doctor I have always seen. Can I just pay cash? The answer was: No, you can't pay cash because we now know you have insurance. Under the new Federal requirements, you cannot pay cash to see the doctor you want to see; you have to go somewhere that will take your insurance.
Surely that is not what we all really intended to do. Those people here who voted against the bill, even those who voted for the bill, even those who, like me, spoke against it, would not have anticipated that one of the prohibitions would be that you could not pay cash to see the doctor you want to see because you find out that your insurance does not cover your doctor. This is actually a step beyond: If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor. This goes to: If you like your doctor, you cannot even pay your doctor to see your doctor, if the policies available to you did not let you see your doctor.
But here are some letters I got just this week and some email messages and some text messages, but all from Missourians. Even though I am not going to give anybody's last name, these happen to be all Missourians whom I think my staff has called and asked: Do you mind if we tell your story, just in case your neighbor figures out this must be you if you are, for example, Christina from Lee's Summit, MO.
Christina says she is a single mother of two. She is working her way through school as a waitress, working 25 hours a week. She previously received insurance through her employer, but she was not allowed to renew that plan, and now the cost of her daughter's deductible will go up from $100 a year to $2,500 a year--a 2,500 percent increase.
As the Senator from Texas said earlier, some of these deductibles for most families are like you do not have insurance at all. I do not know what Christina's situation is, but I know somewhere there is a 25-hour- a-week waitress with two kids where if they are told their deductible is $2,500, that means they really do not have any coverage because they do not have $2,500, and they are not going to figure out how to get $2,500, and they cannot get insurance that makes that difference.
Jeanna from Kansas City has a birth defect that eventually resulted in her having to have a hip replacement and hip revision. She has had health insurance every year of her life until this year. Her previous Blue Cross Blue Shield policy is no longer available, and policies on the exchange are just too expensive.
She says: At this rate, we won't be able to afford health insurance in our current situation. I want to go back to the old system! At least I know I have insurance and that I have my doctors too. My primary doctor retired due to Obamacare.
She says: I've always had health insurance for me and my family. After 2014 I won't.
I wish that was an unusual letter, but it is not. Surely, there have to be people benefiting from this system. Just the law of averages would catch up with you. Somebody has to be having coverage they did not have before. Maybe they could not get in the State high-risk pool. By the way, we could have expanded those. That was one of the proposals I made for people who had a preexisting condition.
The biggest challenge to reality, I think, of this whole debate has been that nobody else had any other ideas, that this was the only set of ideas out there. I brought a list to the floor the other day of the 10 or 12 bills I introduced as a House Member. The biggest one was 75 pages long. One that, according to Senator Harry Reid, the majority leader, has accounted for a third of the people who went on insurance because they were able to join their family's policy--I introduced that bill in the House. It was 4\1/2\ pages. I guess if I had been really good at this--and that was a third of the people on [[Page S354]] insurance--I could have come up with a bill that was about 12 or 13 pages, and we would have gotten everybody. We did not need 2,700 pages of legislation, if 4\1/2\ pages get a third of the people who are now covered.
Mitchell in Weston, MO, said he still has insurance. His premiums will go up over $40 a month. Frankly, that is one of the better stories I have had--somebody who still has insurance, and it is $40 a month higher. But he says: This ObamaCare is not the answer for Americans with [or without] health care insurance. This is a national problem now.
He says: My health insurance is going up only $40.00 a month starting [in] January. But that is still $120.00 a week for my wife and me.
He says: Most of my friends' insurance rates are going up $100.00 and more a week.
I do not know if that is a scientific survey, but that is Mitchell's view of what is happening with most of his friends.
Toney is a former owner of a hardware store. When he closed his store, he was not able to find insurance. Toney is from West Plains, MO.
He enrolled in the Missouri State Health Insurance Pool, the high- risk pool. But when it was terminated, he was told to enroll in the Federal health exchange. I think he has finally gotten that done. He just says it happens to cost him more than it cost him before. Remember, the high-risk pool--here is what Toney says in his letter: When national health care became available the legislature-- This would be the Missouri legislature; I think this is what happened in most States-- voted to end the [Missouri High-Risk Pool] effective Dec. 31, 2013 and sent me a letter saying I should enroll in the Federal program. I began on the web site the first week in October and made some attempt to enroll every day thru October and November. I was finally successful in accessing the policy plans available just before December 1st.
Here is another point I want to make too. The rollout itself has had negative consequences on the makeup of people who have insurance. I think there are many reasons why young, healthy people will decide not to buy insurance. One is that it costs them relatively more than it ever has before under the law.
In December, in fact, if you were in your early twenties, you were paying about one-fifth of what someone was paying for health insurance in their early sixties. But in January, you had to pay at least one- third of what somebody was paying in their early sixties. People's insurance in their early sixties did not go down, but people's insurance in their early twenties went up. I just had a dad today tell me--and besides that, you tell young people--and you can get insurance if you have a serious health care problem because there is no prohibition if you have preexisting conditions.
So if you are a young person, your insurance--this is the most uninsured group: young healthy people who think they are young and healthy and probably do not need insurance because they are young and healthy, who should worry about an accident. I mean, I am a dad. I understand how you have these discussions: Now, wait a minute. That does not cover all of your potential problems.
But still, this is the biggest uninsured group. They are not signing up, and part of why they are not signing up--one of the smaller reasons, there are fundamental problems with the plan itself. But believe me, if you are wondering if you should get insurance every day, you are not going to do what Toney did. You are not going to be on the Web site every single day from October 1 until December 1 until you get insurance. At some point you are going to say: Well, I did not really think I needed this anyway. I am not going to keep beating my head against the wall to sign up for something that all of my friends tell me is a bad deal, and for sure is a worse deal than I would have gotten in December of last year because the law insisted it be a worse deal for young, healthy people.
The White House said last week that the number of people signing up-- when they were challenged about the number of people signing up was not nearly enough, they said--well, I think the White House spokesman said: It is not the number of people; it is the mix of people that matters. I think the number they had out there is about 40 percent of the people who sign up need to be under 35 and hopefully healthy. That number is about 25 percent. So the mix is not working. The number is not working. The cost is not working.
According to Shawn from Independence, his premiums for his private policy went up 40 percent. If he elected to drop his private policy and sign up on the exchange, according to him his premiums and deductibles would more than double, and he would not qualify for any subsidies. So for Shawn the best deal was the 40-percent increase. He had a more than 100-percent increase if he went to the exchange and higher deductibles.
Lynn from Farmington, MO, says that at Mineral Area Regional Medical Center premiums increased even more than usual due to the Affordable Care Act requirements. We have increased the employee's portion of the health insurance premium in order to increase deductibles and copays due to the ACA-required new coverage that every plan has to include.
Barbara at Fulton, MO--Winston Churchill gave the famous ``Iron Curtain'' speech at Westminster College in Fulton--says: Her husband's Blue Cross Blue Shield plan was canceled because it was deemed ``illegal'' per the Affordable Care Act.
Her family--her husband and two daughters--is now paying more money for health insurance.
My husband had insurance that he liked, and then we received a letter from Blue Cross Blue Shield that his plan was going to be discontinued due to requirements of the Affordable Care Act.
They were disappointed.
I was also told that my 4-year-old child should apply for state Medicaid and my 9-year-old child earned too much to qualify for insurance through healthcare.gov.
They qualify for neither of those programs, she says.
Because of ObamaCare, we, as a family, are paying much more for health insurance for our children and my husband is not currently fully insured.
My last letter is from Scott in Independence, MO, who says his employer dropped his retiree health plan for 2014 due to increased costs associated with the ACA.
I do not see here who his employer was. But we have seen big employers--IBM dropped their retiree health plan. UPS dropped their health care insurance for all of the spouses and dependents of their employees, in both cases saying: Well, now you have somewhere to go. You need to go to the exchange rather than the plan you had as part of being a retiree or part of being a spouse of someone who worked here.
Scott looked at plans on the exchange. For a plan that is worse than what he had under his employer, he will pay 280 percent more in premiums, and his out-of-pocket expenses--guess that means deductibles--will quadruple; four times the deductibles, 280 percent for the premiums.
He says--let me read one other thing here. He talks about being a disabled veteran.
Since I am also a disabled veteran and exempt from the ACA, I went to see what my cost would be for a policy for just my 9-year-old daughter. Unfortunately, I cannot enroll her unless I enroll. So my costs will go from $159 dollars for a Cadillac policy, to $459 per month for-- His description.
a horrible ACA policy this year. Essentially I was forced to buy a policy I neither want or need. It will cost me far more and provide far less than my cancelled employer plan.
Bigger marketplace with more choices, more ways to ensure you can take your insurance from one place of work to another, more ways to ensure that expanded high-risk pools would let people join those high- risk pools. By the way, if you are an insurance company, you have to participate in that in some way, at least you know that all of the other insurance companies are, too, and everybody in that group is somebody who had a preexisting condition as opposed to having to assume you are going to get less healthy people than hopefully you get.
I would just say that everybody in this country and everybody in the Congress knows more about health care than most people did 5 years ago. I think it would be a good time for us to take all of that new knowledge about health care and see if we can look at this again and do a better job.
I yield the floor.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Rhode Island.