Nomination of Heather Anne Higginbottom to Be Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resourcesby Senator Thad Cochran
Posted on 2013-12-11
COCHRAN. Madam President, the Senate has had an opportunity to be
given an update on the status of our negotiation on the farm bill. It
is my pleasure to announce that since our first conference committee
meeting in October, we have been working to reach an agreement on a new
5-year farm bill. This is a bill we can take to the House and Senate.
By working in collaboration and through our differences, we made
progress and established a framework for our agricultural sector to
continue to contribute in an important way to the economic life of our
Nation. I am pleased to say we are making progress, but there are still
some decisions that lie ahead of us. I am hopeful that on both sides of
the aisle, in both bodies, we can come together on a farm bill
agreement that will reform and modernize programs and produce budget
savings at the same time as well as provide certainty about the
government's role to producers and consumers alike.
I might also add that related to this is an interest many homeowners have in flood control insurance protection and government assistance. There is a reform bill, the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act, that I am pleased to have cosponsored that would delay premium rates temporarily until we can review and make sure these changes are going to serve the interests of homeowners and landowners in areas that are threatened by natural disasters. We don't want to a Federal Government Agency to draw a line on a map arbitrarily without fully considering all of the ramifications.
We must put the Flood Insurance Program on a path to fiscal solvency, and one way to do that is to ensure that it is a good deal in terms of investment and prospective return on investment for individuals as well as communities.
On another subject, I recently had an opportunity to review some correspondence and notes about calls my office received from constituents on the subject of the Patient Protection and Affordability Care Act. This is a major piece of health care legislation, as everybody knows. It affects insurance companies, it affects individuals, it affects the entire country, and it is a very important area of concern.
In order to comply with the law's requirements, a family could see their monthly premiums increase from $700 to almost $1,400, which is an increase of more than 90 percent. To put it in perspective, it is more than $16,000 per year that a family would have to spend on health insurance premiums alone. These figures are just not affordable for most Americans. So there is sticker shock associated with this misguided effort to help improve and expand our Nation's health insurance programs. These figures just signal to us how serious the implications are, and we must address this problem and seek proposals with very serious care and diligence.
Monthly premiums, for example, do not include copayments or out-of- pocket expenses. It does include the cost of several health benefits deemed ``essential'' by the administration, regardless of the fact that many people do not need or want to pay for these services. One constituent posed an interesting question to me, which is, Why can't we, the policy owners, decide what benefits and deductibles we want? I think they are right. They ought to have that right, and they ought to be given that choice.
Choice is what families should have when it comes to health insurance. Unfortunately, the freedom to make a decision based on what is in their best interests is no longer an option for millions of Americans who have to search for new insurance coverage, pay for benefits they will not use, and potentially even give up the doctors they know and wish to keep.
Despite assurances by the President that people who like their health insurance will be able to keep it, we have learned that the administration has known for at least 3 years that millions of Americans would lose the health insurance they currently have and would like to keep, as advertised.
Reports indicate there are an estimated 15 million people facing a potential coverage gap because many currently have insurance from the individual market but have received cancellation notices because their policies don't meet the law's requirements.
Since the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was enacted-- incidentally, without a single Republican vote--in 2010 the administration has struggled to meet its own deadlines for implementation of the law. The ongoing problems with the law's enrollment Web site conspicuously foreshadowed the more significant failures that can be expected as this law is implemented.
The most recent marketplace enrollment report, which was released by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, states that less than 365,000 individuals have selected plans from the State and Federal marketplaces since October 1. It has been estimated that more than 47 million nonelderly Americans were uninsured in 2012. This means that less than 1 percent of the uninsured population in the U.S. has selected a health insurance plan by way of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
We are told that it is likely that on January 1 of this next year, more Americans will be uninsured than were uninsured at the time the health care law was enacted. This law's primary intent was to expand coverage, to encourage insurance, but it seems to be failing on both counts.
Implementation of the law's mandates reveals that the legislation will fail to reduce health care costs as well. In 2013, we are projected to spend $2.9 trillion on health care in the United States. This is approximately 18 percent of the entire U.S. economy. National health care expenditures are expected to increase substantially in the years beyond that.
Health insurance is just one component of our Nation's very complex health care system, and we could do better, should do better, and I think we can do better than this initial work product. We should get together and find common ground to improve the quality of health care in our country, to improve access, and reduce overall health care costs. We owe that to our constituents, our national economic interests, and to the future of quality health care in the United States.
Madam President, I invite other Senators to come to discuss this or other [[Page S8797]] issues we have identified as important for our consideration. In the meantime, I suggest the absence of a quorum.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
The bill clerk proceeded to call the roll.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Tennessee.