A picture of Senator John Barrasso
John B.
Republican WY

About Sen. John
  • Nomination of Melvin L. Watt to Be Director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency—Continued

    by Senator John Barrasso

    Posted on 2013-12-10

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    BARRASSO. Madam President, I ask unanimous consent to speak as in morning business.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.

    Mr. BARRASSO. Madam President, with less than 2 weeks remaining before the deadline for people who need to sign up for health insurance that [[Page S8590]] starts for them to be insured on January 1, there is a significant amount of anger as well as anxiety across the country. The Web site where people are supposed to go to buy that insurance has been plagued with problems that everyone in the country seems to know about, and that has caused huge amounts of anxiety. I heard about it last week in Wyoming, I hear about it on Capitol Hill with staff members, and I hear it pretty much anywhere I go.

    What people have been learning is that the problems with the Web site are actually just the tip of the iceberg. The Obama administration has been saying that it has been fixed, that the problems with this health care law are fine, that everything is good, that a majority of people are having good experiences. I remember listening to the President not long ago, sitting with Bill Clinton, saying: Easier to use than Amazon.

    Well, that is not what the American people found. He also said: Cheaper than your cell phone bill. He said: You will be able to keep your doctor if you like them.

    But the law continues to leave so many Americans struggling-- struggling with higher costs, with greater confusion--and really with a lot less confidence in the administration. People all around the country are worrying about whether the administration even knows what it is doing.

    So when I talk about the Web site being just the tip of the iceberg, people around the country are running into higher premiums, canceled coverage, finding out they cannot keep their doctor. They are running into fraud and identity theft issues and issues in terms of higher copays and out-of-pocket costs and deductibles.

    People at home in Wyoming--and I went not just around communities in the State, traveling to a number of different communities, but I also went to my own medical office where I practiced as an orthopedic surgeon at Casper Orthopedics for 24 years--were telling me how worried they were about the higher costs they are seeing regarding paying for insurance for next year.

    I got a letter from one man in Cody, WY. He talked about how the rates he has been quoted are going to go up from about $860 a month that he pays now for a family of four to $2,400 a month--$860 to $2,400 a month. He said: ``I'm not sure what planet they think I live on, but there is no way I can spend more than half of my monthly income on insurance.'' Well, I hear the same thing from people all around Wyoming. People are having this same sticker shock all over the country.

    We know that more than 4.7 million Americans in 32 States are being told they cannot keep the insurance they had. When we take a look at the map, we know we do not have the numbers yet on certain States, including the State of Wisconsin. We do not have Illinois. We do not have Ohio. We do not have Texas. We do not have Virginia. So we really do not know how many people have lost their coverage. But we know that at least 4.7 million Americans were told they cannot keep the insurance they had in spite of what the President may have promised them. Now what they have to do is buy new Washington-approved health coverage that really may not be the right coverage for them and may likely cost more than they were paying before. Millions of Americans are going to be forced to use money that in the past was used to pay rent or put their children through school or to invest in their communities or in a business or to help make repairs to their homes--now that money is going to go to pay for higher premiums as well as the incredibly high deductibles people are seeing related to the health care law.

    It is interesting, looking through the papers--this was yesterday's Wall Street Journal, Monday, December 9. Above the fold on the front page: ``Deductibles Fuel New Worries of Health-Law Sticker Shock.'' The article says: The average individual deductible for what is called a bronze plan on the exchange--the lowest-priced coverage--is $5,081 a year, according to a new report on insurance offerings in 34 of the 36 states that rely on the federally run online marketplace.

    The Wall Street Journal reports: That is 42% higher than the average deductible of $3,589 for an individually purchased plan in 2013 before much of the federal law took effect.

    So what people are seeing--and the Wall Street Journal reports above- the-fold on the first page--are higher deductibles by a lot.

    It is not just the Wall Street Journal. In the New York Times yesterday, Robert Pear had an article: ``On Health Exchanges, Premiums May Be Low, But Other Costs Can Be High.'' It says: . . . as consumers dig into the details-- Dig into the details--something this body never did. Members of that part of the body who voted for this health care law never did dig into the details.

    It says: . . . as consumers dig into the details, they are finding that the deductibles and other out-of-pocket costs are often much higher than what is typical in employer-sponsored health plans--the plans many of these people have had in the past.

    So what we are seeing are not just the higher costs, not just the higher deductibles, the higher copays; there is also a lot of confusion about the health care Web site itself, and I think that is only going to get worse. Ten weeks after the Web site launched, there is still an awful lot that is broken, including the parts that actually get people the insurance they think they signed up for.

    A number of my staff have applied, and they believe they have signed up for health insurance. They are not sure. They have not yet gotten confirmation. And I know Members on Capitol Hill who have staff signing up are experiencing the same thing.

    Last month one of the officials from the Department of Health and Human Services testified in the House of Representatives that as much as 40 percent of this Web site's system still has not even been built yet. The Web site still has trouble transmitting information to the insurance companies once someone has chosen a plan.

    The Web site was down again earlier today. It still has not figured out how to automatically pay the portion of premiums covered by any government subsidy.

    There are still many, many security holes that can be exploited by con artists, by hackers. Certain branches of the government have been warning citizens to be cautious when going on the Web site because of the concerns about exploitation, people who are trying to use this in a fraudulent way.

    And then you hear that the administration is bragging. It is really sad that almost 9 weeks after the Web site opened the administration is now bragging that it only has an error rate of 10 percent on one important step of the Web site. Madam President, 1 in 10 is their error rate. This is a President who said the Web site was going to be running like amazon.com. He said that 3 or 4 days before the Web site opened. Now, 9 weeks later, he is delighted that the error rate is still 1 out of 10. Does the President actually believe Amazon would accept a 10- percent error rate in their customers not being able to finish their purchases? I believe all of these flaws and failures have led to a dramatic loss of confidence by the American people in their government. According to a new Gallup poll, 52 percent of Americans are in favor of scaling back the health care law or repealing it entirely. People continue to turn against the law for a number of reasons, and it is not just the Web site, it is the higher premiums, it is the canceled coverage, it is that they cannot keep their doctor, and it is fraud and identity theft, higher copays, higher deductibles, and confusion about what is going to go wrong next because so many things the President and his administration have said--have looked into the camera and told the American people would be one way--turned out to be something very different. There have been so many changing stories coming out of the White House.

    The President said: If you like your health insurance, you can keep your health insurance, and then he actually said ``period,'' with a punctuation mark, that that was it; no ifs, ands, or buts--just the period. People now know all across the country--those who voted for him, those who did not--what they all know is that what the President said was not true.

    The President said: If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor. Well, on Sunday one of the architects of ObamaCare went on FOX News and admitted also that was not true. This is Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel-- the brother of [[Page S8591]] Rahm Emanuel, the former Chief of Staff of the White House--who is a medicine professor. What he said was, if you like your doctor and you want to keep your doctor, you can pay more for insurance that includes your doctor. There are a lot of places where you cannot even buy insurance that will cover that doctor. This is not at all what the President promised.

    It is interesting, even in the Financial Times yesterday, ``Healthcare insurers cut costs by excluding top hospitals.'' So you cannot even go to the hospitals. There is a picture here of the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. ``Plan will not cover treatment at Houston cancer center.'' So we have somebody who has lost their insurance who has been going to that cancer center where their doctors are--they are losing their insurance on January 1, knowing they cannot keep their doctor, they cannot keep their hospital. We see children's hospitals around the country, people who are not going to be included in these exchanges. So children with leukemia, come January 1, are going to lose their doctor, lose their hospital. But that is what the President and that is what the Democrats in this body who voted for this health care law have given to the American people.

    Just before Thanksgiving, the Obama administration announced it would have to delay a health insurance exchange that was supposed to let small businesses shop for insurance. I remember hearing speeches on this floor about small businesses being able to find affordable insurance. Well, it turns out, once again, the administration knew at least 6 weeks before that they were going to have to delay the program. Did they admit it to the American people? Did they tell the truth? No. They waited.

    One broken promise after another, one statement after another that the administration knows is not true. So is it a surprise, then, that the President of the United States is viewed as untruthful by a majority of the people of this country? It is a terrible situation for anyone to put their country in.

    Back when we first started talking about the health care law, Republicans offered ideas on how to give people what they really wanted, which was reform that lowered costs and improved access to care. That is what people were concerned about. So many of the complaints we have heard around the country have had to do with the cost of care.

    So President Obama and Democrats in Congress refused to listen, ignored all of the warning signs, and used raw majority power to force this bad law on all of the American people. I remember the vote in this body, Christmas Eve morning, voting on a health care law. We watched it crammed through on party-line votes.

    Now Democrats in the Senate have decided to make another power play and have broken the rules of the Senate just a couple of weeks ago to change the rules of the Senate. They took a drastic and unwarranted step so that they could have the power once again to force more bad ideas like the Obama health care law onto the American people.

    They say we do not need the 60 votes now; all we need is a simple majority. Let's change the way the Senate has run for well over 100 years, because, once again, the Democrats say: We know better than the American people. We know better than you.

    That is what the President said with his health care law. Now the American people are realizing what they knew all along. This is not what they wanted with health care reform. Regrettably it is what they are living with now, and they are seeing the higher premiums, the canceled coverage, losing their doctor, the fraud and identity theft, higher copays, and higher deductibles.

    It is interesting; even today in the Washington Post, the front page above the fold said: ``Under health law, insurers limiting drug coverage.'' Costs may soar. It talks about many different ailments, including for those with HIV. That is a result of the health care law. If this health care law would not have passed, forced down the throats of the American people with the President telling one falsehood after another, deliberately designed to mislead the American people, you would never have seen a headline like this today.

    If President Obama really wants to help the American people, he is going to sit down with the Republicans and talk about the real issues to reduce costs, to get rid of all of this confusion that he and the Democrats have caused and to restore people's confidence in America, as well as in him.

    There is a better way. Republicans agree we need to reform America's health care system. We think that those reforms could have been done without the kind of harm caused by the President's health care law.

    I yield the floor, and I suggest the absence of a quorum.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Manchin). The clerk will call the roll.

    The assistant legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.

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