A picture of Senator Roy Blunt
Roy B.
Republican MO

About Sen. Roy
  • Nomination of Nancy L. Moritz to Be United States Circuit Judge for the Tenth Circuit

    by Senator Roy Blunt

    Posted on 2014-05-01

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    Read More about Nomination of Nancy L. Moritz to Be United States Circuit Judge for the Tenth Circuit

    BLUNT. Madam President, I wish to respond to my good friend from Arkansas. Where he lives and where I live we know way more about tornadoes than we would like to know. Our friend from Louisiana knows about tornadoes and hurricanes both.

    We had a massive tornado in Joplin, MO, not too far away from these tornadoes in the last week, in fact, in Baxter Springs and Quapaw, along with tornados in Arkansas and Mississippi, but that tornado was 3 years ago, I believe next week, and there was massive destruction. But the first responders were your neighbors. Before anybody else can get there, your neighbors are there, thinking of getting that man out of the garage with his three little girls and your neighbors beginning to help you collect those few things that are left--that may just be stuff, but it is your stuff. It is pictures and things that can't be replaced, but what can't be replaced are the lives which are saved, and what can't be replaced are the lives which are lost--and people will live with that strategy. No matter how resilient, that is a tragedy that lasts forever. For all those families affected this week, the ones Mr. Pryor has talked to and others have talked to--in the hometown of two of our colleagues from Mississippi, Tupelo hit by a tornado--these are tragic moments when communities and families and neighbors come together. That and faith, as Senator Pryor said, are what help people get through this.

    Caring for America's Heroes Act Madam President, this is National Mental Health Awareness Month. It just started today.

    Senator Stabenow and I have introduced some legislation this week, Caring for America's Heroes Act, that would look at what we are doing in the military. We are looking carefully at the military as it relates to what we are doing to help our veterans and to help those who serve.

    I was at Fort Leonard Wood, in Waynessville, MO, just a few days ago, talking to the hospital personnel there about mental health issues as they relate to the many new inductees who come there and as to the full-time force and the retirees who come there.

    The act Senator Stabenow and I are introducing this week would treat mental health conditions like other health conditions for spouses, dependents, and for retirees who now have a limit on what can be done and how many hospital days they can stay for mental health that is not the same limit for anything else. There is no justifiable reason for it not to be the same limit. I think we are going to have good support from the Defense Department as we work to try to get this done, to just simply ensure that military dependents and retirees who were covered under TRICARE, for instance, are treated in the same manner for inpatient mental health services as they would be for any other injury or any other kind of health issue. Bringing those to par with others is important.

    The National Institutes of Health estimates that one out of four adults in American has a behavioral health problem and if diagnosed can almost always be treated. I asked the Surgeon General of the Army at a hearing just a few days ago if that one out of four would relate to the military as well. Her view was as follows: Yes, we recruit from the general population. We don't have any reason to believe those numbers aren't reflected in our population as well.

    So as we move forward, we need to be sure, in Mental Health Awareness Month--and in a month where, as in every month, we should be always mindful of our veterans and retirees--that we are pursuing those solutions for them as we are for the country generally. Hopefully, we will be able to work with the Defense Department and get this one gap closed in the very near future.

    Health Care I wish to speak about where we are on health care. I know there was an attempt in recent days to take a victory lap, and maybe again today, over the number of people to sign up.

    I will say one more time, I don't think that is the way you can measure this. I said when the Web site wouldn't work, we can't measure this by whether the Web site works because surely the Web site will eventually work. Frankly, we shouldn't measure this by how many people sign up because the people who sign up don't have any other option. Their option is to not sign up at all or to sign up. That is not much of a choice for most people. I am going to talk in a minute about a couple people who decided they don't have a reasonable choice, so they are not signing up for anything.

    We need to be sure this government does what is necessary to create access to what has been the best health care system in the world. We all want people to have access to that system. The question truly is, Are we doing that the right way? Polling clearly shows that people don't think we are doing that the right way. The President's numbers reflect that. The Kaiser Family Foundation poll shows that just 38 percent of people think the law is working as intended; 57 percent say it is not working the way the White House had hoped.

    I would think 100 percent would think it is not working the way the White House had hoped. Surely, the rollout, the signup--we can talk all we want about how many people sign up. There is a debate going on right now over in the House of Representatives this week about they signed up, but did they pay.

    According to the House Commerce Committee, insurers tell them that only two-thirds of the people who have signed up have paid. If they don't pay, they are not signed up and they don't have coverage. I don't think any insurance works that way.

    That same committee's report said only 25 percent of paid enrollees are within the crucial age range, which is 18 to 34.

    [[Page S2587]] For this to work, we have to have people who are young and healthy sign up as well. Why isn't that happening? The original estimate was we need 40 percent. We appear to have 25 percent. What do we need to do? Why is it the fact that insurance costs more relative to everybody else insured for young people than it ever has before by the law? That would maybe explain why young people aren't signing up. Prior to January 1 of this year, if someone were young and healthy, they might pay 20 percent of what the person at the other end of the spectrum was paying. Now they have to pay at least 33 percent. Maybe that is why those people aren't signing up.

    Of course, the workforce impact of people who have part-time jobs because full-time jobs are covered, jobs of more than 30 hours--the House recently passed the Save America Workers Act to help increase these wages by saying: No, it is not a 30-hour standard. It should be a 40-hour standard. I am a cosponsor of the Senate bill that would do that same thing Senator Collins has been advocating for months now.

    The unintended consequences in the workplace are not fair to American families. They are not fair to American workers. We could do something about one of those unintended consequences by just saying: Wait a minute. The 40-hour workweek that we have always said was full-time work should still be the 40-hour workweek, not the new 30-hour workweek.

    The emergency contractor hired to repair the Web site said it is going to cost $121 million to repair the Web site, which is a whole lot more than the $94 million already spent to create the Web site. I wonder what would have happened if we had taken that many millions of dollars and bought insurance for the people we were trying to move from uninsured to insured.

    I will give about three more examples. My time is limited on the floor today, and I have this down to a handful of examples of people we have heard from in the last few days about families who are dramatically impacted. Surely, there is a good story out there to tell, but there are lots of stories, and no matter what anybody says, these stories over and over turn out to be tragedies for families.

    Randy and his wife from Mexico, MO, had a plan they liked, but they received a cancellation notice in October of last year. He went on to the exchange but found on the exchange he would have to pay over $600 a month more in premiums and face deductibles that were $3,500 higher than they had been in the past--so a $600 increase in premiums and $3,500 higher deductibles.

    The cheapest plan available to Randy and his wife would have them paying $14,000 in premiums a year and they would have an $11,000 deductible before the insurance would pay anything--$25,000.

    Randy and his wife decided: That is not insurance at all, so we are not going to have insurance. They found the best thing he could find, found what was available, and decided it clearly wouldn't work. And that wouldn't work for any us either. If it was going to cost $25,000 annually before a single thing was covered, we wouldn't think that was insurance, and that was the best thing Randy from Mexico, MO, could find.

    Neal lost his job 2 years ago and decided to go back--Neal is from Raymore, MO. He decided to go back to school full time. He has nerve damage in his back and takes several medications. His doctor prescribed 120 pills a month, but his insurance plan will only pay for 100 pills a month.

    Neal said not only does he have pain he didn't have before, but he says: There is nothing I can do about it. He says: Nobody wants to help. The doctor says I need 120 pills a month. The insurance says they are not going to let me have more than 100. I think he wishes this was between him and his doctor instead of between him and his insurance company.

    Myron from Hannibal, MO, and his family have annual premiums that went from $2,200 to $6,500--a $4,300 increase. He found his doctor is no longer in the network. He doesn't want to have a new doctor. He liked his old insurance, but it was canceled, and he can't get to the doctors he used to use with his new insurance.

    Campus problems: A young healthy son on campus. His insurance was $550 a semester last semester. This year it is $770 a semester so he can have the same insurance that in all likelihood he will not use because he is, after all, young and healthy, but the 40-percent increase is an increase the law almost requires. The law went from five different categories of people to be insured to three, and the top one can't pay more than three times what the bottom pays.

    One final story. Dennis is from Dexter, MO, near Missouri's bootheel. He is an insurance broker. He says he has lots of stories he could tell, but the one that came to mind that he told us about this week was people who had a nationwide network of doctors in a plan he used to sell now are transitioned to a network that is much smaller and it only works in the State you reside in.

    Missouri has many States that touch it. As many as eight States touch our State, so almost everybody in our State lives on or near a border. If you live on or near the border in the exchange, you cannot go to the doctor or hospital, in all likelihood, that may be 10 miles from where you are because it is not in your State. When I was first told that, I simply didn't believe it, and the more we checked into it the more we found out that is what people were finding over and over. The policies they could get did not allow them to go a reasonable distance if they had to cross a border.

    So we have work to do. I hope we can do it. I think there are ways we can work together, but the real thing we have to solve is better health care for families and affordable health care and health insurance for families. It is not happening right now. I hope we move to a better place.

    I yield the floor.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER (Ms. Hirono). The Senator from Louisiana.

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