Nomination of Patricia M. Wald to Be a Member of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Boardby Senator John Thune
Posted on 2013-12-11
THUNE. Thank you, Madam President. I thank my colleague from
North Dakota--both colleagues from North Dakota who are here in the
Chamber--and I appreciate his leadership as a former Governor,
understanding these issues such as health care, which do profoundly
impact the people whom we all represent in the Dakotas. There are some
unique challenges, obviously, of meeting the health care needs of
people in our States because we have a big geography, lots of wide open
space. We do not have the big population centers that are in other
places in the country, and so health care delivery and coverage of
health care, health care insurance and access to it are enormously
important to the people we all represent.
I would say it has become abundantly clear that the American people are rejecting ObamaCare, which is the law that was passed several years ago in the Senate, in the house, signed into law by the President. I remember being here at the time and voting on that on Christmas Eve. We were actually here. It was December 24, 4 years ago, I think now, in 2009. We were right up here until the end, and this was, I would say, jammed through the Senate.
The majority had the votes. They were not all that concerned about having participation or input from those of us who served in the other party--as a consequence of that just shoved this thing through right on Christmas Eve. I think that was an unfortunate way in which to conduct the business of the Senate, to enact major legislation. It is very rare around here that legislation of that consequence that literally impacts one-sixth of the American economy is shoved through on a partisan party-line basis.
So that is the way it was done. We said at the time--many of us were down here on the floor over and over predicting that because of the way this was structured it was going to lead to higher insurance premiums, it was going to lead to fewer jobs in our economy, a lot of stress on employers that were trying to create those jobs. All of that is coming to fruition as we hear now reports day after day after day across this country--from my State of South Dakota, other States across the country--from people who are feeling the very real and harmful impacts of the ObamaCare legislation, both in terms of higher premiums but also canceled coverages, higher deductibles, things that affect the pocketbooks of millions of Americans and issues that are discussed and debated at kitchen tables, but they are profoundly important to the economic well-being of people in this country.
When you are seeing the dramatic increases in premiums, the dramatic increases in deductibles, the loss of coverage, the canceled coverages we are seeing across the country right now, it is very disturbing to people. That is why I think you have seen this widespread rejection of ObamaCare.
Interestingly enough, yesterday Health and Human Services released new enrollment numbers for the exchanges for October and November. Over the course of those 2 months, in my State of South Dakota, just 372 South Dakotans--or less than one-half of one-tenth of 1 percent of my State's residents--signed up for health care on the exchanges.
Ten other States also had fewer than 1,000 people sign up.
Oregon, which embraced ObamaCare very early on, had just 44 enrollments. Think about that--44 enrollments to show for 2 months thanks to their Web site, which suffered an even more catastrophic failure than the Federal Web site.
In all, there were 364,682 enrolled in the exchanges during the months of October and November--not even one-quarter of the number the administration had projected after 2 months. To meet its goal of 3.3 million signups by December 31, the administration would have to sign up almost 3 million people in the next 3 weeks or more than 145,000 every single day.
Considering that the administration has averaged fewer than 6,000 enrollments a day over the past 2 months, I would not want to put a lot of money on them being able to meet that goal. It is obvious from the sluggish enrollment numbers that the American people are rejecting ObamaCare. But if anyone needs more proof, three new polls came out last week, all reporting strong opposition to the law among the American people.
The Pew Research Center poll reports that 54 percent of the American people disapprove of the President's health care law.
According to Pew's most recent survey, the percentage of Americans who think the health care law has ``had a negative effect on the country'' rose 11 percent just since September of this year.
In the Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll released yesterday, the President's disapproval rating reached an alltime high of 54 percent. When asked what issue shaped their view of the President this year, 60 percent cited ObamaCare.
The same Wall Street Journal poll also found the number of Americans who think the President's health care law was ``a bad idea'' reached an alltime high.
Quinnipiac University also released a poll yesterday that found that 57 percent of the American people oppose ObamaCare.
The President's health care law has never enjoyed strong popular support. But Democrats and the President argued that public support for the law should not be judged until the law's benefits were in effect.
The law is now in effect. People can buy insurance on the exchanges. Yet opposition to the law is not declining; it is the opposite that is happening. It is actually rising. Opposition to the law is increasing over time as more and more people become aware of the impact on their personal economic well-being.
Quinnipiac reported a 10-point jump in opposition to the law between October 1 of this year and December 11.
Meanwhile, support for the law, already low, dropped a further six points over the same time period.
Even worse for the President, it is not just Republicans and Independents who are fleeing the President's signature law. Many of the President's strongest supporters, those who initially supported his health care law and helped reelect him last year, are deserting the President.
The Pew Research Center found a 10-point drop in support among African Americans since September and a 9-point drop in support among Hispanic Americans--both groups who strongly supported the President in the last election.
The Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll also found ``faith in Mr. Obama has dropped noticeably in recent months among young voters and Hispanics, two groups that had been among his steadiest supporters.'' So the question, I guess, is why are the American people and even the President's strongest supporters rejecting ObamaCare? Why, now that the law is mostly in effect, is opposition growing rather than declining? Well, I think the answer is very simple. It is because the law has failed to deliver on the President's promises. From rising premiums, to canceled health plans, to lost doctors, ObamaCare is doing the exact opposite of what the President promised it would do. The President said his new law would reduce the cost of health care. In fact, he claimed families would see their premiums fall by an average of $2,500 a year. But that promise fell apart almost immediately after ObamaCare was enacted. In fact, what we are seeing out there is that the average family has seen its health care premiums rise by more than $2,500 since the law's passage. Now that the law is being implemented, those numbers are only going higher. Those families who are lucky enough to keep their plans have been receiving insurance renewal notices with staggering premium increases. Premiums are doubling or [[Page S8729]] even tripling for many families, and deductibles are increasing as well. Imagine getting a $600-a-month increase in premiums. That is $7,200 a year. How on Earth is a working family, a middle-class family in this country supposed to be able to afford that? The President would like you to believe that these Americans' updated, more expensive health plans are far superior to what they had before. But, in fact, many of these plans were as good or better than what these families are getting now. Many of these plans are falling short of people's expectations because they have higher deductibles. Of course, with all of the mandated coverages that are in many of these plans, there are all kinds of things that people who are subscribing, trying to get on the exchanges, are finding they do not need. I have had people in my State of South Dakota who are in their fifties and sixties who are asking why they need to have things such as maternity coverage.
You see that as these letters and emails and phone calls are coming into your office and people are finding out about the specifics--the details, if you will--of these various plans, they are rejecting them not only because they have higher premiums, but they are also plans that are not sufficient or adequate compared to what they are currently experiencing with the plans they had before. Now thousands of families around the country are going to be struggling to pay huge premium increases without receiving any additional benefit.
The situation is no better on the exchanges. While there are certainly plans with low premiums on the exchanges, many of those plans have deductibles that are so high that, barring some catastrophic illness or injury, the family might as well not have insurance at all. A family without insurance who typically pays $8,000 a year in health care costs may see no benefit at all from an insurance plan with a $12,000 deductible. In fact, they may spend more on health care because now they have to pay high insurance premiums as well. So you have higher insurance premiums, higher deductibles, meaning in many cases that they are not going to reach the threshold that would trigger a payment from their plan, and so they are getting no additional benefit, but they are paying way more for the same or worse coverage.
In addition to promising a new era of affordable health care, the President also promised that nothing would change for people who liked the health care they had. He repeated many times--we have all seen the videos of this--that if you like your health care plan, you can keep it. He even went so far as to say ``You can keep it, period'' to make it even more emphatic. ``If you like your doctors, you can keep your doctor, period.'' But Americans are now finding out that was not even close to being true. Millions of Americans have seen the health care plans that they liked canceled by insurance companies in response to new ObamaCare regulations. So far, more than 5 million Americans have lost their health care plans as a direct result of ObamaCare. In fact, today, millions more Americans have lost health care than have gained it under the President's signature law.
Millions of Americans are also realizing that they cannot keep their doctors or their hospitals. ObamaCare put in place scores of new regulations on insurance companies and the plans they offer. To meet all of the ObamaCare requirements while still getting their plans approved, insurance companies have been forced to drastically shrink their networks of doctors and hospitals. As a consequence, many families are finding that their new health care plans force them to give up doctors they have been seeing literally for years.
That may not sound so terrible to some of us if we do not have a close relationship with our doctors, but what if you are a cancer patient who relies on your network of doctors and oncologists to coordinate your lifesaving care? More than one cancer patient has spoken openly in the press about the struggle to find a replacement health care plan after having their original plan canceled as a result of ObamaCare, a plan that covers all of the doctors and the medicines they are currently using.
Joan Carrico, a nurse from Michigan and a cancer patient, published a heartbreaking column on CNBC yesterday updating readers on her struggles to find a health care plan that covers all of her care. I will let her words speak for her and the other Americans in her position: I can't begin to describe how devastated I am. Many people like me, who are in a difficult health crisis and fighting to regain good health, are finding it very difficult--if not impossible--to make sure that we can keep our doctors and receive the chemotherapy and other treatments and medicines that are keeping us alive. . . . I'm scared and wondering what surprises are around the corner.
Well, Ms. Carrico brings up another thing people may lose under ObamaCare besides their doctors and their health care plans; that is, their medications.
Forbes published an article this week outlining the reasons ObamaCare may cause millions of Americans to lose access to the medications they are currently taking. The author points out that many exchange plans have steep cost-sharing requirements for prescription drugs. Purchasing a bronze plan, for example, the article points out, means you will likely be responsible for 40 percent of a drug's cost. That may not be so bad if we are talking about a common antibiotic, but that gets very expensive when we are talking about more sophisticated drugs, such as cancer drugs and other lifesaving treatments.
The second reason patients may lose access to their medications, according to Forbes, is that some plans simply may not cover the prescription drugs that person has been taking. Out-of-pocket limits, the article notes, do not apply if the drug you are taking is not on your new insurance company's ``approved'' list of drugs. You may find yourself paying for a very expensive drug without any benefit at all from your new insurance plan.
In addition to higher costs and the loss of their doctor and health care plans, there is another reason Americans are rejecting ObamaCare. ObamaCare is not just bad for health care, it is bad for the economy. New health care regulations are discouraging businesses from hiring and expanding their businesses.
Earlier this week a CBS News article reported that ``nearly half of U.S. companies said they are reluctant to hire full-time employees because of the law.'' The Hill reported on a recent survey by the National Association of Manufacturers that found that 77 percent of manufacturers cite soaring health care costs as the biggest issue facing their business. The title of the Washington Post article on the health care law's impact on small businesses says it all: ``Health care law's aggregation rules pose a compliance nightmare for small businesses.'' That is the headline of the Washington Post.
Small businesses are responsible for a majority of the job creation in this country. If we look at some States around the country, my State of South Dakota being a good example, most of the jobs, a huge proportion of the jobs created in States like mine are created by small businesses, but the health care law is discouraging them from hiring, drowning them in regulations, and promising stiff new requirements if they have 50 or more employees. I can't tell you how many times, when I am traveling in my State of South Dakota--or, for that matter, traveling outside my State but specifically in my State of South Dakota--when I am talking to businesses, to people who are creating jobs, investors, the uncertainty associated with this health care law and the new costs because of its mandates and its requirements are making it more difficult and more expensive for them to create jobs.
So what are we seeing as a result of that? We are seeing a slower, much more sluggish economy; chronic high unemployment; and fewer jobs, particularly for people who are coming out of college. Younger Americans in particular are paying a dear price because of the slow economy. When businesses do not hire, the economy suffers. Every American who has spent weeks, months, or years struggling to find a job suffers too.
I know my Democratic colleagues here in the Senate know all of this. That is why some of them are starting to run away from ObamaCare too. Democrats in Congress may have supported the law, but now that they have [[Page S8730]] seen how it looks in reality, some of them--particularly those running for reelection--are eager to distance themselves from it. No one running for reelection wants to be too closely associated with the law that is raising Americans' health care costs, taking away their health care choices, and hurting an already struggling economy.
The American people have spoken. They do not like ObamaCare. They do not want ObamaCare. They cannot afford ObamaCare. It is time for Democrats in Congress to start listening. I always think it is never too late to do the right thing. I hope that as more Americans start to weigh in and start to engage in the discussion about how this is impacting them personally, that will have such a profound impact on Members of Congress here in Washington, DC, that they will come to the conclusion that many of us reached a long time ago; that is, this is a bad, flawed bill, built upon a faulty foundation that is destined to fail, and that the best thing we can do is pull it out by the roots and start over in a way that makes sense for the American people, that addresses the challenges we have in our health care system in America today but does it in a way that does not require the government to take over literally one-sixth of the American economy and create political control--command and control from here in Washington, DC, over literally one-sixth of the American economy.
One out of every six dollars in our economy today is spent on health care. Think about that. There are very few areas where you can say that complete, total government intervention impacts that big of a swath of our economy. Unfortunately, government intervention is impacting way too much of our economy. As a consequence, we are paying a price in the form of fewer jobs, chronic high unemployment, and a slower, sluggish, anemic economy, which is making it more difficult for people to find jobs and more difficult for us to get ourselves out of what is a very difficult economy.
My hope would be that before this is all said and done--and I do not know when this will happen; hopefully sooner rather than later because I think the sooner we make that adjustment and decide this was the wrong course and reverse course and go in a different direction, the less damage we will do to people's livelihoods, to their personal economic circumstances, and the less damage we will do to the overall economy in this country. I hope that realization comes sooner rather than later. But I think what will drive it--I have maintained all along that ultimately the only thing that can really change this is the American people because clearly we have a President of the United States for whom this is his signature achievement. Unless he starts hearing from the American people, he is unlikely to change.
We have a lot of people here in the Senate--every Democrat here today who was here in 2009 voted for this. Not a single Republican who was here in 2009 voted for it. That is probably one of the reasons this is such a failed policy. It did not have input or buy-in from the other side. It did not get some of the best ideas coming to the forefront.
There was a much better way to do this. Many of us who have been around here for very long have been proposing solutions to address health care challenges that have been rejected by Democrats here in Congress.
We have talked a lot over the years about allowing people to buy insurance across State lines. Why wouldn't we create interstate competition? Competition in a free market economy generally, as a matter of principle and as a matter of practice, drives down price. If we create more competition and give people more choices, that tends to drive down prices. That is a fairly basic economic principle.
Why wouldn't we allow small businesses to join larger groups where they can get the benefit of group purchasing power and thereby put downward pressure on the cost of health care in this country? Why wouldn't we allow for expanded opportunities for people to take care of their own health care circumstances by allowing for expanded, larger health savings accounts, opportunities for people to put money aside in an account, perhaps buy a catastrophic policy with a high deductible but tax free. They can put money aside that allows them to cover some of those health care costs that don't reach that catastrophic level.
What about finally doing something to reduce the cost of defensive medicine, which means we would have to reform our medical malpractice laws in this country and weed out a lot of the junk lawsuits that clog our legal system and make it so much more expensive to deliver health care. I talk to physicians all the time for whom concern about liability is a major issue. It creates overutilization. You take all this great technology we have in America today, and you have physicians who are worried about being sued. Of course, they are probably going to run duplicative tests. Anybody who is involved in the delivery of health care in this country knows very well about the cost of practicing defensive medicine. There have been many studies done on it, all of which conclude that it adds significantly to the cost of delivering health care in this country. There are differences of opinion about how much that is, but there is no question that it is a factor in the high cost of health care.
There have been proposals. There are a number of my colleagues on this side of the aisle who have suggested allowing people to have their own personal, refundable tax credit for the purchase of health insurance and to create equity between the tax treatment of health care that people can get through their employer with that which they would be able to get in the individual marketplace.
Again, the principle is greater choice, greater competition, and therefore lower prices. It is a fairly straightforward and simple formula when it comes to a market-based approach to how we deal with the health care crisis we have in this country.
Clearly, we have programs such as Medicare and Medicaid where the government is fairly heavily involved in the delivery of health care in this country. That too is an area where we need to be looking at how we can reform and make those programs work more efficiently, more effectively, in a way that hopefully maximizes the return the taxpayers get on those particular programs.
If we look at programs such as Medicare, there was a good example a few years ago, which was Medicare Part D, which is the only program I can think of since I have been here--or, for that matter, since I have been following policies that have been put in place over time--that has actually cost less than what it was projected to cost. Why? Because it allowed for competition. It created a private component where private insurance companies would vie for, would bid for the business of senior citizens across this country when it comes to their medications. As a consequence of that, we have seen those costs come down to a reasonable level. It actually has cost less than what was anticipated.
That is a principle we could start to apply in other areas. There are a number of things that could be done to reduce the cost of delivery of health care when it comes to the component of it that the government is heavily involved with.
But the point, very simply, is that whenever we create more choices, when we create more competition, it has a downward impact on costs. It drives costs down. So why weren't a lot of these things considered or incorporated into ObamaCare when it was passed? Well, we all know the answer to that. It is because the majority party, which had the votes, decided to do it their way. They decided to go their own way, and as a consequence we ended up with a bill, a piece of legislation, and now a huge new program that has been an utter disaster.
I think any objective observer would come to that conclusion based upon the rollout of the Web site and everything subsequent to that that impacts costs; that impacts people's ability to keep the plan they have and the doctor they have; that impacts to the economy, which is overburdened with the cost of regulation in the new law; as well as the many--and I say ``many''--taxes that were included in the new law. There were many new taxes included, not to mention lots of cuts to Medicare, which, interestingly enough, were double-counted. That was allowed to be used as ``savings'' put in the Medicare [[Page S8731]] trust fund, therefore extending the lifespan of Medicare. At the same time, that was going to be spent on the new health care proposal.
Only in Washington, DC, could someone get away with an accounting convention that would allow someone to double-count revenue, which is essentially what happened. We raised that question many times, and eventually we had a letter from the Congressional Budget Office that said: Yes, this is double-counting revenue. You are spending the same money twice.
Yet the majority party had the votes. Around here, it is a function of math: If you have the votes, you can do pretty much whatever you want. And that is what they did. We are paying a dear price for that, but the people who are really paying the biggest price are the American people, who are seeing these increased premium costs, increased deductibles, fewer jobs, slower economy, and lower take-home pay. That is the bottom line.
It boils down to basic economic terms. What we are talking about is a slower, more sluggish, anemic economy, chronic high unemployment, and lower take-home pay for middle-class America. In fact, if we look at average household income, which is something we use as a metric to measure people's overall economic situations, the average household income in this country, since 2009 when the President took office, has decreased by about $3,700 per family. There are a lot of things, obviously, that contribute to that, but I don't think it is any surprise that when you drive up the costs of something that everybody needs in this country--and by that, I mean health care--in the form of higher premiums and higher deductibles, it is inevitable that you are going to see a lot of people's household incomes impacted by that. Then you couple and layer on top of that the impact it has on the economy. When you have a sluggish economy creating fewer jobs, that, too, has a very devastating impact on people's personal economic circumstances and livelihood. So average household income, since the President took office, has gone down by about $3,700--lower take-home pay. That is another of the results and the outcomes and the ultimate impacts, if you will, of policies created in Washington, DC, that make it more expensive and more difficult to create jobs in this country.
As I said earlier, I think ultimately what will get us to where we really can change this, change course, change direction, take this thing which is headed for the cliff and turn it around and move it in the other direction, is going to be the American people. If every Senator, every Member of Congress, if the White House is hearing what I am hearing from people in South Dakota, perhaps there is some hope that we can persuade enough people in Congress that we have to change the direction we are heading.
I would like to share a few things that I heard from people in my State of South Dakota.
A male constituent from Sioux Falls, SD, wrote and said: I just received notice that our health insurance will go up almost 60 percent due to the ACA, from $718 per month to $1146 per month. We will also lose our prescription drug benefit and office co-pay benefit until each of us reaches a $5,000 deductible. We have maternity benefits now and pediatric dental and vision care, although I am 64 and my wife is 59. This will cost us an additional $5,000 per year.
For somebody who is trying to make ends meet in this country, trying to get the mortgage paid, trying to put a little aside for their kids' education, $5,000 is real money. That is a tangible impact of this law on the economic circumstances, the standard of living, the quality of life this particular couple is experiencing in America today.
ObamaCare is sticking hard-working Americans with higher costs for unnecessary coverage. Families were denied the ability to keep their plans--the plans that best fit their needs, lifestyles, and budgets.
The following is a letter we received from a female constituent from Wilmot, SD: My husband and I have four small children and purchase our own health care. My husband runs his own small business and I am privileged to stay at home. We are very healthy, so we have always purchased a plan with a large deductible, so we can afford a reasonable premium.
Today we received our letter from our health insurance provider letting us know that next month our premium will be jumping 232 percent! That's over $500 more a month--and we barely use our health insurance.
We currently live in an 1,800 square foot house and have been trying to find something bigger. This jump in our monthly health care premium could prevent us from being able to afford any kind of monthly house payment.
ObamaCare is cutting into the carefully planned budgets of American families, holding them back from the futures for which they have carefully budgeted. This is an example of a family who is trying to get by--four small kids--and they buy their own health care in the individual marketplace. The husband is self-employed, runs his own business, and the mom has been able to stay home and care for those four kids. They work very hard staying healthy and very rarely use their health insurance policy. They are going to see a 232-percent increase, over $500 more a month. They live in a 1,800-square-foot house. They had hoped to be able to find something a little bit bigger, and they aren't going to be able to because of the consequences of ObamaCare.
A female constituent from Spencer, SD, writes: Thanks to ObamaCare, my monthly premium will increase over 100 percent, which equals 45 percent of my monthly income. My daughter lost her insurance, as well. The ACA is not affordable, and if I could tell the President so, I would. My private insurance did change.
The Obama administration has broken its promise that Americans who wanted to keep their plans could. We are also learning that this law simply isn't affordable for many middle-class families, such as this lady from Spencer, SD, whom the Obama administration said it would protect when they said: ``If you like your insurance plan, you can keep it, period.'' A lot of Americans took that to the bank. Clearly, they should have known better. The double talk coming out of Washington, DC, is not only frustrating a lot of Americans, it is creating cynicism and a lack of trust and confidence, which is going to make it difficult to do big things in the future.
A male constituent from Rapid City, SD, wrote: I know you did not vote for this-- Thank you-- but I wanted to tell you. My health care premium went from $640 a month to $1080 a month. My deductible went from $3600 to $5000. I feel like the federal government has stolen over $5000 a year from me.
Americans feel betrayed by this law, likening the increased rates to theft by their own government. That is the level of frustration people across this country are feeling. They are frustrated, they are discouraged, they are despondent, and they want something to give. They want something to change. They know we can't continue down this path and expect that any of these families are going to be able to provide a better standard of living and a better quality of life for their children and grandchildren. The family has over a $400 increase in their monthly premium and a $l,400 increase in their deductible. That is the effect on this constituent in Rapid City, SD.
A constituent family from Watertown, SD, writes: You need to know how ObamaCare is harming my life and health care. We were one of the families that lost their health care plan. We heard President Obama say, ``if you like your health care, you can keep it.'' That was a lie. Our new health care plan is going to cost our family $21,600 a year compared to the health care plan of 2013 which cost us $7,335.96. That is a 300-plus percent increase. We are a healthy family of six people. We are outraged and upset.
Madam President, these letters and calls to my office echo similar complaints from American families back home in my State of South Dakota and all across the country. ObamaCare is costing this family more money and denying them the plan they want. That is the real life, real world impact.
If you think about it, this is really pretty staggering. This new health care plan is going to cost this family over $21,000 a year compared to $7,335 today. A 300-plus percent increase for a healthy family of six. You can't blame them when they say they are upset and outraged. Who wouldn't be. Who wouldn't be.
This is from a small business owner from Brookings, SD, who writes: In the mail today was a letter from my health care insurance provider . . . and, well, [[Page S8732]] guess what? Thanks to the great ObamaCare plan, my monthly premium almost doubled, and my deductible doubled. I'm a small business owner, and I would like to hire an employee next spring. . . . Well, that's not going to happen. When will those we elect to Washington ever do something to help people and small businesses? Madam President, ObamaCare is not only slamming individuals, it is hitting the small businesses, the job creators that Washington needs to be protecting. ObamaCare is stopping employers from expanding their workforce.
In a bigger place, in a big city, this may not have the same domino effect or the ripple effect that it does in a small State such as South Dakota where you have a small business owner, such as this gentleman from Brookings, SD, who wants to expand his business, wants to hire another employee but is saying that is not going to happen, and the reason it is not going to happen is because of this huge increase in their monthly premiums--almost doubling the monthly premium, and doubling the deductible.
I don't know how an employer in this country today, who is trying to grow a business, expand the business and provide for themselves and their families, perhaps put a little aside to use for the kids' college education or perhaps put a little aside for retirement, deals with the doubling of probably one of their biggest costs of doing business, and that is the cost of health care. You double your premiums; you double your deductible.
This is from a mother in Garretson, SD, who writes: Next year, our insurance is changing, and I will lose my family practice doctor of 22 years--the doctor that delivered all my children and that has cared for our teenage children all their lives. We will also lose all the backup doctors our family has seen when we couldn't see our regular doctor. I was happy with my insurance, and now I have to lose my doctor.
This is more testimony from people losing their plans and doctors, which the Obama administration--President Obama himself--repeatedly, over and over, told the American people they could keep. Families are losing their trusted doctors.
Whether it is a doctor, a hospital, or prescription drug coverage, these are all real life examples, real world examples of the impacts of ObamaCare that point to just one thing, and that is this law, No. 1, doesn't work, and No. 2, it can't be fixed. There is no way we will be able to address what most people care about when it comes to their health care--and that is the cost--when we require the people who provide that health care coverage to deal with more mandates, more requirements, higher taxes, all of which are going to get passed on and paid for by the very people in this country who are just trying to make ends meet and make a living and provide for their families.
Those are seven examples from my State of South Dakota. I could go on, because there are many more examples. There are examples from people all across the country. But I think the point that needs to be made here--and can't be made often enough--is that these are real world economic impacts that are affecting every day Americans in a way that is making it more difficult for them, making their economic circumstances more complicated and more difficult.
What, if anything, should we here in Washington take away from this? First off, as I said earlier, this doesn't work. Let's start over. Let's do this the right way. It is not too late to do that. It is never too late to do the right thing. We could, if we decided to pull this thing out by the roots and start over, come up with a whole series of reforms that would move us in a step-by-step direction toward the ultimate goal, and that is to address the health care challenge we face in America today; that is, the cost.
I don't think there is any American family, any individual, as they think about having to purchase health care--and particularly if you are a young healthy person, obviously, you don't want to pay a lot for it because you are probably not going to use a lot. Yet those are the people who will get hit the hardest. I can't tell you, if you are in your 20s, how much more you are going to have to pay to get health care coverage in this country, simply because the law requires what they call the community rating band be narrow so that people who are healthier and younger are going to pay much more to cover people who are less healthy. That is a reality in the legislation and it is a reality now in terms of the way it is being applied and being implemented.
So we are looking at a lot of people in this country--for sure younger Americans, but Americans of all ages as well--who are looking at higher cost because of these regulations and mandates and requirements that are being imposed upon the insurance companies and health care providers in this country. The new taxes, which I mentioned a little bit earlier, are also something that ultimately get passed on.
When we were debating this, the Democrats argued that we would have $\1/2\ trillion in tax increases and $\1/2\ trillion in Medicare cuts and that was how this was to be financed. It turns out when it is fully implemented the cost is much higher. What they did is they front-end loaded some of the revenues and back-end loaded the costs. When the Congressional Budget Office looked at it, in a 10-year window, they said there will be about a $1 trillion cost.
When it is fully implemented, and we see the full impact of the cost and the revenues together, the 10-year cost is more like $2\1/2\ trillion. So it was a massive expansion of the Federal Government-- literally the largest expansion of the government in 50 years. It was literally a takeover of one-sixth of the American economy. That is what health care represents in this country.
So if we think about that in those terms, how much this thing is going to cost--and at the time they said: Don't worry, it is all paid for. It will not add to the deficit--we are finding out now more and more information, with more and more analysis being done, and it is coming to light that, in fact, it is going to cost way more than what was initially expected. I think this is the tip of the iceberg, the tip of the iceberg in terms of the cost to the American taxpayers. Again, this is financed by higher taxes, all of which get passed on to the very people in this country this is supposed to help.
The Medicare cuts that were proposed to help pay for this, many of us said at the time were cutting hospitals, cutting home health agencies, cutting nursing homes, cutting hospices--which is what this did. This was all designed to take $\1/2\ trillion. But again, when it is fully implemented, it isn't $\1/2\ trillion, it is $1 trillion, when you look at the full 10-year implementation. But taking this out of Medicare was, No. 1, going to help pay for all the new benefits that would happen under ObamaCare; and No. 2, somehow--somehow, don't ask me how-- it was going to be credited to the Medicare trust fund, thereby extending the life of Medicare.
How do you do that? How do you, with a straight face, say we are going to take--let's just use the conservative number used by the Democrats on the floor--$\1/2\ trillion out of Medicare, use it to finance a new entitlement benefit and somehow be able to say we are going to credit the Medicare trust fund and that this is actually going to prolong the lifespan of Medicare? It was absolutely stunning at the time that we were having this debate and we raised these issues. But people would say: The CBO says this, the CBO says this. That is because CBO uses some pretty strange accounting conventions that aren't used anywhere else in the world. Anyplace else in the world you would be in jail for doing something like that, for double counting revenue-- spending the same money twice. But that is essentially what happened.
Many of us at the time, as I said, raised this issue on the floor and tried to point out we are spending the same money twice. At that time it fell on deaf ears. To me, that is again a symptom of a process that is geared to get a result with a majority vote driven through here, jammed through here, forced through here on Christmas Eve. We all had that vote Christmas Eve morning, and all I can say, as someone who was here and observed that entire process, we tried our best to warn the American people about what was going to happen.
It is too bad we didn't at the time decide, as we usually do when we do major legislation--major legislation that has enormous consequence for the American people--to do it in a bipartisan way that incorporates the best [[Page S8733]] ideas of both sides of the aisle and perhaps gets a big bipartisan vote. Usually, when you pass major legislation around here, you are sort of hoping for 70 to 75 votes, perhaps even more, because you have the buy-in, everybody has been involved in helping shape and formulate that legislation. But that wasn't the case when this passed.
Again, I understand. This becomes a function of math. You have the votes or you don't. That is the way this place operates. At that particular time, 60 votes was something the majority had the luxury of and didn't seem to care a whole lot about what Republicans had to say. The President was bent on getting his initiative through and getting it his way. Today, that is the reason, in my view at least, we are where we are, with a piece of legislation the impacts of which are now being fully felt by the American people, and their conclusion is what I think their conclusion should be: This is a really raw deal.
I can't tell you, as I think about the broader context, beyond just the world and the space of health care when it comes to public policy, how these decisions that are made here, major policy decisions, impact the broader economy. There is no question, there is no debate about the impact this is having on the economy.
If you talk to any small business person in this country, anybody who has the responsibility of providing health insurance for their employees, who has the responsibility for hiring and employing people and, hopefully, paying them a living wage and benefits that go with it, there is no question this is having a detrimental impact on the overall economy, which continues to sputter along at a 1 to 2 percent growth rate. The best thing we could do, if we want to really help the American people and really improve the standard of living and the quality of life for people in this country, is to first get people unemployed back to work; but, secondly, get the economy expanding at a faster rate.
We are growing at 1 to 2 percent a year instead of 3 to 4 percent, and that has a profound impact in not only the number of jobs created but also the wealth that is created. When we think about an economy that is growing at 3 to 4 percent versus an economy that is growing at 1 to 2 percent, the difference in the gross domestic product, the difference in the total economic output is substantial. In fact, it is dramatic.
What does that mean? It means a lot, not the least of which is that government revenues are a lot lower than they otherwise would be. If you had a more robust economy, growing at a faster rate, people are working, people are investing, they are making money and they are paying taxes.
We have this debate around here like it occurs in some sort of vacuum or static environment. Republicans come in here, those of us who believe in limited government, and we talk about doing what we can to make government more efficient and make it cost less.
Democrats believe that we ought to have more revenue, more taxes; and the problem isn't that we spend too much, it is that we tax too little. That is a fundamental philosophical debate that we have here on a regular basis. One of the reasons, by the way, why it is so hard to reach a significant budget agreement: There is a profound difference in the way we view the world and how we get our country on a more sustainable fiscal path.
There are those of us who believe in spending reforms, lower spending, a more limited role for the government and think that is what we ought to be doing. Democrats by and large believe that we just need a little more tax revenue. If we just raise taxes a little bit more, we could do more here in Washington for the American people. I happen to be of the view that the American people can do just fine for themselves if you allow them to keep more of what they earn.
The reality is that there is a third way, and that is to grow the economy. We can reduce spending, we can raise taxes. We ought to reduce spending. We ought to reform spending in a way that changes this fiscal trajectory which we are on today, which becomes increasingly problematic the farther we get down the road in the future.
But in addition to reducing and reforming our spending programs in this country, we also ought to be looking at growing the economy and actually making the pie bigger. Because that is a surefire way, a certain way of getting the kind of growth in the economy which would allow Federal revenues to go up rather than down.
We have seen this over time historically. If history is any sort of guide and we go back to the 1920s under Coolidge or to the 1960s under Kennedy, a Democratic President who understood the importance of reducing marginal income tax rates or Reagan in the 1980s or more recently in the last decade President George W. Bush, when you reduce taxes on income and investment, you don't get less revenue. You get more because it changes the behavior of the American people. People have an incentive then to invest, to go to work. That generates not less revenue but more and puts us in a situation where we are much better off, not only in terms of our economy and the opportunities it provides the American people but also to the fiscal track we are on as a Nation.
I see my colleague from Kentucky is here. I know he has some observations on this issue of ObamaCare, the economy generally, and other matters before us. But certainly one of the reasons we are here is because we have this rush to approve all of these nominees to these various agencies of government--many agencies which are guilty of the very overreach which has contributed to where we are with regard to ObamaCare. We have too many regulatory agencies with way too much power and are circumventing the will in many cases of the Congress to accomplish an agenda that is very contrary to the very things I just talked about, which are economic growth and job creation.
But through the Chair, I yield the floor for the Senator from Kentucky. I believe Senator Paul is here to take up the measure.
The PRESIDING OFFICER (Ms. Warren). The Senator from Kentucky.