A picture of Senator Kelly Ayotte
Kelly A.
Republican NH

About Sen. Kelly
  • Prayer

    by Senator Kelly Ayotte

    Posted on 2013-09-24

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    AYOTTE. Mr. President, I rise today to talk about what is happening in my home State of New Hampshire as a result of ObamaCare. When I ran for the Senate in 2010, one of the reasons I decided to do so is because when I saw ObamaCare had been passed, I worried about what was going to happen with this law.

    We saw it could offer less competition, limit peoples' choices, limit their choices on who would be their physician, and also change their insurance policies and raise costs in a health care system that costs too much to begin with.

    Sadly, we are now seeing all of these fears come true with ObamaCare. Unfortunately, I have seen it firsthand in my home State of New Hampshire. In fact, I have heard it from my constituents, whether it is at a townhall, whether it is visiting with a small business, whether it is listening to someone who is having their hours cut because their employer is trying to meet a 29-hour requirement.

    In fact, right now in New Hampshire there is only one insurer that was approved to offer health policies on New Hampshire's ObamaCare exchange. In order to prevent premiums from skyrocketing--and by the way, people in New Hampshire will be paying higher than the national average for premiums under ObamaCare. But to prevent them from skyrocketing even further, this lone New Hampshire insurer has been essentially forced to limit its network of providers to exclude 10 of our 26 hospitals.

    What does that mean for the people of New Hampshire? Several of the hospitals have been excluded as a result of ObamaCare from this exchange and did not make the list for coverage. They are, for example Concord Hospital, which serves residents in and around our State capital, and that is not one of the providers in the network; Portsmouth Regional Hospital in Portsmouth. The largest city on our seacoast, Portsmouth Regional Hospital serves the surrounding areas. Not in the network.

    Other hospitals in New Hampshire that are not in this network: Frisbie Memorial Hospital in Rochester; Southern New Hampshire Medical Center in Nashua, where I live; Monadnock Community Hospital in Peterborough; Valley Regional Hospital in Claremont; and Alice Peck Day Hospital in Lebanon.

    This problem is especially challenging for people in New Hampshire who live in rural areas. It is particularly unfair to them. For example, Upper Connecticut Valley Hospital in Colebrook did not make the cut. What does that mean that Upper Connecticut Valley Hospital in Colebrook did not make the cut? If you live in Colebrook or Stewartstown or Columbia, and you need maternal care, you have to drive to Berlin. If you have to drive to Berlin from some of those areas, this round trip can take you 3 hours.

    What does that mean when you need maternal care? If you have to drive over an hour or an hour and a half to get to the hospital, I have to tell you, the north country in the winter can be some tough driving. One thing I know about the residents of our north country, they are resilient, they are tough, they are wonderful people. But they should not be put through this as a result of fewer choices under ObamaCare.

    I have been making trips across New Hampshire directly talking to my constituents, including to business owners. The message I have heard from them is very clear. In fact, it has been raised with me on almost every stop that I made in New Hampshire in August where I had the chance to talk to people from throughout all our State.

    This is not an issue that is being raised because I am a Republican or a Democrat or an Independent. It is universal concern and worry about the impact of ObamaCare and the increasing costs that people are seeing in health care as a result of ObamaCare and fewer choices that people in New Hampshire are going to have.

    Here is some of the mail I have received from some of my constituents about this law.

    Dave in Manchester wrote me that he and his wife are in their forties. This is what he had to say: Our premiums went from quarterly in May to monthly as of June. No birthdays or changes in health. Our monthly bill went from $497.39 for myself to $572.67, a jump of over 15 percent. My wife had her bill go from $572.67 to $801.84, a jump of over 40 percent.

    Dave says he makes approximately $31,000 a year after taxes and that health care takes up half of it.

    Caroline from Grafton wrote: Our school district and surrounding ones are cutting back paraprofessional jobs to 29 hours. Many of these people were full time. Instead, they hired several part-time people to cover the once full-time positions. This law of unintended consequences is devastating for those whose hours and benefits have been cut. Now they are no longer entitled to benefits; many of these individuals have worked for 15 years or more as full timers.

    John from Middleton wrote: I am 61 and retired. I buy my own health insurance privately. Since the Affordable Care Act, I have had to change my insurance carrier because they left the State. I changed my coverage because it became too expensive, and I have had three increases in my premiums.

    Chris from Nashua wrote: As a small business owner and self-insured, I am very worried about my costs going up. My broker mentioned that we may see a 200 percent increase in our monthly rate.

    Nancy lives near a hospital that was left out of the exchange. Ten of our hospitals, which is a huge amount in our State of New Hampshire, almost a third of our hospitals, have been left out of the exchange. Nancy wrote: I want to continue to have my medical care with the doctors, nurses, therapists, et cetera, whom I know and trust and with whom I have an established relationship. Again, what do I do? This is what the Affordable Care Act did for me.

    We have seen recently that the headlines of what is happening with the impact of ObamaCare tell the story. In my home State of New Hampshire today, from the Associated Press: ``Health overhaul premiums in NH above average.'' The National Telegraph: ``Decision to eliminate Nashua hospital from health exchanges causes confusion.'' The Union Leader: ``Companies look for new ways to pay fees coming from ObamaCare.'' Concord Monitor: ``Concord hospital not part of provider network for ObamaCare exchange plan in New Hampshire.'' Nationally, the headlines are telling the story as well. A Politico recent article: ``ObamaCare: One blow after another.'' USA Today: ``Family glitch in health law could be painful. It could leave up [[Page S6868]] to 500,000 children without coverage and cost some families thousands of dollars.'' Washington Post: ``One week away, ObamaCare's small business insurance exchanges not all ready for launch.'' CNBC on Main Street: ``ObamaCare hurts hiring: Staffing.'' USA Today: ``Pew poll: Health care law faces difficult future.'' There are many more I can go through here. It has been one bad story after another because of the reality of implementing this flawed law.

    The private sector impact of ObamaCare: We all want our economy to do better than it is doing right now, to provide jobs and opportunity for people in this country, to make sure everyone in this country can live the American dream. Yet the Affordable Care Act is hurting job creation and job hiring in this country.

    Increasingly, employers are cutting benefits and shifting the burden of health insurance coverage to their employees. We have seen in the recent impact of this law that the Cleveland Clinic is probably the best example. The President went to the Cleveland Clinic during his campaign and cited it as a model in terms of how health care could be delivered in pitching his health care law. Yet the Cleveland Clinic recently announced, as one of Ohio's largest employers, that it would cut jobs and slash 5 to 6 percent of its budget to prepare for President Barack Obama's health reforms.

    Walgreen's recently announced it is dropping health insurance coverage for 160,000 workers and will instead give them payments to purchase insurance through private exchanges. Time Warner and IBM plan to move retirees from employer-administered health plans to private exchanges.

    We have seen similar stories from companies like Home Depot and Trader Joe's. They are going to end coverage for part-time employees. UPS is dropping coverage for employees' spouses.

    In terms of the impact on jobs, what I have heard from companies in New Hampshire, from the smallest to the largest, is they want to do right by their employees. The rising cost of premiums and the questions that have been raised by ObamaCare have put them in a position where they can't do what they want to do for their employees and their health care. In many instances they are forced, because of higher costs, to not hire that next employee.

    If you think about the structure of this law, that it applies to those with 50 employees or more, some are not going to open that next business, or that next restaurant, because they do not want to fall under this law.

    What kind of law would we pass here to deal with the issue of health care that actually makes it more difficult to hire people, that actually thwarts the private sector's desire to expand businesses or if you have one restaurant, to have a second restaurant; if you have one shop, to open up a second shop? The flaws in this law are not only that it reduces choices for consumers, but it is reducing the choices that people in this country have for jobs, which is wrong.

    I think the best critiques that we have seen of the law actually came from President Obama's supporters, and they are the Teamsters Union, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, and Unite Here.

    They recently wrote the President and said: We can no longer stand silent in the face of elements of the Affordable Care Act that will destroy the very health and well-being of our Members, along with millions of other hard- working Americans.

    They have also expressed concerns that this law will destroy the 40- hour work week.

    As Senator Cornyn from Texas said: As Republicans, we are united in repealing this law. We are united in wanting to defund this law and wanting to make sure that we can replace this law with commonsense reforms that drive down health costs, increase competition for insurance companies, and give people more choice, while making sure that we do not interfere with the doctor-patient relationship. If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor, which we are now seeing is not true, unfortunately, under ObamaCare.

    I will do everything I can to make sure we repeal this law, to make sure that we can ensure that people have choice, that they can keep their doctor, and that health care is affordable for people in this country.

    However, I do not support shutting down the government in order to defund this law. While some of my colleagues have urged us to shut down the government--and they haven't said it in this term, they have said they don't want to shut down the government--but the reality is they have asked us to vote against a bill that is coming over from the House that will defund ObamaCare, but will continue the funding for the government. If we were to vote as a block against ending debate on that bill, then the result could be to shut down the government.

    While Americans are opposed to ObamaCare, what we have seen in a poll as recently as today is that 80 percent of Americans say threatening a government shutdown during budget debates is not an acceptable way to negotiate. I believe we should make sure that we repeal this law.

    I join in what the senior Senator from Texas said, and I would hope that my Democratic colleagues would listen to what their constituents are saying about the negative impacts of this law and that they would join us, join Republicans, in ensuring that we do defund this law, that we work together, that we make sure that, by the way, businesses aren't treated better than individuals in where we are right now with the implementation of this law.

    One of the most absurd things that I don't even know how you can explain to people is the President has made the decision that the employer mandate is going to be delayed until 2015. With regard to individuals, they have not been given a similar delay. How do we justify treating businesses better than individuals with a law that is going to force many people into a position where they are paying higher premiums? They may, unfortunately, lose the hospital they prefer to go to in my home State of New Hampshire, or the physician they have that trust and relationship with.

    I would ask my colleagues on the other side of the aisle, how is it that we can treat businesses differently than individuals here? Why don't we join together and delay the individual mandate, at least until 2015, as businesses are being treated by the President now in his delay of the employer mandate? I hope on the other side of the aisle we can work together and listen to the American people who loud and clear are expressing the worries, the concerns, and the impact this law is having on them. It has not been, unfortunately, a good impact.

    Finally, I wish to say in terms of the strategy of shutting down the government, I don't support it also because it is not going to work. The Congressional Research Service has said that even if we shut down the government, there has been mandatory spending baked into this law, so ObamaCare can mostly continue.

    To those who are asking us to take that step, I would say that even if we were to do so, we will not achieve the purpose of fully defunding ObamaCare or stopping ObamaCare from hurting average Americans.

    I hope we can work together to make sure that we don't continue to hurt Americans, such as my constituents who are going to have to drive much longer distances to go to the hospital in the ObamaCare exchange in New Hampshire. They are paying higher premiums because of ObamaCare and have less choice. I would hope we could work together to ensure that average Americans don't continue to be harmed by this law.

    Finally, this piece of legislation was a signature of the President's policies. It was something when he got into office he pushed right away to pass. The impact that many of us feared about this law--less competition, higher costs, interfering with keeping the doctor you want, hurting jobs--we have now seen come to fruition. So why would we at this point try to shut down the government? Why would we at this point give the President a lifeline? To quote the President's own former Press Secretary on ``Meet the Press'' this weekend: If you think about this from the White House perspective, you've had three fairly forgettable weeks at the White House, right? About to lose a vote on Syria; immigration reform looks dead; you're sinking in quicksand, and here your enemies throw you the [[Page S6869]] rope and want to get in the quicksand instead of you.

    Why would we put ourselves in a position where we would shut down the government over a law that is the President's signature piece of legislation and hand him a lifeline on this issue and, in the process, hurt average Americans, such as our military, that could be impacted by a government shutdown, such as our veterans that could be hurt by a government shutdown, such as air travel that could be impacted by a government shutdown.

    By the way, the last time we shut down the government, it cost us more to reopen the government--$1.4 billion more--than it would have cost to just run the government. So from a fiscally conservative perspective it doesn't make any sense either.

    I urge my colleagues on the Republican side to be united in repealing and replacing ObamaCare, and let's work together to do that. Let's work together while keeping the government going forward with responsible spending levels. Let's not forget we are $17 trillion in debt. Let's not let that debate get sidelined by this debate of ObamaCare.

    Finally, to my colleagues on the other side of the aisle, you have been hearing many of the same stories from your constituents. How can we treat businesses differently than individuals? Why wouldn't you agree to something such as a delay of ObamaCare for 1 year for individuals similar to the delay businesses have been granted by the President? Why would you want to continue to fund a law right now that is already hurting people in terms of their choice for their doctor and driving up costs and hurting job creation? I know we can resolve these issues and I know the American people expect us to. I think we can do this in a way that helps address health care costs, coverage, and in a more responsible way than ObamaCare has done, allowing people to keep the doctor they have chosen and allowing people to have greater choice through competition.

    I yield the floor.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Michigan.

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