Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutionsby Senator Lamar Alexander
Posted on 2013-12-18
ALEXANDER (for himself, Mr. Barrasso, Mr. Enzi, Mr.
Inhofe, and Mr. Isakson):
S. 1849. A bill to amend the Patient Protection and Affordable Care
Act to provide for a fixed annual open enrollment period; to the
Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.
Mr. BARRASSO. Mr. President, I come to the floor, as I have frequently since the health care law was passed, as a doctor who has practiced medicine in Wyoming for a quarter of a century, taking care of people, providing low-cost blood screenings through the Wyoming Health Fair, of which I was the medical director. I was back in Wyoming last week talking to folks about their health care and their concerns.
With the end of the year rapidly approaching, Americans are gathering with family and friends to celebrate the holidays, to count their blessings. But from what I heard last weekend in Wyoming and on a telephone townhall meeting Monday night, very few people are thankful for the President's health care law.
I met yesterday with the Wyoming insurance commissioner. Fewer than 1,000 people have been able to sign up, but thousands have had their insurance canceled under the law. So many more people are suffering because of the law than people who are potentially able to benefit. This law was forced down the throats of the American people, supported unanimously by the Democrats in this body. It is continuing to disrupt people's lives and to cause them very real harm.
After a year of false starts and failures, what we have seen is that the [[Page S8978]] President's health care law is nothing more than a collection of deception, delays, and disappointments. If you look at the headlines, the biggest disappointment was the launch of the healthcare.gov Web site in October. It was a total disaster. But it really is just the tip of the iceberg. The Web site failures are what people have seen across the country. That is the most visible, and it has obviously been the cause of concerns and jokes by the late-night comedians. But the real damage is going to start on January 1--damage to people's lives.
This was just about a computer screen. Below this tip of the iceberg is what people are actually noticing at home. They are paying higher premiums, and I am hearing that around the State of Wyoming; canceled coverage--thousands in Wyoming but over 5 million, I understand by last count, across the country. And we don't even know how many have been canceled in the States of Illinois, Texas, and Ohio. But we know that more than 5 million people have lost their coverage. People are finding out they can't keep their doctor. We are seeing that with seniors on Medicare, and we are seeing that with children who are going for cancer care. We are finding that people are having a harder time finding a doctor or even having to make choices as they go to the Web site: Well, do I want to keep my doctor or do I want to keep the hospital that I go to or do I want to keep the drug coverage I have? And many people are finding they can't find any plan that will let them keep everything they have now--in spite of the President's promise.
We are hearing more and more stories about fraud and identity theft across the country related to the health care Web site, including a Senate staff member who was signing up. It asked for his bank number and PIN number, and he called the helpline. He had to wait a long period of time to get through, as has been the experience for many Americans, and they said: No, that is not the regular Web site. That must be some kind of a scam trying to fraudulently take your information.
People are seeing higher copays and deductibles. The average deductible now is over $5,000 for people in bronze plans.
That is what is continuing to happen with this health care law.
October was just about the Web site. January is going to be about real people, their lives and their ability to get affordable quality care from the doctors they know and trust.
The Obama administration made a lot of promises about this law. The administration has known for months--I believe the administration has known for years that many of the promises were not true. They knew people would lose their doctors, and they knew millions of people would lose their health insurance plans. But instead of leveling with the American people, the White House chose to mislead them.
It continues to mislead them today on one important issue after another, and the people have seen through it. Washington Post, Tuesday, December 17, just yesterday: ``Obama's approval ratings plummet. Poll results worrisome for Democrats looking to the midterm elections.'' A respected group, politifacts.com, whose role is sorting out the truth in politics, has come up with their lie of the year, and they attribute their lie of the year for 2013 to President Obama: ``If you like your health care plan, you can keep it.'' That is the lie of the year to the American people. So it is no surprise, then, that the President's approval ratings continue to plummet.
I looked at a decision this administration made very recently, a decision to delay next year's open enrollment season until after the midterm elections. To me, this is a blatant political move--a blatant political move that they snuck out the announcement just days before Thanksgiving.
So what kind of announcement is the administration going to try to sneak out now, just before Christmas? Well, the enrollment period for insurance coverage in 2015 was set to begin October 15, 2014, and then end in December. Now it won't begin until November 15. Why in the world would they need to delay it for a month? Enrollment in the government health insurance exchange has been a disaster, but the administration says it has fixed all the problems. So why do they want to delay it for a month? What is the difference between October 15 and November 15? I believe it is because the administration is in a panic mode, and it will do anything it can to hide the cost of the health care law on the American people--hide the skyrocketing costs. What they have done is they have moved it from a couple of weeks before the election until a couple of weeks after election day 2014.
The American people don't need more lies. What they need from their President is for the President to come clean about the terrible effects of the law. The fact is that many Americans can't keep their coverage, can't keep their doctors, and they can't afford this law.
The Associated Press put out a poll the other day. The headline was ``Health Law Seen as Eroding Coverage.'' The health care is eroding coverage. According to the poll, 69 percent of people say their premiums will be going up and 59 percent say their deductibles and copayments will be increasing. People can't afford those kinds of price increases--this whole redistribution of assets and wealth on the American people. People were told by this President that their health care costs were going to go down. Instead, they are seeing them go up.
The Obama administration doesn't want people learning about their next increases right before the 2014 election, so they are trying to hide the truth. That is why today Senator Alexander, Senator Enzi, and I plan to introduce a bill to give the American people the transparency they deserve when they are making important health care decisions for their families. We are calling this bill the Premium Disclosure Act, and it will do a couple of things.
First, the bill sets the exchange's opening date of October 15, 2014, in statute so that Democrats can't change it to meet their political goals around an election.
Second, the bill says the Obama administration has to make premiums and cost-sharing requirements public 30 days before the open enrollment begins, so people will have this important information in mid- September, making it easier for families to budget and to plan.
The Department of Health and Human Services has previously said it did not have this authority. That is why they said we need to wait until October 1 to find out what premiums would be this year. This bill would specifically give the administration the authority, so they will have no more excuses for hiding health insurance cost increases from the American people.
Americans wanted a few very simple things from health care reform. They wanted better access to care. Washington Democrats gave them less access. They wanted lower costs, but Washington Democrats gave them higher costs. They wanted help. Washington Democrats have caused them harm.
This bill will help add some transparency and shed light on things the Obama administration does not want the American people to see. The President's health care law has been a failure. It cannot be fixed just by delaying one more part or by sending out the spin doctors one more time or by having one more press conference. I hope when we return after the New Year that President Obama and Democrats in Congress will be ready to sit down with Republicans to talk about real bipartisan solutions that put patients and families first.
______ By Mr. McCAIN: S. 1851. A bill to provide for incentives to encourage health insurance coverage, and for other purposes; to the Committee on Finance.