Hatch: ObamaCare Woes Bigger Than a Tech Problem
In Speech On the Senate Floor, Utah Senator Says, “It would be a huge mistake to simply write off the problems with Obamacare as a simple IT problem.”
WASHINGTON – Finance Committee Ranking Member Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) today slammed the President’s health law, saying it would be a “huge mistake to simply write off the problems with ObamaCare as a simple IT problem.” During a speech on the Senate floor, Hatch again called for the delay of the flawed health law that is now forcing millions of Americans to lose their existing health insurance coverage.
“The healthcare.gov website has been a debacle and the President is right to recognize it as such. But, it would be a huge mistake to simply write off the problems with Obamacare as a simple IT problem,” said Hatch. “My own position on Obamacare is very clear. I support repealing the law in its entirety. As more and more Americans lose their health coverage – coverage they shopped for and liked – and face outlandish costs as a result of the law, I believe that position will eventually be vindicated.”
“But, in the meantime, I think we can all agree that the law is simply not ready for prime time and that, at the very least, it should be delayed so that we can protect the American people from further harm. I’ve made this call before and I’m sure I’ll make it again,” Hatch concluded.
A staunch opponent of the President’s health law, Hatch has introduced legislation that would repeal the two central pillars of the Affordable Care Act, the employer and individual mandates, and has bipartisan legislation repealing the medical device tax that partially funds the law. This Fall, Hatch introduced the Trust But Verify Act, to delay the launch of the exchanges, where people will buy their Washington-mandated insurance, until the Government Accountability Office (GAO) can certify that the Data Hubs, the online market place to buy insurance is secure.
Below is the text of Hatch’s full speech delivered on the Senate floor today:
Mr. President, here in Washington and, indeed, throughout the country, everyone is talking about the Obamacare website.
No doubt, that is a serious concern.
The healthcare.gov website has been, to put it bluntly, a debacle. I don’t know of a single member of Congress – Democrat or Republican – who would say otherwise.
That said, we need to be clear about something: the problems with Obamacare go much deeper than a faulty website.
Sure, the administration would have the American people believe that the problems with this law are simply technical in nature and that, once they bring in technical experts to fix the website, all will be right with world.
But, let’s not kid ourselves. The problems with Obamacare are fundamental and systemic.
The administration may very well get the website up and running in the next few weeks. But, that won’t fix the health care law.
I’d like to take just a few minutes today to talk about some of the problems facing Obamacare that have nothing to do with the website.
When he was trying to get the law passed, President Obama repeatedly promised Americans that “if you like your current health plan, you’ll be able to keep it.”
This promise was central to the President’s efforts to sell Obamacare to the American people. And, as it turns out, it was all a lie. Now, even the White House admits that millions of Americans will not be able to keep their health plan under the law.
And, if recent news reports are to be believed, they’ve known this for years.
Experts have predicted that as many as 16 million Americans may lose their existing coverage due to Obamacare’s new requirements. And, according to a NBC News story from yesterday, the Obama Administration has known about this for at least three years.
Consumers throughout the country are already receiving cancellation letters from their insurance providers.
For example, in New Jersey, 800,000 individuals are being dropped from their existing plans. Kaiser Permanente in California has sent notices to 160,000 people informing them their current coverage will end. And, Florida Blue is ending policies of 300,000 customers due to Obamacare.
This isn’t some unforeseen or unintended consequence of the law. On the contrary, it is precisely what was intended when the law was put into place.
As you know, Mr. President, the President’s health care law includes a mountain of new mandates and requirements for health insurance plans. Any plans that fail to meet those onerous requirements are invalidated under the law.
True enough, the law provides that plans that were in effect as of March 2010 will be grandfathered in, allowing consumers who prefer to keep those policies to do so even if the plans don’t meet the law’s requirements.
However, the Department of Health and Human Services has, through regulations, all but eliminated the protections enjoyed by those in existing plans by saying that the grandfathering provision does not apply to plans that have undergone any changes – even small changes to deductibles or copayments – since 2010.
Under this requirement, many of plans that were in place before passage of Obamacare – particularly those in the individual health insurance market – will fail to pass muster.
That is why we’re seeing hundreds of thousands of Americans being dropped from their current insurance plans and why the same fate is certain to befall millions more.
Like I said, Mr. President, the Obama Administration knew about these problems a long time ago. In fact, regulations issued in July 2010 estimated that, because of normal turnover in the individual insurance market, 40 to 67 percent of consumers will not be able to keep their policy.
Let me repeat that: the administration knew in July 2010 that at least 40 to 67 percent of consumers in the individual market would not be able to keep their plans in place.
Yet, the President never took back his promise: “If you like your current health plan, you’ll be able to keep it.”
This, quite frankly, is preposterous.
The response we’re getting from the administration is that, sure, many people will lose their existing health insurance, but it will be replaced by better, cheaper options.
This claim is also at odds with the facts.
For many people, health expenses will increase under the new plans as a result of higher premiums, higher deductibles, and higher copays.
One study from the Manhattan Institute found that individual market premiums will increase 99 percent for men and 62 percent for women nationwide.
For others, the new plans may not cover visits to their current doctor or the hospital they’ve used in the past. That’s because insurers are reducing the number of doctors and hospitals covered by plans in the exchanges in order to reduce premium prices.
These changes are a direct result of Obamacare’s new requirements and mandates.
I have received letters from my constituents all over Utah who are scared, who are angry, and who are confused about the changes they’re facing.
For example, Brenton in Provo, Utah currently has a high deductible plan and uses a Health Savings Account. This arrangement works well for Brenton and his family, and they would like to keep it. Unfortunately, Brenton’s plan has been canceled due to Obamacare. And, the plan he will be required to purchase is more expensive and includes coverage he doesn’t want.
There is also Kathy in Salt Lake City, who wrote to tell me her deductible will increase from $3000 to $5000, her copays for doctor visits will increase to 30 percent, and her copays for prescription drugs will increase to 50 percent.
Kathy let me know that as a result of these changes, her health care expenses will now be higher than her income.
Even those who were in favor of the law are now finding that it is not being implemented as they expected.
A recent LA Times article profiled a young woman who was shocked by the 50 percent rate hike she received as a result of the health care law. She was quoted as saying, “I was all for Obamacare until I found out I was paying for it.”
That’s a refrain I think we’ll be hearing from a number of people who supported “health care reform.”
Increased costs aren’t the only problem that consumers will be facing under Obamacare. There are other serious, more subtle problems that have yet to be addressed.
For example, some consumers may have their personal information compromised by an Obamacare Navigator or by submitting an application through the Federally-Facilitated Marketplace, the Federal Data Services Hub, or one of the Affordable Care Act call centers.
Social Security numbers, employment information, birth dates, health records, and tax returns are among the personal data that will be transmitted to this Data Hub, resulting in an unprecedented amount of information being collected in one place by a government entity.
Every piece of information someone would need to steal an individual’s identity or access their confidential credit information would be available at the fingertips of a skilled hacker, providing a goldmine for data thieves and a staggering security threat to consumers.
The entire system, including the Data Hub, a new information-sharing network that allows state and federal agencies to verify this information, has not gone under any independent review to determine if the data that is entered is secure.
This means that individuals’ personal and financial records may be at serious risk of becoming available to data thieves.
I’ve already been to the floor several times to discuss these issues. I’m here again today because, as of yet, there has been no solution.
In fact, the Obamacare exchanges are less than a month old and data breaches are already occurring at the state level.
A recent CBS News story featured a Minnesota insurance broker who was looking for information about assisting with Obamacare implementation. Instead what landed in his inbox last month was a document filled with the names, Social Security numbers, and other pieces of personal information belonging to his fellow Minnesotans.
In one of the first breaches of the new Obamacare online marketplaces, an employee of the Minnesota marketplace, called MNsure, accidentally emailed him a document containing personally identifying information for more than 2,400 insurance agents. While the incident was resolved, the broker said it raised serious questions for him as to whether those that sign up for MNsure can be confident their data is safe.
These types of incidents are only going to increase as time goes on if rigorous testing is not performed to ensure that the Data Hub is sufficiently secure.
Despite assurances by the Chief Technology Officer for the Administration in early September that “we have completed security testing and received certification to operate,” we all now know that, in fact, all the testing had not been completed until just days before the October 1 launch date and that no third party had a chance to review it.
But there is much that we don’t know.
What kind of testing was done?
Who did the testing?
What kinds of things did they look for?
What were the results?
And, perhaps most importantly, what are the risks of using the website?
To help get answers to these questions, today, several of my colleagues on the Senate Finance Committee and I are sending a letter to Secretary Sebelius asking detailed questions about the testing protocols, what waivers were received with respect to the testing requirements and any and all results of the limited testing that did occur.
Hopefully that will enable Congress and the American people to better understand exactly what is broken with the system and help to ensure it does not happen again.
These questions and problems demonstrate why it is imperative that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) independently verify that sufficient privacy and security controls are in place for the Data Hub and the entire Federal Marketplace so that Congress has independent assurance that the necessary controls exist and that taxpayers know their personal information is secure.
That is why I introduced S. 1525, the Trust But Verify Act, which calls on the GAO to conduct such a review and delays implementation of the exchanges until the review is completed. The bill currently has 32 Senate cosponsors.
As you can see, Mr. President, the problems with Obamacare are numerous and fundamental. Like I’ve said before, this law was bad policy when we debated it. It was bad policy when the Democrats forced it through Congress. And, it remains bad policy today.
I have little doubt that the administration can eventually get the website up and running. They would have us believe that, once that that task is accomplished, everything will be fine.
But, that is simply not the case.
They can’t say that everything will be fine when millions of Americans are losing their existing health coverage as a direct result of the health care law.
They can’t say that everything will be fine when health care costs are continuing to skyrocket even though the President claimed that his health law would bring costs down.
And, they can’t say everything will be fine when consumers’ personal information is at serious risk because the administration didn’t take the proper precautions with its huge new data system.
Like I said, Mr. President, the healthcare.gov website has been a debacle and the President is right to recognize it as such. But, it would be a huge mistake to simply write off the problems with Obamacare as a simple IT problem.
My own position on Obamacare is very clear. I support repealing the law in its entirety.
As more and more Americans lose their health coverage – coverage they shopped for and liked – and face outlandish costs as a result of the law, I believe that position will eventually be vindicated.
But, in the meantime, I think we can all agree that the law is simply not ready for prime time and that, at the very least, it should be delayed so that we can protect the American people from further harm.
I’ve made this call before and I’m sure I’ll make it again.
Today, with all the new information we’ve received – the broken website, the security problems, the skyrocketing costs, and the millions of Americans losing existing coverage – I would hope my friends on the other side of the aisle will begin to see the light on this.
I would hope that they will finally see what happens when one party tries to take on something as vast and complicated as our health care system all on its own.
And, I would hope that they will work with us to come up with real solutions to our nation’s health care problems.
I’ll keep waiting, Mr. President. And, if the problems we’ve seen in the last few weeks are any indication, I shouldn’t have to wait too much longer. I yield the floor.