Aaron Fobes, Julia Lawless (202)224-4515
Hatch: The American People Are Counting on Us
Utah Senator Says, “believe that we can and will be successful in this endeavor to fix our broken healthcare system. The American people are counting on us to do so. At the end of the day, success in that endeavor is, in my view, going to require a robust Senate process that allows this chamber to work its will.”
WASHINGTON – In a speech on the Senate floor today, Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) reiterated Republican’s commitment to repealing and replacing Obamacare, and highlighted the unique role of the Senate Finance Committee - with its jurisdiction over taxes, Medicaid and the Social Security Act - in shaping a number of policies within the repeal and replace package.
“We’ve been reminded that Republicans currently control the White House and both chambers in Congress due, in large part, to our stated commitment to repeal and replace Obamacare. And, we intend to deliver on that promise,” Hatch said. “The vast majority of the policy at play in this discussion, and virtually all of the spending, fall under the exclusive jurisdiction of the Senate Finance Committee, which I chair. The Finance Committee is already hard at work, and has been for some time.”
Hatch went on to say that the skyrocketing costs associated with Obamacare have kept many Americans from being able to afford healthcare and underscored the need for further examination of how to address costs as efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare move forward.
“The biggest mistake made by those who drafted Obamacare and forced it through Congress was the failure to address health care costs in any meaningful way. After all, cost is the biggest barrier preventing people from obtaining health insurance coverage,” Hatch said. “Yet, Obamacare did little to address this problem, and, in fact, it has made things worse. If we’re going to fully keep our promises to the American people with regard to Obamacare, we’re going to have to eventually address these issues.”
The complete speech as prepared for delivery is below:
Mr. President I rise today to speak once again on the so-called Affordable Care Act and the ongoing effort to repeal and replace it.
As we all know, the House of Representatives has produced a repeal and replace package and both the Ways and Means and Energy and Commerce Committees have been marking it up.
In other words, the endeavor to right the wrongs of Obamacare is moving steadily forward on the other side of the Capitol and soon it will be the Senate’s turn to act.
I commend our House colleagues for introducing this legislation and moving it forward. This is an important step. And, I don’t think I’m alone when I say that I’m watching the progress in the House very closely to see how things proceed and what the final House product will look like.
Of course, virtually all Republicans in Congress want to repeal and replace Obamacare. While there are some differences of opinion on how best to do that, there is general unanimity on that point. I am confident that whatever differences exist among House members will be worked out through the House’s legislative process.
In addition, whatever passes in the House will be subject to the input and review of the Senate and to the rules of the budget reconciliation process.
I want to note that I have heard from a number of Senators who have items they’d like to see included when the bill comes before the Senate. I actually have several ideas of my own. However, there are limits as to what we can do under the budget reconciliation rules. Many of the proposed policy changes I’ve heard, though they have merit, would be barred by the rules and subject to a 60-vote threshold.
That said, I am committed to working with my colleagues to ensure that the Senate process on this bill is productive and that it yields a result that we can support.
Long story short, this process is far from over. We have a lot more work to do.
It’s worth pointing out that the vast majority of the policies at play in this discussion, and virtually all of the spending, fall under the exclusive jurisdiction of the Senate Finance Committee, which I chair. And, make no mistake, the Finance Committee is already hard at work, and has been for some time.
In many respects, I suppose you could say that we’ve been working on this effort since the day Obamacare was signed into law. However, for obvious reasons, our work has intensified over the past several months.
Working through this process, I have been in constant contact with Chairmen Brady and Walden who head up the relevant committees in the House. I’ve also been working closely with the Speaker’s office. And, I’ve been gathering input from governors around the country.
In addition, I’ve been working closely with the distinguished Chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, Senator Enzi, who has the chief responsibility of navigating the budget process and shepherding a final repeal-and-replace bill through all the necessary rules and restrictions.
In all of those conversations, we’ve been talking about the process.
We’ve been talking about the timing.
And, most importantly, we’ve been talking about the substance of the healthcare reforms and how we can best serve the interests of the American people.
Throughout this effort, we’ve been reminded that Republicans currently control the White House and both chambers in Congress due, in large part, to our stated commitment to repeal and replace Obamacare. And, we intend to deliver on that promise.
I’d like to take a few minutes today to talk about some of the policies we’ll need to tackle as we take up the House healthcare bill in the coming weeks. Once again, the vast majority of the policies and virtually all of the spending involved in this effort fall under the Finance Committee’s exclusive jurisdiction. And, I intend to make sure all of my colleagues are well informed on the issues and that, in the end, whatever version of the bill we pass in the Senate reflects the collective will of a majority of Senators.
All told, there are five major policy areas addressed in the House bill that fall under the Finance Committee’s purview.
First, there are the provisions to repeal the Obamacare taxes.
This is big, Mr. President. If you’ll recall, I came to the floor a few weeks ago and pointed out how misguided it would be, in my view, to start picking and sorting through the Obamacare taxes to decide which to keep and which to leave in place.
The House bill repeals them, along with the Individual and Employer Mandates, both of which reside in the tax code. I’ve been working with Chairman Brady on this issue and, in the end, I believe the Senate version of the bill should do the same and I’m going to continue to push to ensure that it does.
Second, there is the issue of premium tax credits. Chairman Brady and I have been working extensively on this issue as well.
The House bill replaces the Obamacare premium subsidies with a refundable tax credit for the purchase of state-approved health insurance, limited to those who do not qualify for other government health programs and have not been offered insurance benefits from their employer.
Most major Obamacare replacement proposals we’ve seen contain some version of health insurance tax credits. The House approach represents a significant improvement over the Obamacare premium subsidies. The Senate, when it takes up the bill, will have to consider how best to implement the tax credits, and I will continue to work with my House and Senate colleagues to ensure that the tax credits are designed to help those lower- and middle-income Americans who are most in need.
Third, there are the issues surrounding Medicaid. Chairman Walden – and his predecessor, Chairman Upton – and I have been working extensively on this matter.
As we know, the vast majority of newly insured people that proponents of Obamacare have cited as proof that the system is working have been covered by the expanded Medicaid program. The problem, of course, is that the Affordable Care Act didn’t do anything to improve Medicaid, which was already absurdly expensive for states and ultimately unsustainable, not to mention the fact that it provides substandard health coverage.
The House bill draws down the Obamacare Medicaid expansion and makes a number of significant changes to the underlying program. Most notably, it establishes per capita caps on federal Medicaid spending, which is intended to give states more flexibility and predictability while also controlling federal outlays related to the program.
We have received substantial input from governors around the country on this matter, and virtually all of them agree that changes need to be made. Given these concerns and the sheer vastness of the Medicaid program under Obamacare, the Senate will have to tackle this issue when it takes up the budget reconciliation legislation in the next few weeks. I am confident that, working with my colleagues in the House and Senate, and the governors, we can find the right solution.
Fourth, there is the issue of savings accounts for health care costs. I have long been an advocate for expanded use of HSAs and FSAs, so, needless to say, I was particularly opposed to the Obamacare provisions that limited the use of these savings accounts and essentially marginalized their usefulness for consumers and patients.
The House bill removes a number of restrictions on these accounts imposed by Obamacare, and goes further to remove longstanding restrictions on HSAs in order to expand their use and give patients and consumers more options to pay for health expenses. I am very supportive of this approach. In fact, the language from the House bill mirrors legislation that I introduced this year, the Health Savings Act of 2017.
Fifth, there are some important transition issues that need to be addressed.
To get at these issues, the House bill creates a Patient and State Stability Program under the Social Security Act that would distribute $100 billion to states over ten years to enhance flexibility for states in how they manage health care for their high risk and low-income populations. For example, the funds could be used to, among other things, help individuals with cost-sharing.
This program was proposed with the idea of giving states an expanded role in the health care system, a goal that is shared by most Republicans in Congress and something that almost all of the governors have told us they want to see.
There are other issues from the House bill and the broader healthcare debate that will demand some attention when we consider the bill in the Senate. However, almost all of them fall under these general categories and, once again, the vast majority of them fall under the sole jurisdiction the Senate Finance Committee.
There are other critical issues out there which don’t involve the tax code, the Social Security Act, or federal health programs. Yet, they are extremely important.
The biggest mistake made by those who drafted Obamacare and forced it through Congress was the failure to address health care costs in any meaningful way.
After all, cost is the biggest barrier preventing people from obtaining health insurance coverage. And the increasing health care costs are among the most prominent factors leading to wage stagnation for U.S. workers. Yet, Obamacare did little to address this problem, and, in fact, it has made things worse.
If we’re going to fully keep our promises to the American people with regard to Obamacare, we’re going to have to eventually address these issues. After all, most people’s negative interaction with the Affordable Care Act has come in the form of increased healthcare costs. So, if we’re going to truly right all of Obamacare’s wrongs, we need to tackle costs head on.
This will mean, among other things, fixing the draconian regulatory regime in our health insurance markets and giving individuals the ability to select only the coverage they want and need.
Most of these types of issues fall outside of the Finance Committee’s jurisdiction and are under the watchful eye of the distinguished Chairman of the Senate HELP Committee. The House bill also includes some provisions that are intended to address these concerns.
I assume that our distinguished colleague running the HELP Committee is working tirelessly to address these issues and others, both through the reconciliation exercise or some alternative means.
Ultimately, if our goal is to place the healthcare system in a better position than it has been under Obamacare, costs will have to factor heavily into the equation. I am looking forward to receiving guidance and leadership from the HELP Committee on these important market reform issues.
Overall, I believe that we can and will be successful in this endeavor to fix our broken healthcare system. The American people are counting on us to do so. At the end of the day, success in that endeavor is, in my view, going to require a robust Senate process that allows this chamber to work its will.
We have two chambers in Congress for a reason.
The House reconciliation bill needs 218 votes to pass.
The Senate will also have to act when we receive the bill, and we will need to produce a package that can get at least 51 votes in this chamber, and hopefully more.
That may mean some differences between the Senate and House versions of the bill, but that’s not problematic, in my view. It’s not particularly novel or unusual for different views and ideas to be resolved through the legislative process, rather than simply dissipating when a bill is introduced.
I’m not the only one who has this view.
Earlier this week, Secretary Price sent a letter to the Chairmen of the House Ways and Means and Energy and Commerce Committees. The letter commended the chairmen for their work and praised the legislation they unveiled to repeal and replace Obamacare. The Secretary also noted that this wasn’t the end of the process, but that the introduction of the House bill was “a necessary and important first step” and that the administration anticipated that the Congress would be “making necessary technical and appropriate changes” to get a final bill to the President that he can sign, which reminds us of the other important advocate in this endeavor. President Trump ultimately needs to support the bill passed by each chamber of Congress, and his support for our efforts is paramount.
Now, Mr. President, while, at this point, it may not be entirely clear what the final bill will look like, we do know two things for certain.
First, we know that Obamacare isn’t working. As the Majority Leader said yesterday, Obamacare is a direct attack on the American middle class.
Thanks to skyrocketing premiums, shrinking options in the health insurance market, burdensome mandates, and harmful taxes, millions of Americans are dealing with the failures of Obamacare on a daily basis.
We need to act now to fix these problems.
Second, we know that, by introducing its bill and moving it through the legislative process, the House has taken significant steps to advance this effort and the leaders in the House should be commended for doing so.
Long story short, I have nothing but praise for the leaders in the House this week and for the work they’ve done on these issues.
I look forward to working with my colleagues in both chambers to get us over the finish line so that Republicans can collectively make good on our promises with regard to Obamacare.
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