Aaron Fobes, Julia Lawless (202)224-4515
Hatch: Time to Repeal Unaffordable Obamacare
In Speech on Senate Floor, Utah Senator Says, “At the beginning of this year, Republicans assumed the majority in the Senate having committed - even promised in some cases - to work to repeal the so-called Affordable Care Act. This week, with the bill now before us, we will take a major step toward delivering on those promises.”
WASHINGTON – In a speech on the Senate floor today, Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) outlined reasons why Senate Republicans are committed to fulfilling a promise to repeal the President’s signature domestic policy achievement, Obamacare, through the budget reconciliation process, saying the law’s failure to address costs has left American families with a devastating burden they cannot afford.
“We know the law is not working. The American people do not have better, more affordable healthcare under Obamacare,” Hatch said. “Instead, the parade of horribles that began the day the law was enacted has extended beyond our politics, beyond our institutions, and into the lives and livelihoods of every-day Americans.”
Hatch went on to illustrate how the law’s passage, which was completed without one Republican vote, has led to a political climate focused on hyper partisanship instead of substantive solutions.
“The debate and passage of Obamacare deepened our nation’s partisan divide and drove more voters – on both ends of the spectrum – into deeper and more entrenched partisan and ideological positions. It made people more cynical and less trusting of our government and its leaders. It gave additional credence to the perception that politics and governing in America are more about tribalism and conflict than about providing real solutions to the problems plaguing our citizens,” Hatch continued. “Can anyone seriously argue that our nation is less partisan or less divided now than it was prior to the passage of Obamacare? I’d like to see anyone try to make that claim with a straight face.”
Hatch called on President Obama and Senate Democrats to own the law’s inadequacies, predicting a veto from the Administration.
“When President Obama vetoes this legislation – as we all expect he will – he will take ownership of the Affordable Care Act – along with its many failures and gross inadequacies – all over again,” Hatch said. “I think the same can be said for any of our colleagues who vote against repealing the worst elements of the law this week.”
Hatch, a long-time of opponent of the President’s health law, is the coauthor of the Patient CARE Act, a legislative plan that repeals Obamacare and replaces it with cost-addressing measures, with Sen. Richard Burr and Rep. Fred Upton.
The complete speech, as prepared for delivery, is below:
Mr. President, this week marks yet another milestone in the long, sordid history of the so-called Affordable Care Act. It has been roughly five and half years since this law – cobbled together with spit and baling wire – went into effect. And, in a few weeks, we will reach the six-year anniversary of the initial Senate passage of the legislation that would eventually become Obamacare.
Many of us remember those days well, because we were here when it happened. Others who were here back then are no longer serving in Congress, in many cases, as a direct result of how they voted at that time.
Still, for those of us who remain, I expect that this week – as we debate and hopefully pass legislation to repeal the most harmful elements of Obamacare – will bring back a flood of memories. It already has for me.
We all remember the absurd promises that were made by the President and his allies to try to win over the American public: If you like your health insurance, you can keep it; the bill will bring health costs down; only rich people and evil corporations will see their taxes go up; and so on and so forth.
We all remember the deals cut behind closed doors to bring reluctant Democratic Senators on board. A number of those deals ended being so notorious that they got nicknames: the Cornhusker Kickback, the Louisiana Purchase, the Bay State Boondoggle, and Gator-aid.
We all remember a sitting Speaker of the House arguing with a straight face that Congress would have to pass the health care law before the American people could know what’s in it.
More than anything, we all remember a Senate majority – a super-majority as some called it at the time – that was so committed to giving their president a political win that they forced a massive, poorly-drafted bill through the Senate without a single Republican vote. They didn’t need any Republican votes to pass it, and they sure weren’t looking for any. Instead, they threw together a massive overhaul of a huge portion of the U.S. economy and forced it on the American people on a strictly partisan basis.
I’ll tell you something else that I personally remember from that time, Mr.. President. I remember sitting here on the floor shortly before the final cloture vote during the Senate’s consideration of the bill, listening to our distinguished Majority Leader, who was, at that time, the Minority Leader.
It was December 21st, 2009. It was late, nearly one in the morning, and the good Senator stood up and offered some dire warnings for those who supported the bill.
After detailing many of the problems the bill would cause – predictions that have all come true, by the way – Senator McConnell said: “I understand the pressure our friends on the other side are feeling, and I don't doubt for a moment their sincerity. But my message tonight is this: The impact of this vote will long outlive this one frantic snowy weekend in Washington. Mark my words: This legislation will reshape our Nation…”
And, you know what, Mr. President? He was right. That legislation – now a law – has, in many ways reshaped our nation, including some ways that I’m not even sure Senator McConnell could have predicted that night.
Yes, it has had a disastrous impact on our health care system. I’ll have more to say about that in a moment. But, in my view, it has also eroded the public’s confidence in our institutions and undermined the ability of our government to function.
By passing this law – forcing it through Congress on a purely partisan basis – its proponents sent a clear message that partisanship trumped good judgment and the will of the voters.
After running a masterful election campaign, President Obama came into office in 2009 riding a wave of goodwill and promises to usher in an era of “post-partisanship” – whatever that was supposed to mean – and allow us to transcend ideology to focus on good government and pragmatic solutions.
Yet, his biggest campaign promise, the top priority of his first term, and his signature domestic achievement – Obamacare – was the result of the largest exercise in naked partisanship in our nation’s history.
By any estimation, the debate and passage of Obamacare deepened our nation’s partisan divide and drove more voters – on both ends of the spectrum – into deeper and more entrenched partisan and ideological positions. It made people more cynical and less trusting of our government and its leaders. It gave additional credence to the perception that politics and governing in America are more about tribalism and conflict than about providing real solutions to the problems plaguing our citizens.
Can anyone seriously argue that our nation is less partisan or less divided now than it was prior to the passage of Obamacare? I’d like to see anyone try to make that claim with a straight face.
Sadly, Mr. President, that’s not all. The damage wrought by Obamacare extends well beyond our nation’s political discourse and into our governing institutions themselves.
Most notably, we’ve had an administration so committed to Obamacare that it has, on numerous occasions, exceeded its constitutional authority in order to preserve it. The examples of overreach and abuse of power have been well documented.
The Obama Administration has unilaterally moved deadlines set by the statute that they found to be inconvenient.
They have rewritten provisions in the law to give favors and carve-outs to political supporters.
They have selectively enforced other provisions in order to give more teeth to their regulations.
And, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Make no mistake, President Obama’s penchant for executive overreach extends well beyond the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. But, clearly, many of the most egregious examples of abuse on the part of this administration were undertaken to preserve a poorly constructed health system that simply could not work the way the law was drafted.
Simply put, Obamacare has led directly to a weakening of our constitutional order and an erosion of the separation of powers.
Given all of these negative consequences, the question ultimately becomes: Has it been worth it?
Don’t get me wrong, in my opinion, all of these terrible after-effects would, by themselves, be enough justification to undo what was done in this chamber nearly six years ago.
Still, if the law was working – if it was having a positive overall impact on our healthcare system – proponents might have something to hang their hat on when it comes to this law. Indeed, if the American people now had better, more affordable healthcare, supporters of Obamacare could at least try to argue that all of these other problems have been in service of some noble cause.
Of course, we know the law is NOT working. The American people do NOT have better, more affordable healthcare under Obamacare. Instead, the parade of horribles that began the day the law was enacted has extended beyond our politics, beyond our institutions, and into the lives and livelihoods of every-day Americans.
The system created by the Affordable Care Act was based largely on the premise that the government could impose drastic new regulations on the individual health insurance market without dramatically increasing the cost of insurance because younger, healthier consumers would be drawn into the market, bringing down costs for everyone else.
This claim was always a fiction.
Republicans argued at the time that, without a serious effort to reduce costs overall, this prized demographic group would stay out of the market and premiums would skyrocket due to the various mandates and regulations.
We now know that we were right.
Younger and healthier patients are, by the millions, choosing to forego health insurance and pay fines rather than enter the individual insurance market. According to most surveys, many of these individuals are choosing to go uninsured because, even with the benefit of Obamacare premium subsidies, they can’t afford the cost of insurance.
As a result, premiums are going up all over the country. Premium spikes in the double digits have been increasingly common in the current open enrollment period.
My own state of Utah has seen premiums go up in this enrollment period by an average 22 percent, which will undoubtedly wreak havoc on family budgets and local businesses. Other states have it even worse with premiums spiking by as much 25 percent, 30 percent, or, in the case of a state like South Dakota, 63 percent.
Even with increased premiums, insurers are having a harder time doing business in a number of markets, leading providers to exit the various exchanges where patients buy insurance with the aid of Obamacare subsidies. Just a few weeks ago, in fact, we saw reports that the largest health insurance company in the nation – UnitedHealth Group – was considering withdrawing from the exchanges entirely.
The result will inevitably mean fewer insurers, which means fewer choices and even higher premiums for consumers. It is no wonder, therefore, that next year’s enrollment estimates for the exchanges are down dramatically. And, as enrollment drops, all of this – the costs, the reduced options, and the overall state of care – will get even worse in the individual health insurance market.
This downward spiral is all the more maddening when you consider that the President promised the American people that his law would actually reduce the cost of health insurance in the U.S.
I’m not done yet, Mr. President. There are other problems worth discussing here today.
There is, for example, Obamacare’s massive Medicaid expansion. In virtually every case, when the proponents of Obamacare cite numbers of newly insured individuals under the law, most of the increase can be attributed to the Medicaid expansion.
Let’s be clear, Mr. President: Medicaid is one of the most poorly constructed programs in all of government. It is extremely costly at the federal level and even more so at the state level, where it is not uncommon for the program to take up as much as one one-fourth to one-third of a state’s financial resources. And, even with all that cost, it is, in terms of available providers and services, one of the worst – if not THE worst -- health insurance options in the country.
Some of us in Congress have been working for years to reform the structure of the Medicaid program in order to reduce costs, improve the program, and preserve it for those who are in need. The Affordable Care Act didn’t fix these problems – it made them worse. Under Obamacare, Medicaid is more expensive to taxpayers and an even larger burden on the states. And, with dramatically increased enrollment, Medicaid reform is likely to be even more difficult in the future.
Why anyone would brag about adding enrollees to an insolvent government health program that provides the lowest standard of service in the country with the fewest provider options is beyond me. I suppose those tasked with claiming Obamacare is a success have to cite positive figures wherever they can dig them up.
The Affordable Care Act also increased taxes dramatically.
It raised taxes on drug companies and medical device manufacturers, which have been passed directly to middle- and lower-income consumers, because that’s what happens when you increase taxes on businesses that produce goods and services.
It includes a tax on so-called Cadillac Insurance Plans, which proponents claimed would only impact rich employees of very large companies. Of course, the tax was structured in a way that guarantees that, in the not too distant future, millions of middle-class Americans will be hit by the tax and see their insurance costs go up even further.
All told, there are about a trillion dollars in new taxes under Obamacare. And, while the President and his allies may claim that these taxes hold the middle class harmless, the facts tell a different story. That story, of course, isn’t just now coming to light. Many of us on the Republican side have been talking about these issues from the very beginning.
I can go on and on here, Mr. President.
For example, the Affordable Care Act, with its various mandates, has also increased costs to employers around the country, resulting in fewer new hires and reduced opportunities for many existing employees. Many small businesses now choose not to expand in order to avoid reaching the number of employees that will trigger new requirements. At the same time, because the law perversely defines a full-time employee as one working a minimum of 30 hours, other companies are avoiding the triggers by cutting back on workers’ hours.
All of these developments – every single one of them – were predicted way back in 2009 when the law was being debated. The President told us we were wrong. His supporters here in Congress did the same. They ignored the obvious warnings and now the American people – as well as small businesses and job creators – are paying the price.
These issues and many, many others are why Republicans have spent more than five years fighting against Obamacare. We’ve introduced bills to repeal the whole law, others to repeal just the most harmful elements. I, personally, have introduced bills to repeal the Individual Mandate, the Employer Mandate, and the Medical Device Tax. On the Senate Finance Committee, we’ve conducted rigorous oversight on numerous aspects of the law and the implementation of various programs. Other committees have done the same within their jurisdictions. And, virtually all of us have supported efforts to challenge elements of the law in court.
While we’ve differed on tactics from time to time, Republicans have been united in our desire to repeal and replace this misguided attempt at health care reform.
Some of us have even come up with specific ideas on how to replace Obamacare. For example, earlier this year, Senator Burr, Chairman Fred Upton from over in the House, and I released the latest draft of the Patient Care Act, a legislative proposal that would fix many of the things the authors of Obamacare got horribly wrong.
Most notably, as a number of health care experts have concluded, our proposal would actually reduce health care costs. As we all know, rising costs are the single biggest problem plaguing our health care system, yet the President’s health law did virtually nothing to address this issue. Unlike the poorly named Affordable Care Act, the Patient Care Act would actually make health care more affordable in the United States.
At the beginning of this year, Republicans assumed the majority in the Senate having committed – even promised in some cases – to work to repeal the so-called Affordable Care Act. This week, with the bill now before us, we will take a major step toward delivering on those promises.
The legislation we’re now debating would send the broadest possible Obamacare repeal to the President’s desk. As the Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, I am pleased to have joined with my colleagues – the distinguished chairmen of the Budget and HELP Committees, as well as the Senate Republican leadership – to lead this latest fight against Obamacare.
This bill would repeal many of the worst parts of Obamacare.
Among other things, it would repeal: the Individual Mandate, the Employer Mandate, the Medical Device Tax, and the Cadillac Tax.
All of these different parts of Obamacare have contributed in one way or another to the long, slow death march we’ve witnessed over the past five years. And all of them would be dealt with under this legislation.
The legislation would address another contentious debate: the one dealing with Planned Parenthood. The debate over Planned Parenthood has perplexed Congress and divided our country for years as many people have expressed ever more opposition to providing such a controversial organization – and I’m being generous with that label – with taxpayer funds. And, as we all know, this debate reached a boiling point earlier this year.
The reconciliation package before us would prohibit federal payments to Planned Parenthood and direct more funds to the federal community health centers program, putting an end to the federal government’s entanglements with Planned Parenthood while alleviating legitimate concerns about funding for women’s health.
This is yet another reason to support this legislation.
Like I said, the debate we’re having this week is an important milestone in the history of Obamacare, maybe even the most important milestone yet. But, we need to be realistic. While this bill is an important step, it stands no real chance of becoming law. For that to happen, we’re going to have to see even more changes.
But, that doesn’t mean our efforts here are for nothing.
This bill may not result in new law, but it will give the American people a fresh accounting of where each of us stands when it comes to Obamacare.
It’s funny, Mr. President, Republicans have taken some flack – not a lot, but some – for referring to the Affordable Care Act as “Obamacare” or “the President’s health care law.” The President, for his part, hasn’t shied away from these labels, but I have read a few pundits who think that these terms are specifically intended undermine the legitimacy of a statute duly passed by Congress.
In some respects, I suppose that might be true. After all, even though we constantly refer to the law as Obamacare, it’s not like President Obama passed it himself. He was aided and abetted by his allies in Congress. And, while it may be useful shorthand to attach the President’s name to it, I don’t think the American people have forgotten the others who helped bring this terrible law to pass.
President Obama will forever own the Affordable Care Act, that’s for sure. People will likely always refer to it as Obamacare. But, those in Congress who drafted and voted for the law will own it too.
And, when President Obama vetoes this legislation – as we all expect he will – he will take ownership of the Affordable Care Act – along with its many failures and gross inadequacies – all over again. I think the same can be said for any of our colleagues who vote against repealing the worst elements of the law this week.
I hope my colleagues on the other side of the aisle will think about that as this debate moves forward and that they’ll consider voting with us to send the repeal to the President’s desk.
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