Floor Speech of Sen. Chuck Grassley on Obamacare Implementation
Delivered Thursday, November 14, 2013
Mr. President, Webster's Dictionary defines the word "success" as the correct or desired result of an attempt.
I want to discuss the definition of the word 'success' as we consider the Affordable Care Act.
On the day the bill was signed into law, President Obama said the following:
QUOTE: Today we are affirming that essential truth, a truth every generation is called to rediscover for itself, that we are not a nation that scales back its aspirations. END OF QUOTE
Such grand words for where we are today.
Today, the success of the law that now bears his name, Obamacare, is defined in much more meager terms.
Today, success is that when the folks at HHS got up this morning, Obamacare had not been shutdown, and when the folks at HHS go to sleep tonight their day will have been a success if Obamacare did not have to be shutdown.
Think of all that we have been through to this point.
The fight over the bill and the extreme legislative means used to pass it through Congress.
The 2010 and 2012 elections.
The Supreme Court decision that affectively repealed half of the law's coverage.
Think of all the changes made to the law through regulation to make sure Obamacare launched.
The postponing of the employer mandate.
The postponing of lifetime limits.
Think of the impact this law has had on our economy.
People losing jobs.
People losing the health insurance they currently have, because if you like what you have you may NOT be able to keep it.
And let's talk about that for a few minutes.
If you like what you have, you can keep it.
This was the promise the President made to the American people on at least thirty-six separate occasions.
It's a great soundbite.
It's easy to say; it rolls off the tongue.
It's also not true. It was never true.
It was obviously not true when the law was written.
It was obviously not true when the first proposed regulation came out.
This is what I said on the Senate floor in September of 2010:
QUOTE: Only in the District of Columbia could you get away with telling the people if you like what you have you can keep it, and then pass regulations six months later that do just the opposite and figure that people are going to ignore it. END OF QUOTE
It's not that I have some magic crystal ball.
We all knew it.
The Administration certainly knew that the day would come when millions of people would receive cancellation notices.
Now, my constituents clearly know it.
I've heard from many Iowans who found out the hard way that the President made a bunch of pie-in-the-sky promises that he knew he couldn't keep.
Constituents like this one from Perry, Iowa, who wrote to me saying:
QUOTE My husband and I are farmers. For nine years now we have bought our own policy. To keep the cost affordable our plan is a major medical plan with a very high deductible. We recently received our letter that our plan was going away.
Effective Jan 1, 2014, it will be updated to comply with the mandates of Obamacare.
To manage the risk of much higher premiums, our insurance company is asking us to cancel our current policy and sign on at a higher rate effective Dec 1, 2013 or we could go to the government exchange.
We did not get to keep our current policy. We did not get to keep our lower rates. I now have to pay for coverage that I do not want or will never use. We are not low income that might qualify for assistance.
We are the small business owner that is trying to live the American dream. I do not believe in large government that wants to run my life. END OF QUOTE
And from a constituent living in Mason City:
QUOTE: My wife and I are both 60 years old, and have been covered by an excellent Wellmark Blue Cross Blue Shield policy for several years.
It is not through my employer. We selected the plan because it had the features we wanted and needed...our choice. And because we are healthy, we have a preferred premium rate.
Yesterday, we got a call from our agent explaining that since our plan is not grandfathered, it will need to be replaced at the end of 2014.
The current plan has a $5,000 deductible and the premium is $511 per month. The best option going forward for us from Wellmark would cost $955 per month (a modest 87% increase), and have at $10,000 deductible!
And because we have been diligent and responsible in saving for our upcoming retirement, we do not qualify for any taxpayer-funded subsidies. END OF QUOTE.
These are just two of the many letters, emails, and phone calls I've received from Iowans.
Thousands have contacted me asking what can be done, now that we clearly see that what the President sold the American people was a bag of Washington's best gift-wrapped hot air.
I ask the President - I ask my colleagues here in the Senate - to look at all we have been through as a country.
All the grandiose talk about the importance of this statute.
And what we ultimately have is an optional Medicaid expansion with a glorified high risk pool and a government portal that makes the DMV look efficient.
Americans deserve better. They voted for better.
But this Administration will trudge ahead.
Keep the doors open.
Thousands of people enrolled instead of millions.
They just released a number this week for the 36 states using the malfunctioning federal Exchange.
Fewer than 27,000 people.
Including people who haven't actually committed to purchase the plans ... those who have put it in their shopping cart.
Less than 27,000 people.
That's about 19 people per day per state.
So the Administration will limp along with this pitiful sign up process hoping to get people properly assigned to health plans.
And if the assignment of individuals to plans fails miserably on January 1, the Administration will dig in and sort it out.
If the risk pools are a disaster, the Administration will use extra-regulatory, by any means necessary tools to keep this program afloat.
Because for all the talk of this bill being, in the words of the Vice President, a big expletive deal, success is not defined in the desires of 2010, but in making sure Obamacare exists in some form or fashion on January 20, 2017.
We saw the more of this digging-in and sorting-out today.
Insurance companies sent four million cancellation notices to comply with President Obama's law.
Let me clear about that.
Insurers read the law; and then they followed they law.
Unfortunately for them, the President did what he's been doing for three years: He's taken out his pencil and eraser and rewritten or delayed his law on the fly when it's not working.
So what does it now mean for insurers who were simply trying to follow the law as written?
Here's what one insurance consultant had to say:
QUOTE: This means that the insurance companies have 32 days to reprogram their computer systems for policies, rates, and eligibility, send notices to the policyholders via US Mail, send a very complex letter that describes just what the differences are between specific policies and Obamacare compliant plans, ask the consumer for their decision - and give them a reasonable time to make that decision - and then enter those decisions back into their systems without creating massive billing, claim payment, and provider eligibility list mistakes. END OF QUOTE
The only thing the President has accomplished with his announcement today is that he's delaying his broken promise for a year.
Again, I have to wonder, what will it take for him to admit that his law isn't working and at least call for a full delay?
It is time to admit that Obamacare has not achieved the correct or desired result of an attempt.
It has not been a success by any measure.
Unless of course you lower your standard to the point that the mere act of keeping the doors open is a success.
How sad is that for all we have been through.
Maybe, just maybe, it is time to admit that massive restructuring has failed.
Partisanship has failed.
Perhaps it is time to sit down and consider common sense, bipartisan steps that we could take to lower cost and improve quality.
Perhaps we could enact alternative reforms aimed at solving America's biggest health-care problems.
Reforms like revising the tax code to help individuals who buy their own health insurance;
Allowing people to purchase health coverage across state lines and form risk pools in the individual market;
Expanding tax-free Health Savings Accounts;
Making health-care price and quality information more transparent;
Cracking down on frivolous medical-malpractice lawsuits;
Using high-risk pools to insure folks with preexisting conditions;
Giving states more freedom to improve Medicaid;
And using provider competition and consumer choice to bring down costs in Medicare, and throughout the health care delivery system.
The American people need to know that this failed program is not the only answer.