Speeches & Floor Statements

Floor Speech: Health Insurance Market Stabilization, Part 1

Posted on March 23, 2018


Health Insurance Market Stabilization Floor Speech, Part 1

March 22, 2018


Thank you very much, Mr. President. Mr. President, I’m here today to talk about the plumber making $60,000, whose health insurance is $20,000, and he pays for all of it. And about the fact that the bill we're about to vote on today could have had in it bipartisan legislation supported by the president of the United States, the Majority Leader, and the Speaker of the House that would have reduced that plumber's health insurance bill from $12,000 to $8,000. That's according to the Oliver Wyman health consulting experts, who have evaluated the bipartisan legislation that we proposed to do that.

And the only reason, Mr. President, it doesn't have that in there is because Democrats have objected to putting on this bill we're voting on today the traditional Hyde amendment, which governs how dollars are spent when an abortion is involved.

The traditional Hyde amendment that is a compromise that's been on every appropriations bill -- and this is an appropriations bill -- since 1976, that Democrats have voted for hundreds of times, Republicans have voted for it hundreds of times.

And, Mr. President, on this very bill we're voting on today, more than 100 times the Hyde language applies to other programs. So Democrats are scrambling and embarrassed coming up with excuse after excuse trying to explain to the self-employed businessperson, the farmer, the songwriter, the plumber who might be making $60,000 or $70,000 and paying $20,000 for their insurance and paying it all with no government subsidy.

Why they're blocking a 40% reduction in their health insurance, why they won’t apply the Hyde language to the health insurance rate reduction, and they will apply it to 100 other programs -- not just in past voting but, Mr. President, today, every single Democrat today who votes for the Omnibus bill will be voting to apply the Hyde language restricting abortion to at least 100 other programs.

For example, how will they explain to the plumber, the farmer, the self-employed businesswoman, ‘I will apply the Hyde language and restrict federal funding for abortions to the National Institutes of Health but not to reduce your health insurance rates 40%? I will apply the Hyde language to community health centers today but I'm going to block -- I'm going to block the bipartisan proposal to reduce your health insurance 40% that's supported by the president, the majority leader, and the speaker of the house?

I will vote today to apply the Hyde language to the Federal Employment Health Benefits program that provides health insurance to three million employees or so, but I won’t – I won't vote for a health insurance program to reduce your rates by 40% because I won't apply the Hyde language to it?’

Mr. President, how are they going to explain today and next October when the insurance rates are announced for 2019 and 2020 and 2021 that they had an opportunity in March of this year to reduce rates in 2019, 2020, and 2021 by 40% and they refused to do it because they said we will not apply the traditional Hyde language to health insurance even though we're going to apply it to Indian health programs, to VA women's health medical care, to global health programs, to the Ryan White HIV-AIDS program, to 100 programs that Democrats will be voting on today to apply the Hyde language to.

They'll do that, but they're going to block bipartisan legislation supported by the president, the majority leader, and the speaker that will reduce the health insurance rates of the plumber making $60,000 from $20,000 to $12,000.

Mr. President, I want to speak about that plumber. I want to speak ahead to October 1 when the rates for 2019 are announced. I want to talk about Marty the farmer in Tennessee who I met at the Chick-Fil-A, who came up to me and said, ‘I was paying $300 a month for my health insurance and over the last five years it’s gone up to $1,300 and I can’t afford it.’ I said. ‘I have a Christmas present for you.’ Then I thought I had a Valentine card for her. Then I thought I had an Easter present for her, because we got bipartisan legislation supported by the president, the majority leader, and the speaker.

And I said, we can put that in the Omnibus bill. We can pass it by the end of March and we can reduce your rates.

There are 9 million Americans, Mr. President, who don't get insurance on the job. They don't get insurance from the government. They buy it themselves. They're hardworking Americans. They're the plumber, the farmer, the small businessperson. They're making $60,000, $70,000, $80,000, $90,000 a year. Their insurance bills are $15,000, $20,000, 25,000 a year. They're rapidly approaching a point if they haven’t already where they have to go without insurance because they can't afford it. And we have a way to do something about that.

It's happening in my state of Tennessee. Rates went up another 58 percent last year for those people. That's thousands of dollars.

Yet we could have today reduced their rates by thousands of dollars.

Here's how. We've developed two bipartisan bills beginning in the fall. Our committee, the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions committee held four hearings. We had round tables to which we invited all the senators. Senator Murray and I, the ranking member, presided over all of this. We talked about all the issues, we tried to see what we could do and we came up what we call the Alexander-Murray bill.

It had two parts to it. The first part was regulatory reform. We took something already in the Affordable Care Act, the 1332 innovation waiver, and we made it possible for states to streamline it and use it.

We also added a few other things. We changed the law so that Minnesota and New York could use the basic health plan, could tap into the subsidies in the way those states wanted to do it. That's $130 million a year in Minnesota, $1 billion in New York. Democrats are blocking that today. $130 million in Minnesota, $1 billion in New York. Democrats are saying no to that today. Because why? They won't apply the Hyde language to the health insurance rate decrease even though they're going to vote to apply it to 100 other pieces of legislation in this very bill.

So we did the regulatory reform and then, Mr. President, we did something many Republicans didn't want to do and the president didn't want to do to start with. We extended the cost-sharing subsidy payments for three more years. These are payments to reduce rates for low-income people on their co-pays and deductibles. We agreed to do that.

And then Senator Collins and Senator Nelson, Republican, Democrat, came up with a plan. The House did, too, Representative Costello, to add reinsurance. Reinsurance is something is that in our hearings, in our meetings, virtually every senator of both parties said, we really need to do that because the reason the individual market is in such trouble is it has so many of the sickest Americans in it and they're soaking up all the money. So the reinsurance program that we suggest and have in our bill -- Senator Collins, Senator Nelson's bill -- three years, $10 billion a year, would give states funds, as well as planning money, to set up those invisible risk pools, those reinsurance programs that will remit the sickest Americans to have their needs taken care of and you'll lower the rates for everybody else.

So we have regulatory reform, three years of cost-sharing subsidies, three years of reinsurance, $10 billion a year. The Congressional Budget Office says, if you score it based on real spending, it actually saves the government money -- by reducing the premiums that taxpayers have to pay for. $1 billion advantage for New York, for each of the next three years. $130 million for Minnesota, each of the next three years. We fix the problem in New Hampshire to allow New Hampshire -- both senators and the Republican governor -- senators Democrat, governor a republican -- saying ‘Please do this. We want to be able to mix our Obamacare and Medicaid savings.’ We say, yes, you can do that. So can every state.

So Mr. President, within the Affordable Care Act we did what Democrats having been saying to do ever since we couldn’t repeal and replace it last August. We said, we’ll work with you to fix it.’ Well the part that needs fixing is the part causing the plumber who makes $60,000 to pay $20,000 for his health insurance and we have a way to fix it, to reduce it by 40%, according to the Oliver Wyman consulting, by 20% according to the Congressional Budget Office, yet the Democrats are blocking it today because they won't apply the traditional Hyde language that they voted for every single year since 1976 in the Omnibus bill and that they will be voting for today for 100-plus times.

How do you explain that to the plumber? How do you explain that to the farmer? How do you explain that to the nine million Americans who see their health insurance rates going through the roof? Let's don't make any mistake about who's doing this.

We’re big boys and girls here in the United States Senate. When we take a stand, we ought to admit it. And what the Democrats are doing is they're blocking a 40% rate decrease for one single reason. One single reason.

The president of the United States supports it, the Speaker supports it, the majority leader supports it, we're ready to put it in the bill, and they say no.

Now let's look down the road to October. All the insurance companies will announce their rates for 2019 and we'll be looking ahead to 2020 and 2021.

Rates will be going up instead of going down.

The farmer, the self-employed person, the songwriter, they're going to be saying how am I going to be able to afford this? Nothing is more important to Americans than health care. Nothing is more frightening to Americans than the prospect of not being able to afford to buy health care. And that, Mr. President, is what we're doing here. It’s what we're doing here.

I'm greatly disappointed by this. I've spent hundreds of hours on this since September. We had a piece of legislation introduced on this floor by 12 Republicans and 12 Democrats that the Democratic leader said every single Democrat would vote for and the national Democratic chairman said was great bipartisan legislation.

Mr. President, that’s two-thirds of our bill. What's the other third? The other third is the Collins-Nelson bill that adds $10 billion a year for reinsurance. The governors like this. The state insurance commissioners like this. The plumber and songwriter like it. Who doesn't like it? A few Democrats who are saying that the Hyde language which says, let's be specific what it says, it says you can't use federal funds for elective abortions but you may use any other funds.

That's exactly the law that we have in our bill. The Hyde language is in the bill we're going to be voting on later today. It was put there in 1976. It's adopted year after year. It's on page 1036 if anybody wants to look it up.

Then there's language in the bill we're going to be voting on today restricting federal employee health benefits. Hyde-like language. It's on page 588. You're going to be voting for it today. Then there's the Title 10 family planning legislation. That's in the bill you're going to be voting for today. That's Hyde language. Then there's the Mexico City legislation.

You're going to vote for that today but you're going to tell the farmer, the songwriter, the employer that they're not allowed to have a 40% health insurance decrease. They're going to have to not be able to afford health insurance for their families.

Federal funding for the D.C. government, you're going to vote for that today.

Using funds for elective abortions is restricted in the bill that we’re voting on today.

So, Mr. President, Senator Collins, the senator from Maine, is here. The senator from South Carolina is here. They worked hard on this. We are a group of Senators who I think are seen as trying to get results around here and we are greatly disappointed by this. Not just for this institution but for the people we serve. Because the hard, simple fact is we have legislation that could be in this bill that will reduce your health insurance rates by 40% starting in 2019 and continuing for the next two years until it gets up to 40.

We have the support of the president. We have the support of the speaker. We have the support of the majority leader. But the Democratic leaders said you can't have it in the bill.

We're going to vote 100 times to apply the Hyde language to everything from the National Institutes of Health to Community Health Centers, but we're not going to let you reduce health care rates.

That's why Democrats are scrambling, coming up with excuse after excuse. They're going to have to really come up with scrambling and excuse after excuse on October 1 when the rates are announced. I yield the floor.