Speeches & Floor Statements

Floor Speech: Health Insurance Market Stabilization, Part 2

Posted on March 23, 2018

Health Insurance Market Stabilization Floor Speech, Part 2

March 22, 2018


Mr. President, I want to thank the senator from Maine for her lucid and heartfelt description of what's before us. She has been an exceptional leader. And she continues to be. She looks for ways to get results. She sees people, the plumber I talked about making $60,000, the stylist, the farmer.

The person who is working and paying all of his or her insurance with no subsidy help and who sees the real prospect coming that when the rates are announced October 1, they may not be able to afford any insurance. And they can see that we have a solution for that. This isn't a republican solution. Or democratic solution. This is a solution that began to be developed almost the day republicans failed to repeal and replace Obamacare.

I walked across the aisle to see if we can do what the democrats were asking. Let's fix what we have temporarily so nobody is hurt. And as we've explained this afternoon, we did that. We have a proposal. That's the original Alexander-Murray proposal developed in four hearings in which more than half the Senate participated, which at one point the democratic leader said every single democrat would vote for. That takes an existing part of the affordable care act and makes it work. That's the innovation -- the innovation waiver. Gives states more flexibility to create more choices and more lower-cost choices without changing the essential health benefits, without changing the guarantee for a preexisting condition.

It's really a modest change but it's a significant change. Then three years of cost-sharing subsidies. Remember, the president said he did not want to pay those but he supports this. And then three years of reinsurance so we can help the sickest people who are in the individual market, take them out, pay their needs and reduce the rates for everybody else.

These are the best republican and democrat ideas that have been put together in a package and as Senator Collins has said, virtually everyone who's looked at this starting with the Oliver Wyman health consultants who say it reduces rates up to 40%. The Congressional Budget Office says up to 20%.

Mr. President, that's thousands of dollars. If you're paying $20,000 for your insurance, if we do nothing, you might be paying $24,000. If we do this, you might be paying $16,000. That's a lot of money. In we do this you might be paying $12,000. That's thousands of dollars less. That's a big tax cut for you and it's a big tax increase. And why are we not doing this? Let's not kid ourselves. There's a lot of scrambling and embarrassment-- running around on the other side of the aisle to come up with an excuse for this but let's be honest about it.

The Democrats are blocking this for one reason. They have convinced themselves that they do not want to apply to the health insurance rate reduction in the Omnibus bill the same law that applies to more than a hundred other programs in this omnibus bill. So every single democrat over here who says I can't vote for a 40% rate reduction for you, the plumber or the hairstylist or the farmer. I can't do that because I can't put the Hyde amendment on it but I am going to vote to put the Hyde amendment on the national institutes of health.

I am going to vote to put the Hyde amendment on community health centers. I'm going to vote today to put it on federal employee health benefits and family planning grants under title 10 and a hundred other programs that democrats are going to vote to put the Hyde language on. Yet they say we can't put the same language on a 40% health insurance reduction that is composed of three sections of bipartisan legislation that the democratic leader has said, at least on two-thirds of it, that every single democrat support it. What is that? What is that? I mean, this should not be a partisan issue. And I’m not surprised there's scrambling and embarrassment on the other side of the aisle. I don't know how they're going to explain this to the American people. I know a lot of people in Tennessee are desperately hoping we succeed. I hear it every time I go home.

Health insurance is the number one concern of the people in my state and most frightening prospect is if they can't pay their bills, and they can't buy insurance., and they might get sick and have no way to take care of it.

So, Mr. President, I ask consent to put into the record a few items. The first is a list of 20 programs that are included in the Omnibus bill that we're likely to vote on today that have Hyde protection. Now, remember what the Hyde protection is.

It's a compromise that was created in 1976 that said federal funds may not be used for elective abortions but basically you may use any other funds and you may create a contract or arrangement to do that.

So that's what we do with Medicare. That's what we do with Medicaid. That's what we're voting today to do at the national institutes of health, and in the community health centers, and voting today for the federal employee health benefits program and for family planning grants, and the Indian Health Program, and for the VA women's health medical care, and for global programs, and for the Ryan White HIV/Aids program, and school based health centers.

We're voting to put the Hyde amendment on Area Health Education Centers, on the Maternal and Childcare block grants, and the National Health Service Corps but we can’t put Hyde protection on health insurance.

A 40% rate reduction on health insurance. A bipartisan proposal that has the support of the president, the majority leader, and the speaker. They’re all willing to put it in this bill, but you say no. You say no.

And there's no good reason for that. There's no good reason whatsoever. We're going to vote to put the Hyde amendment on child care and community development block grants. I ask consent to put a list of 20 of those programs in the record, although, Mr. President, there are more than 100 that we'll be voting on today.

I ask consent to place into the record a short summary of the three-part bipartisan proposal that will produce the 40% rate decreases in the individual market according to Oliver Wyman and up to 20% according to the Congressional Budget Office over the next three years.

Mr. President, I ask consent to place into the record the Oliver Wyman analysis entitled a proposal to lower ACA premiums by more than 40% and cover 3.2 million more Americans.

Mr. President, I ask consent to put into the record the congressional budget office estimate. It looks at this proposal two different ways, but it says that if we base it on real spending, that is, if congress actually passed this bill, the Alexander-Murray-Collins-Nelson proposal that reduces insurance rates 40% saves the federal taxpayer money. In other words, it doesn't cost anything.

So, Mr. President, as a United States Senator who came here to get results, who enjoys more than anything working across party lines to cause that to happen because it takes 60 to get a result, who admires senators like Senator Collins who spends her time doing that, I am very disappointed.

Not just for me, not just for Senator Collins who spent hundreds of hours on this, not just for the Senate as an institution. I think of people who come up to me, like Marty at the Chick-fil-A who said I was paying $300 a month and now I’m paying 1,300 a month. I can’t afford it. I’m a farmer. I said I have a Christmas present for you. Then I thought, well I have a valentine’s present for you.

Then I thought, well maybe I can say I have an Easter present for you and now I say I can't do it because the Democratic party voted to put the Hyde protection on more than a hundred programs today as it did for every year since 1976, but it refused to put Hyde protection on a 40% rate decrease that was developed across party lines in long hearings that were attended by more than half the senators, all of them coming in saying oh, this is a wonderful thing.

They said Chairman Alexander, Lamar, this is so good. We wish the Senate would act like this more. We like the fact that you're having open committee hearings. Democrats are coming, you’re letting us all come, and we’re not a member of your committee. Why don't we do more of this? This is why we don't do more of it. We come to a result and then we come up with a partisan end that hurts people. I yield the floor