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March 22, 2012

TRANSCRIPT: Sen. Johanns Marks Second Anniversary of Health Care Law

Mr. Johanns: Madam President, the anniversary of any new law should be a time to celebrate accomplishments and new landmarks, but the almost constant flow of bad news, unfavorable reports and broken promises makes the second anniversary of the health care law anything but a celebration. Rather, it's something that even the produces seems embarrassed to mention. The truth is the policy behind the bill was flawed. The truth is that the law is fundamentally flawed. It raises taxes and health care costs for working Americans. It puts bureaucrats between patients and their doctors. It tangles our nation's job creators and regulations and red tape, and it defies our country's most sacred document, the Constitution of the United States.

Next week, the United States Supreme Court begins hearings to determine whether the health care law violates the constitution. It is one of the most important cases reviewed in recent history. The court has set aside a remarkable six hours for oral arguments, more time than has been devoted to a case in over four decades. Its ruling will have a far-reaching impact on our health care system, but it doesn't stop there. It will have a far-reaching impact on our economy and fundamentally on the expanse of congressional authority over the individual citizen. I hope the Supreme Court will resolve the countless problems in this law for good by striking it down in its entirety.

The facts tell us that with the passage of time, things have not gotten better with this law. They have, in fact, gotten worse. Take last week's report from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, just one example. We learned something about the cost of this bill. Before the bill was passed, many of us were saying that this bill was filled with budget gimmicks to make it look cheaper to the American people than it really was. Well, we learned that the cost of the law's coverage provisions alone is projected to balloon to $1.7 trillion.

You see, the problem is that CBO only does ten-year projections, so the major provisions of this law were delayed until 2014. Why? Well, the reason for that is it was done to mask the true costs of this bill when it was fully implemented. When you eliminate gimmicks like this and consider the law's first ten years of full implementation, I fully expect that the total cost of this legislation will not be the $900 billion promised by President Obama. It will be $2.6 trillion.

This law certainly doesn't bend the cost curve down. CBO concludes that families buying insurance on their own will pay an astounding $2,100 more a year for that insurance. Yet, then-candidate Obama promised that Americans would see their premiums decrease by $2,500 by the end of his first term. The recent CBO report also noted that the federal government will spend $168 billion more on Medicaid compared to last year's estimate.

The truth just keeps coming out. That means more people will be trapped on a broken program where waiting lines will, in fact, be longer, emergency room visits will be more frequent because that's the only place they can find care, health outcomes will get worse, and 40% of physicians today won't even see patients in this program. This law does not deliver better quality health care either. Imposing Medicaid on more people is like giving someone a ticket to ride a bus that has broken down hundreds of miles away, but claiming you provided them with transportation. 

Not only that, the law puts all the pressure and burden on our states to implement the Medicaid program's largest expansion since 1965, placing $118 billion in unfunded mandates on when our states are struggling to figure out how they balance their budget today. As a former Governor who has balanced budgets, I believe that this expansion dumped on our states to manage is a critical and fatal flaw in this legislation. CBO also recently projected that up to 20 million more working Americans could lose their employer-sponsored health care coverage because of this health care law. That's an incredible shift. Especially when you consider that our president promised no fewer than 47 different times, "if you like your plan, you can keep it.” In addition to a potential 20 million employees losing their current coverage, seven million seniors are likely to lose their Medicare advantage plans. according to the congressional budget office director, more than 3,200 Nebraskans enrolled in Medicare Advantage will, in fact, have their benefits cut in half.

In families in 17 states, including Nebraska, no longer have access to child-only health insurance because of mandates in the law. Wait a second. I just said that in 17 states you no longer have access to a child-only health insurance policy because of this law's effect. That's incredible. Our Nebraska insurance commissioner called this collapse of the child-only market, "an example of the unintended consequences of this imperfect law.” Here we see the President's promise again flipped on its head. This law forces you to say goodbye to the coverage that you like for children.

Over the past two years, I've traveled across the great state of Nebraska hosting townhalls, round tables, meetings, and I’m finding the more folks know about this law, the more they detest it. Religious schools and hospitals and charities are troubled because the law will force them to violate their deeply held beliefs. Seniors are concerned that the law will limit access to care because it siphons $500 billion from Medicare and uses it as a piggy bank to spend on other government programs. The Administration's own Medicare actuary has projected "the prices paid by Medicare for health services are very likely to fall increasingly short of the costs of providing those services.” The CMS actuary continued that these Medicare cuts could result in "severe problems with beneficiary access to care.” Let me translate that. That means this law will make it more difficult for senior citizens to get health care because the federal government is not paying its way.

Others wonder what the 159 new boards established by this law will mean for access to health care. And hard-working Nebraskans question how the law's half a trillion dollars in taxes will affect their families. Approximately 428,000 Nebraskan households making less than $200 thousand will pay higher taxes. Approximately 428,000. That's based on the joint committee on taxation. Small businesses across Nebraska have shared with me that they're holding off on hiring because of the mandates of this legislation. At a roundtable last week business men and women expressed their concerns about the law's tax on health insurance companies and the fully insured market and with good reason. The health insurance tax alone would impose $87 billion in costs on businesses, and their employees, over the law's first ten years alone. An analysis by the national federation of independent business indicates this law will force the private sector, will force the private sector to cut between 125,000 and 249,000 jobs between now and 2021. That's not just a statistic. Those are families that will lose a job because of this health care bill. It is remarkable that in the midst of our economic situation, the president's signature legislation actually reduces jobs. These are some of the many reasons why Nebraskans are demanding louder than ever that this law be repealed. Now some of the law's supporters have taken up the mantra, don't repeal it, repair it. That's a nice slogan. This law, though, is so fatally flawed no band-aid is ever going to fix it. I experienced firsthand how difficult it was to change this law when I worked to repeal the 1099 reporting requirement which nearly everybody agreed was idiotic. It would have increased paperwork burdens on our nation's job creators by up to 2,000%. The administration even agreed that this pay-for in their law needed to go. And in the end, 87 senators supported full repeal of the provision. But it took nine months, seven votes, before my efforts to repeal a provision that everybody agreed was idiotic was finally successful.

So anyone who tells you we can tinker with this law to fix it might as well offer you oceanfront property in the state of Nebraska. The 2,700-page law is one of the largest pieces of legislation ever passed in this nation's history. Its provisions are interconnected, ill-fated, and far-reaching and they will affect every single American economically, socially, physically. We can't sit idly by and allow for the negative consequences to continue unraveling, and they will. As I said, I hope the Supreme Court strikes down this entire law, but if it does not, we will continue our fight to repeal it as Nebraskans demand that I do. We must protect the rights of Americans to choose their doctor, to select their insurance, to trust their care and to protect their conscience rights. We must ensure employers see reforms that reduce regulation and red tape and instead increase efficiencies and address the underlying costs. We must let states run their Medicaid programs in the best way that serve the populations in that state. This law is misguided. It stifles job growth and doesn't improve health care for millions of Americans and it should be wiped off the books. Americans are demanding it, Nebraskans are demanding it, and they deserve that. Madam President, I yield the floor.

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