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March 16, 2011

TRANSCRIPT: Johanns’ Floor Speech Marking 1 Year Anniversary of Obamacare

Mr. JOHANNS:  Madam President, I rise today to also speak about the health care bill.

The first anniversary of a new law should be a time to celebrate good policy, one would think. The mood surrounding the new health care law is much different. One year later, Americans are demanding as loudly as ever that we repeal it. That is not surprising, considering the almost constant flow of bad news, broken promises, higher costs, and sky-rocketing health insurance premiums.

We did not need a year of bad news and broken promises to know this new law was bad policy. It was fraught with problems even before it hit the Senate floor. Many of us pointed out the inevitable problems within this legislation. We warned how this law was predicated on faulty accounting that would exacerbate our current and future fiscal problems.

It is simply irresponsible and short-sighted to argue that legislation will reduce the debt when it is filled with budget gimmicks. But that is exactly what Congress did when passing this legislation, and we are paying the price.

The administration now admits that the funding elements of this law do not add up. For example, in testimony before the Finance Committee, HHS Secretary Sebelius described the newly created CLASS Act entitlement as “totally unsustainable.” Furthermore, in recent congressional testimony, Secretary Sebelius was asked whether the Medicare cuts in the law are used to save Medicare or pay for the health care law. Remarkably, she responded “both.” Even a young child knows you can’t spend a dollar on a new toy and then spend that exact same dollar to buy an ice cream cone. It is wonderland accounting and even the administration’s own Medicare actuary seems to agree. He said the Medicare reductions in the law “cannot be simultaneously used to finance other Federal outlays (such as the coverage expansions . . . ) and to extend the trust fund.”

Double-counting this money is completely illogical and the American people can see through the smoke-screen long ago. But the fiscal problems with this legislation are not even the half of it. As a former Governor, I shared my concern that putting 16 million people into the broken Medicaid Program is a fatal flaw of this law. Medicaid beneficiaries already have a huge problem finding doctors to treat them. Nationwide, 40 percent of doctors will not see a Medicaid patient.

The Medicaid expansion is like giving someone a free bus ticket, and then taking the bus away.

But instead of addressing this problem, the law exacerbates the problem by doubling the number of people on the broken system—Medicaid. If you have an airplane that is already overweight, you wouldn’t decide to double the number of passengers to solve the problem, yet that is exactly what the law prescribes.

But even if you overlook the access nightmares created by this expansion, our States simply cannot afford it. States are already struggling to pay their bills and now we are heaping more obligations on them. As a former Governor it breaks my heart we are making those problems even greater.

That is why cash-strapped States are begging us for relief from the crushing Medicaid mandate headed their way.

One didn’t have to be a fortune teller to predict the budgetary panic spreading from State capitol to State capitol.

And for what benefit? One year later, many of the promises that were used to sell this law have been debunked. For example, remember the President saying “if you like your plan, you can keep it”? Turns out, that’s not exactly true. Again, the administration’s own Medicare actuary concluded that the President’s promise is “not true in all cases.” Turns out truth seems to be more the exception than the rule with this law. One of the administration’s own estimates projects as many as 80 percent of small businesses being forced to give up their current coverage within the next 2 years.

Remember the President promising that he would not sign into law any legislation that did not bring down the cost curve?

In June 2009, President Obama claimed that any health care legislation must control costs. He said, “If any bill arrives from Congress that is not controlling costs, that’s not a bill I can support. It’s going to have to control costs.” One is left to wonder why the President signed this law since his own actuaries estimated it would increase Federal health care spending by $310 million.

Earlier this year, the Medicare actuary provided a moment of sad truth. He testified that President Obama’s promise that the health care law would lower costs was “false, more so than true.” That is so astonishing that I will repeat it again—the administration’s own experts said the President’s promise was false, more so than true. That is astonishing.

Remember how the President promised that the health care law would bring down the cost of insurance premiums? As a presidential candidate, President Obama promised no fewer than 20 times that he would cut premiums by $2,500 for the average family by the end of the first term. Yet the average employee’s health insurance premium has risen by nearly $1,100 per family since President Obama took office. A recent New York Times article highlighted this missed opportunity: Groups of 20 or more workers have been experiencing premium increases of around 20 percent, insurance agents say, while smaller groups are seeing increases of 40 percent to 60 percent or more.

Finally, the first year of implementing this law provides clear evidence that the administration does not think this health care bill is good for everyone. The administration has now granted over one thousand waivers to certain States, employers, unions, and insurance companies, allowing them to be exempt from several of the law’s new mandates.

The plans approved for waivers cover nearly 3 million individuals. If the law is so popular and so beneficial, why are we exempting almost 3 million people while the other 300 million have to live with its higher premiums and mandates? This and many other questions have yet to be answered by the administration.

However, the President’s recent budget request does outline his game plan to advance this flawed policy. The current strategy seems to be spending more taxpayer dollars to continue to try to convince a skeptical public that the health care law is good policy; and if they don’t agree, use an enforcement hammer to ensure compliance.

Buried within the President’s budget is a request for a 315 percent increase for the public affairs office at the Department of Health and Human Services. One of the primary tasks of the Public Affairs Office is to sell the health care reform law to the American people. Furthermore, they also requested a whopping 1,270 new Internal Revenue Service agents to implement the law and to enforce its individual mandate and other related provisions.

While Speaker Pelosi may have advocated passing the bill so that we could learn what is in it, many Americans were not so naive. They understand that you can’t spend the same dollar twice. They understand that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. They know when someone shows up from the government offering a carrot, there is probably a stick not far behind.

Last year, a real opportunity to craft health care policy on a bipartisan basis was squandered. That missed opportunity will continue to haunt us.

Unfortunately, I worry that the second year under the oppressive provisions of this law will be no better than the last. It is regrettable that we have reached this point, having known so many of these problems existed before this law passed. But of course we were warned.

So, I will use the occasion of the solemn first anniversary to redouble my efforts to right the wrong.

We will work to wipe this misguided law from the books to protect the rights of Americans to choose their doctor, select their insurance, and trust in their own good judgment. Many are committed to the cause. I believe it will happen.

I yield the floor.

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