Aug 01 2013

Shelby Speech on ObamaCare's Broken Promises

WASHINGTON, DC, Thursday, August 1, 2013 – U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) today delivered a speech on ObamaCare’s broken promises on the Senate floor. Shelby outlined that the legislation is set to increase health insure costs, reduce patients’ access to quality care, and kill jobs. 

Thank you, M. President.

Last week in Illinois, President Obama attempted to blame opponents of ObamaCare for the law’s broken promises.  

He lashed out at “folks out there who are actively working to make this law fail”. 

“[A] politically-motivated misinformation campaign” is afoot, he said. 

And he strongly implied that fault rests not with those who conceived the law, but with those who have not, in his estimation, “committed themselves to making [it] work”.  

This flailing, of course, was nothing more than an effort by President Obama to dodge and deflect accountability for the law that bears his name. 

Let’s be real, M. President.  ObamaCare is not a failure because so many Americans reject it.  Rather, so many Americans reject ObamaCare because it is a failure. 

M. President, we should focus on what really matters.  Americans are growing increasingly anxious about how the law will affect them and their families.  

They wonder what it will mean for their health insurance and tax bills.  

They wonder whether they will be able to get the care they need, when they need it. 

They wonder whether the quality of American health care will remain the best in the world.  

And they wonder how a government reorganization of one-sixth of the economy will impact a weak jobs market. 

Unfortunately, M. President, neither the outset nor the outlook provides consolation. 


II.                “Glitches and Bumps” at the Outset

President Obama has frequently sought to downplay the debacle surrounding the roll out of his health care law.  He says that “glitches and bumps” are to be expected. 

But as Wall Street Journal columnist Kimberly Strassel notes, the Democrats didn’t “count on the hiccups turning into cardiac arrest.”  

Since the enactment of ObamaCare, a laundry list of unworkable provisions has been repealed or delayed.  But just recently, the administration announced two particularly notable delays.

First, the administration will delay implementation of the law’s employer mandate until 2015 because workable reporting requirements are not yet in place.  

This provision requires all employers with more than 50 employees to provide “adequate” health coverage for full-time employees – defined as those employed at least 30 hours per week - or pay a penalty.   

In anticipation of this mandate, many employers are cutting back hours for current workers and holding off on hiring new ones. 

M. President, I welcome any relief from ObamaCare for anyone.  But why should such relief not apply to individuals and families as well?  And if the administration hasn’t gotten its act together by now, what leads us to believe that it ever will? 

M. President, instead of temporarily delaying part of ObamaCare for some, the best course would be to permanently delay all of it for everyone. 

The administration also recently announced postponement of a critical taxpayer protection under ObamaCare.  Taxpayers were previously told that the government would verify that applicants actually qualify for subsidies before receiving them.  

The Obama administration now says it’s not ready to do that until 2015 -- although it will still go ahead with enrollment in 2014.  

So, for the coming year, the Obama administration will trust but not verify. M. President, the honor system is no taxpayer protection. 

M. President, these are not run-of-the-mill glitches and bumps.  These provisions are central to the legislation and may foreshadow major problems to come. 

Moreover, M. President, these provisions are unworkable or problematic not because people don’t like them, but because they were poorly designed.  

This isn’t about a lack of commitment on behalf of those forced to comply with these mandates.  Rather, it’s about a lack of competence on behalf of those who conceived and crafted them.


III.             Increased Costs

In light of this disastrous roll-out, M. President, Americans are apprehensive about the costs.  

How will all of this impact their health insurance premiums?  What will be the tax burden?  What will a new entitlement program do to our $17 trillion debt? 

With respect to premiums, President Obama told the American people that his health care overhaul “could save families $2,500 in the coming years”.  

However, despite this bold claim, health insurance premiums for the average American family have increased by $3,065 since 2008, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation Employer Health Benefits Survey.  

Moreover, a recent Wall Street Journal analysis finds that premiums for healthy consumers could double or even triple under ObamaCare. 

Although ObamaCare has not decreased premiums, it has increased taxes. 

According to the Congressional Budget Office and the Joint Committee on Taxation, ObamaCare imposes a trillion dollar tax hike on the American economy over just the first ten years. 

Their analysis finds 21 tax hikes in ObamaCare due to the law’s various mandates and restrictions.  

Among these, several affect individuals making less than $200,000 and married couples making less than $250,000 – a clear violation of President Obama’s oft-repeated campaign promise not to do so.  

Despite this massive tax hike, ObamaCare will still add $6.2 trillion to the debt over the next 75 years, based on Government Accountability Office projections.[1]  

This clearly violates yet another promise by the president that he would “not sign a plan that adds one dime to our deficits -- either now or in the future.” 


IV.              Access/Quality

M. President, I believe that ObamaCare will not only fail to control costs, but also destroy the best quality health care in the world.  Why do I say this, M. President? 

In 2009, Martin Feldstein, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under President Reagan and a Harvard professor, wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal titled “ObamaCare Is All About Rationing.”

He backed up this statement by citing a report issued by President Obama’s own Council of Economic Advisers, which explained how the president would reduce health spending by eliminating certain treatments. 

Mr. Feldstein went on to compare the Obama strategy to that of the British national health service.  He concluded that “the existence of such a program in the United States would not only deny lifesaving care but would also cast a pall over medical researchers who would fear that government experts might reject their discoveries as ‘too expensive’." 

M. President, think of the implications of rationing health care.  What does it mean for a patient sitting in the doctor’s office when they get a life-changing diagnosis?  

I know that feeling, M. President.  I’ve been there.  It reassured me to know that we have the best health care in the world, and that everything possible would be done to save my life.  

M. President, I want others who encounter that situation to have the same reassurance. 

And despite what President Obama may say, it’s not just Republicans who have deep concerns about ObamaCare. 

Just this week on the same Wall Street Journal opinion pages, Howard Dean, a former Democrat National Committee Chairman and a physician, concurred with Mr. Feldstein.  

Mr. Dean wrote that ObamaCare’s Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) “is essentially a health-care rationing body.  By setting doctor reimbursement rates for Medicare and determining which procedures and drugs will be covered and at what price, the IPAB will be able to stop certain treatments its members do not favor by simply setting rates to levels where no doctor or hospital will perform them.” 

Mr. Dean went on to say, “these kinds of schemes do not control costs. The medical system simply becomes more bureaucratic.” 

Obamacare is already a bureaucratic nightmare, M. President.  With more than 20,000 pages of new rules and regulations, the law expands government to an unprecedented level, creating 159 new boards, commissions, and government offices. 

Adding to these concerns, Deloitte’s 2013 Survey of U.S. Physicians finds that due to recent developments in health care “the future of the medical profession may be in jeopardy as it loses clinical autonomy and compensation.”  

The survey also found that “six in 10 physicians say that it is likely that many physicians will retire earlier than planned in the next one to three years.” 

Again, M. President, sitting in that doctor’s office, I remember breathing a little easier to know that we have not only the most advanced treatments, but also the most skilled and experienced physicians in the world.  We don’t want to jeopardize that, do we, M. President?

In addition to concerns about quality of care, M. President, the Obama administration has backtracked on still another of the president’s promises.  In 2009, he stated unambiguously, “If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor. Period.”  

But despite this pledge, the Department of Health and Human Services recently posted the following on “Depending on the plan you choose in the Marketplace, you may be able to keep your current doctor.”  May be able to keep your doctor, M. President.  

A University of Chicago study underscores this, finding that more than half of current individual insurance plans do not meet ObamaCare’s standard to be sold on the exchanges.  

So much for that iron-clad promise, M. President.


 V.  Job Killer

How will ObamaCare affect jobs, M. President? 

In President Obama’s recent Illinois speech, he made the following curious statement about Republicans and job creation: 

“They’ll bring up Obamacare, despite the fact that our businesses have created nearly twice as many jobs in this recovery as they had at the same point in the last recovery, when there was no Obamacare.” 

M. President, this is a non-sequitur.  At a minimum, President Obama implied that ObamaCare has not hurt job creation.  At worst, he implied that it has helped. 

In stark contrast, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s second quarter 2013 Small Business Survey finds that “71% of small businesses say the health care law makes it harder to hire.”  

The same survey finds that “one-half of small businesses say that they will either cut hours to reduce full time employees OR replace full time employees with part-time workers to avoid the mandate.”  

In addition, Gallup finds that “41% of small-business owners say they have held off on hiring new employees” in response to ObamaCare. 

M. President, the one-year delay on ObamaCare’s employer mandate provides momentary relief.  But in light of sustained high unemployment, I find it deeply troubling that perhaps the best thing President Obama has done for American business during his time in office is to provide a brief reprieve from his own signature achievement.  

Notably, M. President, labor unions agree with businesses that ObamaCare will hurt the economy.  In a scathing letter to Democrat leaders in Congress, the presidents of the Teamsters, the UFCW, and UNITE-HERE wrote that ObamaCare “will shatter not only our hard-earned health benefits, but destroy the foundation of the 40 hour work week that is the backbone of the American middle class.”


VI.              Conclusion

M. President, this brings me full circle to where I began my remarks.  President Obama conveniently blames Republican opposition for the stumbles and failures of ObamaCare, despite the fact that Americans across the political spectrum have spoken up about its many flaws.

Moreover, President Obama rammed his health care legislation through Congress without a single Republican vote.  Why, M. President?  Because knew he didn’t need our votes to put the entire nation under his health care plan.  Yet now he claims that ObamaCare works for those who are “committed to it”.

M. President, Republicans are committed to finding solutions that actually lower health costs; that do not tax and spend us into oblivion; that preserve the world’s highest quality health care; and that foster economic growth.  We have said all along that ObamaCare would fail on each of these counts. 

Opposition to ObamaCare is not responsible for its failures, and commitment to it will not negate its deep flaws.  M. President, the only way to achieve the goals we all share is to begin by repealing this failed law so we can replace it with a plan that works.  

Thank you, M. President.  I yield the floor.


[1] GAO’s alternative fiscal scenario shows that ObamaCare increases the “primary deficit” by 0.7 percent of GDP over the 75-year projection period (i.e., when the post-Obamacare projection is compared to the pre-Obamacare projection). Senate Budget Committee Republican staff arrived at their figure by obtaining from the Medicare actuary the exact GDP and discount rate assumptions for every individual year, doing the equivalent calculation on a per-year basis, and summing up the estimated results. The staff also indicated that when they earlier shared their methodology with GAO, they were told it was a “reasonable method.”