In a speech on the Senate floor coinciding with consideration of a resolution to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said the higher taxes, fewer choices and less access to care resulting from Obamacare have made it clear that an overhaul of our healthcare system is needed.
“Under Obamacare, individuals and families are being left with fewer and fewer choices when it comes to buying health insurance. Eight out of every ten people in this country agree that the status quo is unacceptable and that we need a major course correction in our health care system.” Hatch said. “It is only fitting that we begin this new Congress by repealing Obamacare and setting the stage for workable reforms that will actually bring down costs, provide more options, and let the American people make their own healthcare choices.”
Hatch outlined the Finance Committee’s role in this process and noted, “The Finance Committee is going to have a major role to play throughout this process of repealing Obamacare, providing for a secure transition, and replacing the law with more effective reforms.”
He further went on to renew his commitment of advancing executive nominees with a thorough and fair vetting process, despite attempts to politicize the process.
“The Finance Committee’s longstanding vetting process is exceptionally thorough and fair,” Hatch said. “We have an established set of vetting procedures for all Executive Branch nominees, Republicans and Democrats alike. That process has been in place for decades and has traditionally been bipartisan. It is deeply regrettable that some of our colleagues would try to undermine that process.”
The complete speech as prepared for delivery is below:
Mr. President, I rise today in support of S. Con. Res. 3 and the ongoing effort to repeal the most harmful elements of the so-called Affordable Care Act.
While our friends on the other side of the aisle have been trying to convince the American people that there’s nothing to see here and that this poorly-named law is working according to plan, the vast majority of our citizens know the truth: Obamacare just doesn’t work.
According to the results of a recent Gallup poll, 80 percent of Americans want Congress to either change the Affordable Care Act significantly or repeal and replace it altogether.
Let me repeat that: Eight out of every ten people in this country agree that the status quo is unacceptable and that we need a major course correction in our health care system.
It’s not hard to see why this is the case.
After all, under Obamacare, the cost of health insurance has increased dramatically, and will continue to do so into the future.
Under Obamacare, individuals and families are being left with fewer and fewer choices when it comes to buying health insurance.
Under Obamacare, patients have fewer options and reduced access to healthcare providers.
And, under Obamacare, the American people have been hit with steep taxes, burdensome mandates, and a healthcare system that simply does not meet their needs.
This year alone, premiums in the benchmark plan for the Obamacare exchanges have gone up by an average of 25 percent. And, in some parts of the country, the increases have been significantly larger than that.
In addition, over the past few years, insurance plans have been dropping out of markets all over the country. As a result, it is estimated that more than half of the counties in the U.S. will have two or fewer available health insurance plans on the exchanges this year. And, about a third of them have only one available option.
I’m quite certain that every single member of this chamber has heard from a number of their constituents about the problems they’ve faced as the Affordable Care Act has been implemented. I know I have.
A number of Utahns have written to me to express their concerns about the increases in their insurance premiums.
For example, last month, Austin from Provo, Utah told me that, due to the growing cost of his insurance plan, “I’m going to have to drop the insurance and face the penalty next year. I’m worried because as a young husband and father, I’m barely making ends meet and I’m not sure I can afford to pay the penalty for not having insurance.”
Similarly, Eryn from Spanish Fork, Utah noted that, because her family’s previous insurer dropped out of the Utah marketplace, the remaining plan that best met her family’s needs was “a plan with a small list of in-network providers and no coverage for out-of-network providers.” She continued, saying that, under this new plan “We will have a higher deductible ($13,000 for the family), we will have to pay the full cost of any visit to the doctor…and we will not be able to save as much money in our Health Savings Account each month because of the high premiums, which add up to $11,000 a year…The premium is basically another mortgage payment for us, only we have no property to show for it. This is too much.”
Mr. President, no family should have to choose between paying their mortgage and paying for health insurance. Yet, with all of Obamacare’s failures and broken promises, families throughout the country are currently having to make those kinds of choices.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t get better from here, not without a major change to the status quo. In fact, I think it’s safe to say that, if we fail to act, the worst is yet to come.
Therefore, it is only fitting that we begin this new Congress by repealing Obamacare and setting the stage for workable reforms that will actually bring down costs, provide more options, and let the American people – and not Washington bureaucrats – make their own healthcare choices.
The budget resolution before us is the first step in this effort. As we all know, the resolution contains reconciliation instructions to the relevant committees – including the Senate Finance Committee, which I chair – to draft legislation to repeal Obamacare.
So, after approving this resolution, the next step will be for Finance Committee, the HELP Committee, as well as the Ways and Means and Energy and Commerce Committees over in the House, to get to work on putting together a repeal package.
This process will be more difficult than it sounds. We don’t want to be reckless, and we don’t want to inflict more harm on the American people or our healthcare system. Therefore, in addition to repealing Obamacare, the legislation we draft pursuant to this budget resolution will have to include a stable transition period to give us the time and space we need to provide more sensible reforms.
Under the budget resolution, the legislation to repeal Obamacare and provide that transition period will need to be reported to Budget Committee by January 27th. Then, both the House and Senate will debate the legislation, hopefully passing it by simple majority votes and sending it to the desk of the incoming President.
Once we pass the repeal legislation, we will come to the most important step in this process: Replacing Obamacare with a healthcare system worthy of the American people.
This won’t be a simple endeavor. It’s going to take a great deal of work, and it will almost certainly require the efforts of people from both parties.
The Finance Committee is going to have a major role to play throughout this process of repealing Obamacare, providing for a secure transition, and replacing the law with more effective reforms. Our committee has jurisdiction over all the major federal health programs, including Medicare and Medicaid. In addition, we’ll have jurisdiction over the tax provisions, which include all of Obamacare’s harmful taxes as well as the premium tax credits provided to purchase plans in the Obamacare exchanges.
I’ve spoken at length to my Republican colleagues on the Finance Committee about these issues, and all of them are ready and willing to do whatever is necessary to put our nation’s healthcare system on a more responsible path.
We’re going to get it done. I have no doubts.
To be sure, the first few steps in this effort are going to happen quickly. Once again, the plan is to produce repeal legislation before the end of this month. This, of course, is how it has to be. The American people don’t have the time for us to wait around on these issues, and we don’t have the luxury of sitting back and watching the problems get worse over time.
The problems facing our healthcare system are growing by the day. We need to take the swiftest possible action.
We intend to act quickly, but methodically, to begin providing relief for the millions of Americans who are currently suffering as a result of Obamacare and the unworkable system it has created.
As I noted, if that effort is going to be successful, it should be bipartisan. And, both Congress and the incoming administration will need to work together.
On that point, I do want to note that my friends on the other side of the aisle have, as recently as this morning, made a number of statements and issued several demands with regard to the process for considering and confirming the President-elect’s cabinet nominees.
According my colleague’s statements, they want multiple rounds of hearings on every nominee, which is unprecedented. This morning they went even further, issuing demands that certain preconditions be met before hearings could even be held on a particular nomination.
Mr. President, these tactics are, to put it bluntly, preposterous. My colleagues are certainly free to oppose any nominee and to try to convince others to do the same. It is unfortunate that they’ve decided to go further by politicizing the PROCESS by which we consider nominations.
Speaking for the Senate Finance Committee, I have to say that we have an established set of vetting procedures for all Executive Branch nominees, Republicans and Democrats alike. That process has been in place for decades and has traditionally been bipartisan. By all accounts, the Finance Committee’s longstanding vetting process is exceptionally thorough and fair. And, it is deeply regrettable that some of our colleagues would try to undermine that process and not provide the incoming Trump Administration’s nominees the same respect and regard that our committee provided for nominees in the Obama Administration.
As Chairman, I take this process very seriously. I have made no efforts to abbreviate or short-circuit our procedures for any nominee and have no intention of doing so in the future. I’m certain that all of our chairmen here in the Senate can say the same thing.
My hope is that my colleagues will stop politicizing this process at every step and allow the Senate to function as it has under both Republican and Democrat administrations. My friends on the other side may not like the results of the recent election, but their disappointment at the outcome is no justification for reinventing the way we do business here in the Senate.