In a speech on the Senate floor, Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) praised the passage of the budget resolution to begin the repeal process of Obamacare and highlighted a number of priorities in the effort to replace the health law.
“We should definitely work on making the largest possible down payment on the Obamacare replacement with the budget reconciliation bill. That down payment should include measures that give individuals and families more control over their healthcare decisions and empower states to do more of the heavy lifting when it comes to regulating healthcare,” Hatch said. “We need to provide for a smooth transition period so that we can maintain stability in the health insurance markets and ensure that we’re not leaving Americans who have insurance under the current system out in the cold.”
Hatch went on to highlight potential paths forward, noting current outreach efforts by the congressional committees of jurisdiction and reaffirming his commitment to replacing the devastating health law with patient-centered reforms.
“We have been talking with stakeholders throughout the country and working through the various problems that exist. And, that work will continue unabated as we work on the immediate repeal effort and into the future.” Hatch continued. “The path forward on replacing Obamacare could end up taking many forms. We could draft and pass a series of limited reforms to replace Obamacare piece-by-piece. Or, we could put together a full and comprehensive replacement package that puts all the necessary changes into law at once.”
The complete speech as prepared for delivery is below:
Mr. President, seven years ago, Democrats in Congress pulled out all the stops to pass the so-called Affordable Care Act and force the system we now call Obamacare on the American people. They passed the law on a purely partisan basis and without any regard for public opinion.
It was, quite simply, one of the most blatant exercises in pure partisanship in our nation’s history. It deepened partisan divides in Washington and around the country and contributed to the cynicism many have about whether their government is actually paying attention to their needs.
Worst of all, in the years since the passage of Obamacare, the American people have been paying the price in the form of skyrocketing costs, fewer choices, burdensome mandates, and unfair taxes.
For seven years now, many of us in Congress – virtually all of us on the Republican side – have been working to right what has gone wrong under the Affordable Care Act. We have pledged to our constituents that, given the opportunity, we would repeal Obamacare and replace it with reforms more worthy of the American people.
Those promises are among the biggest reasons why we Republicans are now fortunate enough to find ourselves in control of Congress and, very soon, the White House. And, last night, we took a big step in the effort to repeal and replace Obamacare.
Now, with the budget resolution passed, many in Washington and in the media are talking about what happens next. We’re hearing a lot of discussion about the timing of our repeal-and-replace efforts, with some arguing that we should hit the brakes and solve every problem in advance of taking another vote.
Mr. President, my view is this: The repeal of Obamacare can’t wait. The American people need us to act now.
While there is still some debate as to what our replacement plan should look like, a majority of Senators voted last night to give us the tools to take the next steps to repeal and replace Obamacare. And, the American people have entrusted us with the power to do just that.
We could spend the next several months coming up with more slogans and analogies, but this isn’t a campaign. The elections have been won and, in my view, it is time to do what our constituents have sent us here to do.
I’m not saying we need to put off the replacement effort. On the contrary, I think it’s important that the legislation we draft pursuant to the budget reconciliation instructions include as many sensible health reforms as possible, keeping in mind the limitations that exist with our rules and the necessary vote count.
We should definitely work on making the largest possible down payment on the Obamacare replacement with the budget reconciliation bill. That down payment should include measures that give individuals and families more control over their healthcare decisions and empower states to do more of the heavy lifting when it comes to regulating healthcare.
In addition, we need to provide for a smooth transition period so that we can maintain some stability in the health insurance markets and ensure that we’re not leaving Americans who have insurance under the current system out in the cold.
As chairman of one of the primary committees with jurisdiction over these matters, I have been working closely with my House counterparts, Chairman Kevin Brady at the House Ways and Means Committee and Chairman Greg Walden at the House Energy and Commerce Committee, to develop proposals on the matters the fall within our purviews.
We have been talking with stakeholders throughout the country and working through the various problems that exist. And, that work will continue unabated as we work on the immediate repeal effort and into the future.
I’m quite certain that my friend who chairs the Senate HELP Committee has been similarly engaged on addressing the draconian insurance regulations that were imposed under Obamacare, as well as the other parts of the law that are within that committee’s jurisdiction.
In other words, Mr. President, the work to replace Obamacare is ongoing, and we hope to have some initial elements ready to include in the budget reconciliation package. And, that work will continue once the repeal has been passed and signed into law so that we can help ensure affordable health care options exist for Americans.
We do not need wait until every single replacement measure is drafted and agreed upon before moving forward.
Instead, we need the incoming administration to add to our current efforts and work with us to produce a full replacement plan and then to execute it, and I look forward to continuing to work with President-elect Trump and his team.
The path forward on replacing Obamacare could end up taking many forms. We could draft and pass a series of limited reforms to replace Obamacare piece-by-piece. Or, we could put together a full and comprehensive replacement package that puts all the necessary changes into law at once.
I think there are merits and potential pitfalls with either approach. That is something we need to consider as we move forward, but it is not a decision that needs to be made before we can keep the promises we all made to our constituents to repeal Obamacare.
Replacing Obamacare is, to be sure, going to be a difficult process. However, with a new and more cooperative administration in place, I have every confidence that we can accomplish these important objectives without imposing artificial deadlines or goalposts or putting the repeal process on hold.
All of this is possible so long as we remain committed to the principles that have guided most of our efforts thus far.
For example, in my view, the new reforms need to be patient-centered, not government-driven.
They need to recognize the reality of the marketplace and the benefits of competition.
And, perhaps most importantly, any suitable reforms need to put the states back in charge of regulating and overseeing healthcare policy. If the Obamacare experience has taught us anything, it’s that, when the federal government gets a hold of something as consequential as healthcare, it will overpromise results, overstep its authority, and overregulate the subject matter.
As I’ve said a number of times, Utah is not California or Massachusetts, and California and Massachusetts are not Utah. All of our states face different challenges and have different needs. There is no reason for us to begin with the premise that any single approach to healthcare policy is what’s best for the entire country.
That is why I, along with several of my colleagues, have been engaging with stakeholders at the state level for quite some time as we’ve worked to craft reforms and put them in place.
For example, next week, the Senate Finance Committee is hosting a roundtable discussion on Medicaid with some of the most prominent governors in the country. I am pleased that Energy and Commerce Chairman Greg Walden will join us for that discussion as well. This meeting, and others like it, will give states the opportunity to detail the challenges they face and how we can empower them to meet those challenges instead of dictating solutions from offices in Washington, DC.
Mr. President, I believe all of my colleagues want to be judicious and methodical with this undertaking. No one wants to act recklessly and do even more damage to our nation’s health care system.
Discussions and debates over the substance of our Obamacare replacement should continue. Like I said, they’ve been going on for some time now, and they’re not going to stop. But, after last night, we have the tools we need to take the first major step in this effort by repealing Obamacare. In my view, we need to take that step now.
Republicans are united in our desire to repeal Obamacare. We have the support of the American people to do just that, and I personally will do all I can to deliver on that promise.
With that, I yield the floor.