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Barrasso: Obamacare Rings in the New Year with New Problems

“Mr. President, I come to the floor today for a new beginning.

“The beginning would be by listening to the American people, what the American people want and not just what Washington and the Democrats in this body think is best for all the American people.

“According to a new Associated Press poll, most Americans say that health care reform is the top issue that they want the government to work on this year—the top issue that they want government to work on this year.

“52% of people said that that is what they're asking us to work on. People have seen—and I heard about this all around Wyoming over the Christmas holiday. People have seen the complete failure of the health care law's big rollout last year.

“They saw President Obama, they saw Washington Democrats break one promise after another.

“As a matter of fact, one of the President's promises was designated ‘The lie of the year.’ The American people have lost faith that this administration can ever get health care reform right.

“It just—it wasn't just a bad web site. The President said, well, the website was bad. He said the health care law is more than a website. Well, in spite of what the Obama Administration has said, it wasn't all fixed last year because the website is just the tip of the iceberg.

“And huge website failures, absolutely. Heard it everywhere I went around Wyoming. Actually heard it even brought up when I was in Afghanistan visiting the troops on New Year’s Day.

“So it's not just the website but there are higher premiums, canceled coverage, can't keep your doctor, fraud and identity theft, higher co-pays, higher deductibles. The website continues to be just the tip of the iceberg.

“So beyond all of those things that we've been talking about coming down the line and hitting the American people, we've also seen even more problems surface already this year.

“Here the headline from the ‘Wall Street Journal,’ January 3rd ‘Consumers hit snags as health law kicks in.’

“The snags? You can imagine what they are. People have been going to the doctor, going to the pharmacy looking for help and even though they signed up for insurance on the new exchange, turns out they can't be found, they're not in the system. So website failures? Absolutely.

“The insurance companies aren't sure who's signed up with them. People aren't sure if they're covered. Doctors aren't sure who's covered. Now, doctors are trying, as a result of their training, their compassion, their care for human beings, they're trying their best to help their patients.

“They've been fighting a losing battle against the exchanges and all of the problems with the new Washington mandated health insurance.

“One Chicago doctor tried for two hours. What was he trying to do? Trying to verify the new insurance for a patient who is scheduled for surgery. The office manager finally gave up. The doctor went ahead with the surgery without what should have been a routine approval from the insurance company.

“Now, here's another problem some people are going to have to deal with this year. The Associated Press ran a story, an article headlined, ‘Adding a baby to health plan is not easy.’

“Adding a baby to a health plan is not easy? Mr. President, it happens every day. Babies are born. They need to be included in the family's health plan.

“Now, for common life changes, like having a baby, you'd normally just call up your insurance company and they'd take care of it from there. Not under this law.

“If you have to buy your insurance through one of the new health care exchanges, it is just not that simple.

“According to the article, the Healthcare.gov website can't handle new baby updates. Can't handle them. Along with a list of other life changes, including can't handle divorce, can't handle marriage, can't handle a death in the family, can't handle a new job, can't handle a change in income, can't handle moving to a different community.

“Yet the Obama Administration and the Secretary of Health and Human Services says the website is fixed. Can't handle a baby being born? Can't handle a marriage, a divorce, moving, change in income? Can't handle any of those things. And they claim it's fixed.

“Here's another problem that's turned up. Washington Democrats said that the law would lead to fewer people visiting emergency rooms. I heard it right here on this floor. Fewer people getting their care in emergency rooms and that would reduce expenses.

“Well, the reality is very different. ‘New York times’ put it Friday morning, January 3rd, ‘Emergency visits seen increasing with health law. Doubt cast on savings.’

“The Democrats on this floor said that the emergency visits would decrease and that it would save money. That's not what ‘The New York times’ says. It says the Oregon Medicaid test at hospitals found a rise of 40%.

“Wall Street journal’ in the same issue talks about Medicaid expansion drives up emergency room visits.

“The Washington Post’ said, ‘study expanding Medicaid doesn't reduce ER trips, it increases them.’

“Well, Democrats don't want to talk about all these problems. They don't want to talk about all of the reform bills that Republicans passed in the House last year that, you know, never, ever got a vote in the Senate despite our efforts to try to get votes on those bills.

“You know, Democrats hope that people believe what they're saying, accept their claims that the website is working fine and that all the law's problems have been fixed.

“Mr. President, the American people see through this. They know that what has been done to them by this administration is not right. It's time for Washington Democrats to play it straight with the American people and to make a new beginning on health care reform.

“Now, I'm not talking about more fake fixes like the one we saw right before Christmas. You know what that was—that was the Obama Administration quietly announcing that people's whose insurance had been canceled because of the law could apply for a hardship exemption to avoid the individual mandate.

“Well, Mr. President, newer numbers have come out. There are now more than 5 million health insurance cancellations in 35 states and we don't even know how many were canceled in Texas, in Ohio, in Virginia and South Carolina, Missouri, Wisconsin. We don't know those numbers yet.

“So we know that at a minimum of 5 million people have received cancellation notices and the anxiety that comes with that as well as the anger.

“When people tried to replace the plans that they lost, many found that their premiums would skyrocket and their deductibles were higher than ever.

“And I find it interesting, Mr. President, that Democrats I've talked to said well, you know, January 1st has come so, you know, the numbers aren't going to go up any more. Well, I will tell you, Mr. President, that's just not true.

“I was just in my office, got off the phone with a friend in Douglas, Wyoming. He's a pharmacist. He provides health insurance for his employees. He has fewer than 50 employees so it's not mandatory under the law that he would do so but he does it anyway, and he's done it for years.

“But Gary's in a situation where he's now gotten a letter of cancellation of his own insurance policy, and, Mr. President, it was dated January 1st. This is not something from last year. This is something dated January 1st, 2014.

“It's a letter from the Madison National Life Insurance Company to Gary Shatto at Shatto Drugstore, Frontier Drug in Douglas, Wyoming. Important notice—can you imagine, Mr. President, getting this letter, opening it up. ‘Important notice,’ in bold print.

“This affects your insurance contracts. Writes, Please read carefully.’ That would get your attention. ‘This notice is to inform your company that Madison National Life Insurance Company will be exiting the employer small group major medical insurance market in Wyoming effective June 30th, 2014 at midnight.’

“So what that tells us is these numbers are going to go up because the numbers from Wyoming at 3,000, the numbers in Wyoming are such that we know more people are going to get cancellation notices.

“And this isn't just for Gary. This is for everybody that works there. They're going to be exiting the small group major medical insurance market in Wyoming effective June 30th.

“The decision was prompted by the increased regulation since the federal government's passage of its recent federal health care reform, commonly referred to as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The increased regulation will make it difficult for Madison National to continue to operate and compete meaningfully in Wyoming's small group major medical market. As such, your referenced insurance company will terminate at midnight on June 30, 2014.’

“That's what people are going to continue to deal with, letters like that continuing to go out, a new round of letters going out January 1st. I've got to tell you, Mr. President, the President of the United States needs to be honest with the American people about the significant damage that his health care law is doing to families all across the country and as the employer mandate that the President has delayed for a year kicks in this year, we're going to see more and more letters like that and more and more people dumped, losing their insurance in spite of the President's claim ‘If you like your coverage, you can keep your coverage.’

“No wonder the folks that look into these things have labeled it the lie of the year.

“Well, the White House continues to try to do this little Band-Aid approach. Now they say they're going to let those Americans—some Americans buy catastrophic coverage.

“Well, you know, Mr. President, that's an idea I proposed to the President at the White House health care roundtable back in February of 2010.

“After 25 years of practicing medicine, I know that for some people, catastrophic coverage is the right option. For many people it is. It encourages patients to be smart consumers of medical services.

“But at our meeting four years ago, President Obama suggested that these plans were suitable only for the wealthy, that they really weren't good ideas. He said that letting people being smarter consumers wouldn't help.

“Now he's changed his mind. Don't expect him to admit that Republicans were right all along.

“The President says, well, the Republicans have no ideas. If they have some ideas, they can bring them to him. There are a number of different bills and proposals by Republicans. The President seems to just want to ignore that just as much as he wants to ignore the problems and the misery that his health care law has caused for so many people all around the country.

“So, Mr. President, instead of trying to patch this terrible health care law together with chicken wire and duct tape, it's time for Democrats in Washington to admit that this entire law is failing the American people because it absolutely hurts so many American families.

“Then we can move on to talking about real reforms that give people access to quality, affordable health care. That's the year's top priority of the American people and it needs to be our top priority in the United States Senate.