Today, U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY) spoke about how several state-run Obamacare exchanges are failing and wasting millions of taxpayer dollars in the process. Barrasso also highlighted his how bill, the State Exchange Accountability Act, will force states that have scrapped their exchanges and moved back onto the federal exchange to pay back American taxpayers.
Excerpts of his remarks
“Mr. President, yesterday I came to the floor to address remarks made by the Majority Leader. Just yesterday, the Majority Leader came to the floor and he said that Republicans were going quiet, he said, on health care.
“Well, Senator Reid said that Obamacare is no longer high on Republicans' radar screen.
“Yesterday, I said that it was certainly still very high on my radar screen and that Republicans have every intention—every intention—of continuing to focus on the Democrats' health care law and all of its harmful side effects.
“Americans all across the country have been feeling those damaging side effects of the president's health care law and the side effects are getting worse.
“Hardworking middle-class families who didn't want this health care law in the first place are facing higher premiums, they're facing smaller paychecks, they're facing fewer jobs, fewer doctors, and many other problems as a result specifically of the president's health care law.
“So today I want to talk about another side effect of the law and that's the millions if not billions of taxpayer dollars that have been absolutely wasted by bureaucrats who set up state health insurance exchanges that have failed.
“Under the health care law, states could choose to set up their own exchange or to use the federal exchange. States got federal grants to help plan which one they would do. If a state then decided to set up its own exchange, it got even more money from Washington to cover the costs.
“So how much money are we talking about? Well, according to the Congressional Research Service, the federal government awarded grants of over $4.7 billion as of this March.
“Now, people all across the country know that the federal exchange was an absolute train wreck when it was launched. In one state after another, the state exchanges also have been collapsing and costing taxpayers a fortune.
“Now, some of those states have absolutely just given up. They've decided that they just want to scrap their own systems and go into the federal exchange after all, an option they had at first but they decided to go first to the state exchange and now those have failed.
“Well, what they've done is they spent a lot of taxpayer money, money that Washington sent to them. Where is the money? The money's gone. Their system doesn't work and now what they want to do is have a fresh start.
“Well, President Obama says that Democrats should forcefully defend and be proud of the law. I want to see where the people are now coming to the floor to forcefully defend and be proud of this health care law.
“I ask the President, is he proud that these Obamacare exchanges are failing all across the country? Are Democrats who voted for this health care law ready to forcefully defend all the taxpayer dollars that we now know have been wasted?
“Democrats don't want to talk about the law's expensive side effects or about the Americans harmed by the law.
“Republicans have been offering solutions.
“Today Senator Hatch and I are introducing legislation that would address these state failures and protect taxpayers. After all, that's what Americans want. They want accountability for their hard-earned taxpayer dollars.
“This bill, called the State Exchange Accountability Act, says that if a state got federal money to set up its own exchange and later decided to give up and move back on to the federal exchange, that it would have to pay back the money.
“It's that simple. Taxpayers shouldn't have to pay twice for the mistakes of incompetent state bureaucrats who couldn't set up a working health care exchange.
“Now, states would have 10 years to pay back the grants. They'd have to pay them back in full and I know state budgets are tight so they wouldn't have to come up with the whole amount all at once. They'd pay back 10% of the total each year for the next 10 years.
“These states that walk away from their exchanges are conceding that they wasted the money that they got, and it's only fair to the American taxpayers that these states should repay the American taxpayers.
“The failure of these exchanges and the money squandered on them was a side effect of the health care law.
“Democrats told states that they could set up these exchanges and Washington would pay the bill. So some states didn't really care what it cost. They didn't care if the work was being done well or done at all. As far as they were concerned, don't worry, it's somebody else's money whether it works or not.
“Well, this bill that I'm introducing today tells state bureaucrats like these from these states that it's time for them to care about the money they've wasted.
“This won't fix all the harmful side effects that Democrats created with the health care law but it's a start and it is the right thing to do.
“If you want a sense of how big the problem is, look at an article that ran in ‘Politico’ on Monday of this week. The headline is: ‘Four states in a fix over their troubled exchanges.’
“The article talks about four states that basically embraced Obamacare: Massachusetts, Nevada, Maryland, Oregon. It says that these four state exchanges spent at least $474 million and are now in shambles. Look at it. Maryland, $118 million. Massachusetts, $57 million. Nevada, $51 million. Oregon, $248 million, taxpayer money from around the country, sent to Oregon for programs that are now in shambles.
“So now these states, some of them want more money to fix what's gone wrong in the first place. According to ‘Politico,’ Maryland spent $118 million to set up its own exchange and that state officials did such a bad job that they're now planning to scrap the whole thing and use software from Connecticut's exchange.
“Massachusetts, $57 million. ‘Politico’ calls that program in Massachusetts fatally crippled. Nevada, $51 million. ‘Politico’ says salvaging that exchange would be a huge feat.
“Oregon, $248 million to set up its own exchange. It was such a spectacular failure that CNBC ran a headline on May 5th saying ‘FBI Probing Oregon's Obamacare exchange.’ The FBI probing the exchange. The state plans to use the federal exchange from now on, getting rid of their state exchange.
“So that's the kind of double dipping that our bill goes after. Why should Democrats in Washington, D.C. be telling taxpayers across America that they have to pay for the failures of state officials in Massachusetts, Nevada, Maryland, Oregon and other states that may find themselves in the same situation?
“Democrats have said and the president continues to say he wants everyone to have a fair—a fair shot. Are Americans who have to pay higher taxes because of these failed state exchanges, are they getting a fair shot?
“Our bill will start to give a fair shot to Americans who don't want to pay twice to bail out incompetent state bureaucrats.
“It will give a fair shot to Americans who want to reclaim some of their hard-earned taxpayer dollars.
“Now, this is just one idea, one of many ideas that Republicans have offered and will continue to offer to create a patient-centered approach to health care.
“The plans that we've offered would solve the biggest problems that families face which is the cost of care and access to care. Problems that seemed to have been ignored and the Democrats who forced this law through Congress.
“That means things like allowing small businesses to pool together in order to buy health insurance for their employees. Small businesses deserve a fair shot.
“It means letting people shop for health insurance that works for them and their families, not what the government says is best for them but what they say is best for them and their families. People deserve a fair shot at buying a plan that's best for them and their families.
“It means adequately funding state high-risk pools that help people get insurance, people that have disease, people that are sick without raising the costs for healthier people. These are just a few of the solutions Republicans have offered and continue to offer.
“They're just a few of the things that we'll do to give Americans real health care reform and really a fair shot. Health care reform that gives people the care they need from a doctor they choose at lower costs, without all of these Obamacare harmful and expensive side effects.”