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Chairman's View: Unions Have Buyer’s Remorse for Obamacare

“Well, union leaders should be angry. The Obama Administration misled them into believing that their members could keep the health care plan they had.”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) delivered the following remarks on the floor of the U.S. Senate about how unions are unhappy with Obamacare and now want special treatment:

“I rise today as a physician who practiced medicine in Wyoming for more than 25 years, and I rise to continue the debate that we’ve been having in this body about the President’s health care law.

“Although there’s been significant debate and discussion, what I’ve continued to try to do is discuss some of the many ways in which this law falls short of its goals, and falls way short of what the American public has asked for when it came to the need for health care reform.

“The Obama Administration continues to put significant effort into trying to sell its health care law, and tries convince people that it’s the answer to all their problems.

“But in the words of John Adams, ‘facts are stubborn things.’

“Despite all the spin of this administration, the American people continue to learn the facts. The facts about just how bad this law is, and how much it’s going to cost them personally, in terms of finances and personally, in terms of their own health care.

“That’s why the President’s health care law continues, to this day, to be unworkable, unpopular, and absolutely unaffordable.

“Now, we saw another example of this recently when one group who has previously supported the law, learned more about what’s in it.

“Back when we were debating the bill originally, labor unions around the country were among the biggest backers of the law.

“Unions sent their lobbyists up here to press their Democratic supporters to pass the law.

“They put out many statements saying, ‘We need this health care law now.’

“They held rallies right out here in front of the Capitol.

“We saw the same kinds of demonstrations last spring, when the Supreme Court was considering a challenge to the law.

“Now, I went to the oral arguments, and I remember one group of union members chanting, ‘We love Obamacare.’

“Well, apparently now today, Mr. President, I will tell you, the love is gone.

“According to a recent front-page article in the Wall Street Journal, some union leaders now say that ‘many of the law's requirements,’ they say, ‘will drive up the costs for their health-care plans and make unionized workers less competitive.’

“Well Republicans said that the President’s plan would drive up costs for hardworking Americans from the beginning.

“Union leaders absolutely ignored our warnings and supported the law anyway.

“Now we’ve been proven right, and we’re seeing that the buyer’s remorse is there by a lot of the law’s supporters.

“That was absolutely predictable.

“What’s really interesting is the reaction.

“It is clear from that Journal article that many union leaders are angry and disappointed.

“Well, union leaders should be angry. The Obama Administration misled them into believing that their members could keep the health care plan they had.

“They should be angry with President Obama. They were deliberately deceived when he promised repeatedly by saying health insurance costs would go down $2,500 for the average family by today.

“The unions are also now lobbying the Obama Administration to do an end run around the law.

“The Wall Street Journal quoted union leaders saying that they were going to keep to push the Obama Administration to now subsidize their health insurance costs.

‘Now disturbing comments come from the Administration suggesting it might be willing to do just that.

“Unions have focused their efforts on trying to get the Administration to expand access to advance premium tax credits.

‘The subsidies were intended only for people who can’t get insurance through their employer. That’s how it was set up.

‘Well, that means union members who have insurance for a plan jointly run by the union and their employer, are not eligible for the subsidies.

‘The law is crystal clear.

“In fact, the law lays out four conditions for getting tax credit.

“You have to get insurance through the exchange -- either a state exchange or the federal exchange.

“You have to pay the premiums yourself.

“You must not be eligible for minimum esential coverage, other than through plans offered in the individual market.

“And you must not be enrolled in an eligible employer-sponsored plan.

“Those are all four. That’s it.

“So union workers covered by their employer, or by a joint plan from their employer and the union, don’t meet these four criteria.

“Well let’s go back to Nancy Pelosi and that famous quote, First you have to pass it before you get to find out what’s in it. The union bosses should have read the bill before they decided to support it. And if they had the read the bill they would have been smart to oppose it.

“Despite the clear law, a spokesman for the Treasury Department told the Journal that ‘these matters are the subject of pending regulations.’

“Amazingly, one of the lobbyists for the unions said that the Administration can ‘create a loophole for them through federal rule-making.’ Create a loophole for the unions. Create a loophole.

“Well that’s wrong and the American people know it’s wrong. The Administration has no legal authority to expand access to health insurance subsidies under the law.

“This is not a matter of regulation -- it is a matter of the law.  It was a bad law, a bad law as it was being debated, a bad law as it was signed, and it’s full of unintended consequences.

“This particular consequence was spelled out unambiguously.

“Last week, 31 Republican Senators wrote to remind the President of that fact.

“Of course, it’s not just union members who are disturbed by the law’s effects on health care costs.

“Numerous reports have pointed out that costs will continue to rise when more of the health care law’s mandates kick in next January.

“One study estimates that healthier people are going to see their insurance costs go up by 40 percent to cover the costs of insuring less healthy people.

“The law’s requirements on caps on medical benefits will also cause an increase in premiums.

‘So will the requirements that adults up to age 26 be allowed to stay on their parents’ plans.

“Late last year, Blue Shield of California asked for permission to raise its rates by as much as 20 percent.

“The CEO of Aetna said rates in some areas could go up as much as 100 percent.

“That’s on top of the premium increase of more than $3,000 that the average family has seen since President Obama took office.

“We’ve got to lower the costs of health care.

‘President Obama and the Democrats who voted for this piece of legislation in the House and in the Senate promised that the law would do that.

‘It has not done it and it will not do it.

“Their plan was short on reform and long budget tricks, on accounting gimmicks, and on empty promises.

“The cost concerns the unions raise are absolutely legitimate.

“I share those concerns, and so do all of the Senators on this side of the aisle.

“But, we can’t just give extra benefits to union members.

“The problem isn’t that the law makes union health benefits more expensive.

“The problem is that the President’s health care law makes everyone’s health insurance more expensive. 

“The answer is to control costs for everyone, not just for special interest groups with friends in the White House.

“We need to revisit the taxes, the fees, and the other policies that drive premium increases.

“We need real health care reform in this country.  Reform that gives people the care that they need, from the doctor they choose, at a lower cost.

“When we were debating the President’s health care law, some of us warned about the danger of writing a bill behind closed doors.

“Actually, the President warned about the danger of writing a bill behind closed doors until he decided it’s exactly what he wanted to do. So he sent his chief of staff to do just what he said would be dangerous. Write a law behind closed doors.

“Some of us were concerned about special deals for certain groups. Of course these were special deals that would harm the health care of the rest of us.

“President Obama and Democrats in Congress rejected our concerns.

“Nancy Pelosi, as I said, said that we need to pass the law so we can see what’s in it.

“Well the American people now are seeing more what’s in the law and they do not like what they see, and now they are calling on all of us to do something about it.

“This is not the time for more special interest loopholes.

“It’s not the time to make more deals behind closed doors.

“And it is not the time to hand out breaks for one favored group at the expense of everyone else.”