As prepared for delivery – House Budget Committee Interim Chairman Diane Black
Good morning, and thank you, everyone for being here.
We’re having this hearing today to discuss the damage that Obamacare has done to patients, medicine, workers, and our economy. After six years, no one can dispute that this law has been nothing but a series of broken promises. Patients have lost their doctors and their insurance plans, premiums and deductibles have skyrocketed, and small businesses have been forced to reduce benefits and wages, or put off hiring new workers altogether.
Obamacare was sold as a solution that would tackle one of the biggest problems in our health care system: the rising cost of insurance. In fact, President Obama promised this law would lower premiums by $2,500 a year for the average family. In reality, the complete opposite has been true. Average family premiums have risen by $4,300 and deductibles have risen 60 percent in the employer-sponsored market. For working folks across America, more money out of their paychecks just to pay for health care makes life that much harder.
And what are Americans getting in exchange for higher costs? Well, not much. 20 million Americans have said that Obamacare just isn’t worth the cost and trouble – choosing to pay the fine or file an exemption instead. And for those who do have insurance, access to care hasn’t improved. So, while our friends on the other side of the aisle may claim Obamacare is increasing the number of people covered, the question we should be asking is “what kind of care are they receiving?” For those pushed into a broken Medicaid system or having to navigate the complicated Obamacare bureaucracy, they’re not receiving the very best health care our nation has to offer. As a nurse for over 40 years, I know we can do better.
Now I’m sure that Democrats will cite the CBO study from last week that discusses what happens to coverage numbers if we repeal Obamacare. But what the CBO study ignores are any potential Republican ideas to reform health care and expand access – and access to quality care is what so many people in my home state of Tennessee are lacking today under this law.
In our state, 28,000 people lost coverage on a single day when the CoverTN program lapsed after the Obama Administration decreed that it ran afoul of the federal government’s top down requirements. This happened despite President Obama claiming that “if you like your plan, you can keep it.” Now, premiums in our state are rising by an average of 63 percent, and three-fourths of our counties only have one coverage option to choose from on the Obamacare exchange. In five other states around the country – Alabama, Alaska, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Wyoming – patients only have one insurer in the marketplace to choose from. If you only have one choice, then you’re probably not going to find the plan that best fits the unique needs of you and your family. And for folks not living in the city or suburbs, Obamacare has been especially harmful. Since 2010, 80 rural hospitals have been forced to close, further restricting choice and access.
But the good news is that it doesn’t have to be this way. We don’t have to accept Obamacare’s failures and broken promises. That’s why the House and Senate have worked together in this new Congress to pass a budget that begins the process to repeal Obamacare and stop the damage it’s causing. In the coming weeks, we’ll consider legislation that will roll back some of the worst aspects of this law and begin laying the foundation for patient-centered health care. And we already have great ideas to build on. My Tennessee colleague, Congressman Phil Roe introduced the American Health Care Reform Act and Congressman Tom Price offered the Empowering Patients First Act. And last year, House Republicans put forth “A Better Way” – 37 pages of reform proposals that we will act on this year.
So, we’ve got a lot of hard work ahead of us and today’s hearing will be another crucial step forward. That’s why I’m so glad to welcome today’s witnesses and their ideas for improving health care for the American people. First, we have Grace-Marie Turner, who is president of the Galen Institute. Next, we have Dr. Robert Book, a senior director at the Health Systems Innovation Network. We also have Edmund Haislmaier, a senior research fellow in health policy studies at The Heritage Foundation. Finally, we have Dr. Linda Blumberg, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute’s Health Policy Center.
Thank you all for taking time today out of your busy schedules to join our discussion. Everyone on this committee looks forward to your knowledge and insight on what we can do to improve America’s health care system. We are committed to rolling back the damage caused by Obamacare to achieve true health care reform. By bringing the best minds together and always remembering to put patients ahead of the Washington bureaucracy, we will succeed.
Thank you, and with that, I yield to the ranking member, Mr. Yarmuth.