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April 7, 2011

A Second Opinion

[Page: S2151]  GPO's PDF 

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Mr. BARRASSO. Madam President, I come to the floor today as a doctor who has practiced medicine in Wyoming for about 25 years. During that time I was medical director of something called Wyoming Health Fairs where we provide employees low-cost blood screening for early detection and early treatment of medical problems. We know one of the things that was attempted to be solved with the discussion on health care was to have people involved in their own health care decisions and early detection, as well as prevention of disease.

I attended a health fair last weekend in Worland, Washakie County, WY, where I had a chance to meet with a number of folks, including people from small businesses. First, I wish to congratulate this body, and specifically Senator Johanns from Nebraska, for the repeal of the 1099 form regulations which significantly burden small businesses all around the country.

I also come to the floor as someone who has practiced medicine and has been watching the health care law closely. It is one that I believe is bad for patients, bad for providers and nurses and doctors who take care of the patients, and bad for the American taxpayers because I think this is going to add significantly to our growing debt problem. These are things that need to be addressed.

One part of the health care law, the 2,700-page law that was passed, dealt with something called accountable care organizations. Those are intended to help people coordinate care and have that coordinated care increase people's health by early detection of problems and to help minimize problems but also attempt to save money.

The six pages of the health care law that dealt with accountable care organizations has resulted in the release of regulations on March 31, 429 pages of regulations which have a significant impact on restructuring the way medicine is practiced.

As I look at this in terms of our growing debt, my concern is that the administration is bragging that the regulations save Medicare money, about $960 million total, best care scenario, over a 3-year period. So savings of less than $1 billion, a restructuring of the way medicine is being practiced, a savings of less than $1 billion, at a time when Medicare will be spending over those 3 years over $1.5 trillion, a savings of less than $1 billion on an expenditure of over $1.5 trillion.

The other aspect that was so interesting in watching this administration is they have come out with a statement about regulations.

The small businesspeople I talked to in Worland last weekend at the health fair told me that increased government regulations add to the cost of doing business and make it harder for them to hire more people. Specifically, it is related to increased costs.

It was interesting to see the administration saying that an increase in labor demand due to regulations may have a stimulative effect that results in a net increase in overall employment. The administration apparently believes if we increase the rules and regulations on businesses, it will make it better for them, when they will tell us universally that it will make it worse.

Additionally, last Friday night the Department of Health and Human Services released their new next round of ObamaCare waivers. We have talked about those in the past on this floor as part of a doctor's second opinion.

If this health care law is so good, why do millions and millions of Americans say: We can't live under this, and the

[Page: S2152]  GPO's PDF
administration agrees and grants them waivers?

So this past weekend, Secretary Sebelius added another 128 waivers covering another 300,000 Americans to say: No, for the next year, you get a 1-year waiver, you do not have to live under the mandates of ObamaCare.

So now we are at a point where the total number of waivers granted has been over 1,000, covering 2,930,000 people. So, wow, what is the breakdown of those people? Who are they? How can they get those waivers?

Well, it is interesting. In this country, where union workers are just a small percentage of the total workforce, 49 percent--almost half--of all of the waivers have been granted to people who get their insurance through the unions.

I just looked at this list that came out, and it is interesting because one of the waivers that had been granted for 13,000 employees, enrollees, is for the United Food and Commercial Workers Union. So let's see what we can find out about them. If we go to their Web site and go to the area that deals with health care, what it says is this:

Thanks to your hard work--

This is to people in the union--

Thanks to your hard work over the last year, Congress passed a health care reform bill that was signed into law by President Obama. This landmark reform is a hard-fought victory for [the United Food and Commercial Workers Union]. .....

Well, wait a second, these are the same people who went in and asked for and got a waiver from the Secretary of Health and Human Services--a waiver so they do not have to live under it.

Now, it is interesting, if you go to this Web site, you can click to other things, and what you can find is that you can actually watch a video on the Web site of the people who just got a waiver--a video of the members of this union ``rally and talk about health care reform.'' Oh, the health care they are rallying for, but they do not want it to apply to them. The Secretary of Health and Human Services says: That is fine, you can have a waiver. Oh, you can actually ``see the pictures of [union] members taking action on health care reform.'' But it is not the action of applying for the waiver--a waiver they have just been granted by the Secretary of Health and Human Services.

Now it says:

Call your members of Congress to thank them for passing real reform.

Oh, you are supposed to thank the Members of this body for passing something, but then they applied for a waiver that has been granted for over 13,000 members who get insurance through this program?

They say you can also check an area to read the background information on this union's ``advocacy of health care reform''--advocacy for a program they wanted to force down the throats of the American people but yet do not want to live under themselves.

This health care law is bad for this country, it is bad for our patients, it is bad for our health care providers, and it is bad for taxpayers. The union members who absolutely lobbied for it are now saying--now that they have read the bill, now that they know what is in the law, they are saying they do not want it to apply to them, so much so that one of the unions that has gotten a waiver, on their recent Web site, said:

..... we are ..... challenged by how to implement the law under prevailing circumstances.

Well, the prevailing circumstances are the law they wanted passed.

It says:

The Trustees of the Fund have no ability to secure additional contributions needed to cover the increased costs of providing these required--

Required by the people on the other side of the aisle who voted for this--

additional benefits.

It says:

The Trustees are requesting a waiver from HHS to preserve the annual benefit limitation now in place for the part-time plan of benefits to minimize the cost impact of transitioning to the requirements of the reform act. .....

Well, what it basically says is that these folks who want the waiver are saying what I have been saying on this floor since the beginning of the debate: that this is going to be bad for taxpayers, it is going to drive up the cost of care, it is going to drive up the cost of insurance, in spite of the President's promise that if we pass this, families will see premiums drop by $2,100, in spite of the President's promise that if you like your plan, you can keep it. What we are seeing, for the people who proudly lobbied for this, is that they do not want it to apply to them. They realize now it is going to cause their plans to have significant problems.

I believe every American ought to be able to have a waiver, every American ought to not have to live under this health care law. To me, it is unaffordable, it is unmanageable, and I believe it is unconstitutional. That is why I come to the floor, as I have every week, with a doctor's second opinion that we must repeal and replace this health care law.

Madam President, I yield the floor.

(Senate - April 6, 2011)

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