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Friday, March 17, 2017

Maine Providers Standing Up for Health Care- Senator King floor speech

"...shift and shaft..."

Here’s the transcript of his speech (from pages 9 and 10 of the March 8 Congressional Record:
Image result for Senator Angus King
Senator King said the "RyanCare" bill will "sift and shaft" because it gives tax breaks to the rich who earn more than $250,000 a year, while it shafts the middle class with high premiums, and deductibles, and those who need health insurance coverage

Mr. KING. Madam President, I rise to address the bill that has been recently—and I emphasize the word ‘‘recently’’—introduced in the House of Representatives. I believe it was introduced Monday. It is having not a hearing but a markup today, and may be on the House floor as soon as tomorrow or early next week.

As the President said recently, healthcare is complicated. To me, to introduce a bill that was not available to any Members of Congress before Monday, mark it up in committee 2 days later, attempt to pass it on the floor of the House, and then I understand it may come directly to the floor of the Senate without any committee consideration, it just seems to me is a disservice to the process and a disservice to the traditions and practices of this institution.

This is complicated. It is difficult. The ramifications and implications of this bill, just as any other major change in our healthcare system, are incredibly important. This is not about ideology. This is about people. This is about the impact on people. I want to talk about the impact of this bill, as we have thus far been able to assess it, on the people of Maine. When I look at a piece of legislation down here, I start with Maine. How will it affect the people who live along our coast or inland, in the small towns, and particularly people who are above the age of 50?

Maine happens to be the oldest State in the country. Therefore, anything which negatively impacts seniors doubly negatively impacts the people of my State. I feel this bill is a disaster for seniors. I define seniors in this case as anybody over 50 because it does several things. One of the things it does, and there should be a great deal of discussion about this, under the Affordable Care Act, which recognizes the fact that seniors and people who are older tend to have more medical needs than those who are younger, it caps differential at three times. In other words, a senior can only pay three times what a younger person pays, and even that is burdensome in many cases.

This bill changes three to five. It will be a very substantial increase in the payments and the costs of insurance and healthcare to senior citizens. Now, the Kaiser Family Foundation, which is, I find, the most nonpartisan and informative source of information on all of these issues, has created a handy tool on their website, where you can put in information, such as family income and age, and determine what you would have paid under the Affordable Care Act and what you would pay under this new bill.

What they found was—I wanted to look and see what somebody in my State will pay. If you are a 60-year-old in (Maine's) Aroostook County Maine with an income of $30,000, the subsidy—the support for the premium for individual insurance—would fall by 70 percent. The support for your insurance policy under the Affordable Care Act would fall by 70 percent.

Throughout our State, the average decrease would be 48 percent—almost half. So we are talking not about some theoretical, ideological, political thing here, we are talking about people’s ability to afford health insurance. It is about as clear as it could be. That is why it is frustrating to me that we collectively—the Congress—are going to be asked to consider this bill with literally no hearings, no input from the public, no discussion of how all the pieces fit together or don’t fit together. Yet we are going to be asked—I believe, my understanding is, we are going to be asked to vote on this bill sometime on the floor of the Senate, without any committee consideration, in the next week or so.

This is too important to people’s lives to give it such short shrift. It is just not right to make changes of this magnitude that are so vital to people’s well-being and literally their health and their survival in some cases. It is unthinkable to me that we would do this without a round of hearings and discussions and the regular order that we supposedly honor around here as to how major legislation is to come to the floor.

I received a letter just recently: ‘‘Hi, Angus.’’

I like it when my correspondents say ‘‘Hi, Angus’’ instead of ‘‘Senator.’’

Hi, Angus [he says]. I have worked in the pulp and paper industry for close to 30 years. It was a good industry up here, supported middle-class families in northern Maine. But we have had layoffs and closures of our mills. After every closure, I had to obtain health insurance for my family on my own. Before Obama Care, this was a disaster. I could only obtain catastrophic insurance from one of two providers. There was no way I could pay $1,500 a month for a decent plan. After Obama Care, I could obtain decent insurance at a decent price. While there may have been problems for some, it was a godsend for my family. Please help ensure we don’t go back to the old days. We are self-employed by our small business and would not be able to pay more for less.

That is what the bill that is in the House would do, pay more for less. By the way, how does the money work in this bill? Well, one of the things the bill does is, my understanding, and, again, I am only operating on what we have seen in the last 24 hours because of no hearings, but one of the things it does is eliminate a tax on people who make over $250,000 a year in order to cut coverage for people who are not making that kind of money.

It is a tax cut, and shifting the cost to our citizens, particularly our seniors. The pattern is, shift and shaft. Shift the cost, and shaft the people who need the coverage. This is supposed to be a substitute. It is supposed to be coverage for everyone. You have to be careful. When people talk about access, they are talking about: Yes, you can buy it, but if you can’t afford it, that is not really access. This bill dramatically decreases the support for health insurance premiums through the Affordable Care Act.

The reality is, and I hear a lot of talk about how ObamaCare is collapsing. It isn’t. More people signed up this year than last year. Yes, it is true the rates went up, but that was because younger people were not signing up in significant numbers. We need to deal with that issue because that makes the risk pool older and sicker and therefore more expensive.

I have been told by insurance officials that if something like this bill that is in the House passes and the subsidies disappear and the Affordable Care Act goes away, the private health insurance market for individuals, the so-called individual market, will essentially collapse. The reality is, the uninsured population of this country has fallen virtually in half since the passage of the Affordable Care Act. Twenty-two million people have coverage now who did not before and we can take it away.

The other piece I don’t like about this bill is it phases things out so the impact will not be felt until after the next election or sometime in the future. Well, the future comes. In this case, the future is going to be pretty desolate for people who have health insurance now and are not going to have it 2, 4, or 6 years from now. It is just not right.

I am one who has been saying, since I entered this body now 4-plus years ago, that there are problems with the Affordable Care Act. We should be working on those problems. We should be working on repairing it, not destroying it. We should not be talking about taking healthcare coverage away from people in this country.

I am sure I and many others will be addressing more comprehensively the provisions of this bill as it becomes more clear, even though we are going to have to ferret those provisions out because we are not going to have the benefit of expert testimony and views from a variety of points of view of how this is actually going to work.

The reality is, I don’t think there is much question that this proposal will hammer Maine and my people. I can’t stand for that. I hope the House will have a more vigorous process, they will understand what the implications are, and take a more judicious approach so we are not tearing insurance out from under people, we are not going to make the cost be driven up, we are not giving a tax break to people who make over $250,000 a year, and at the same time taking coverage away from people who make $30,000 a year.

What is wrong. We should be repairing, not repealing. I think this bill is not the right place to start. I stand for the people of Maine. I stand for the people who are going to be harmed by this, whether they are seniors or working people or self-employed people or people who have been able to start businesses because they could get, for the first time, insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

I believe that is our obligation. We have an opportunity to work together. I am willing to work with anyone who wants to work on improving and dealing with some of the issues that have been raised by the Affordable Care Act.

Let’s stop talking about repealing. Let’s talk about fixing, strengthening, and meeting our commitment to our fellow citizens in Maine and across our country.


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