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Thune: Obamacare Is Not and Has Never Been the Solution

“Our Democrat colleagues need to stop pretending that this law is ever going to do what it was supposed to do and come to the table to work with us on real health care reform.”

May 23, 2017


U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) today listed Obamacare’s ongoing problems – like high premiums and deductibles, fewer choices, and unraveling exchanges – and called on Senate Democrats to work with Republicans on health care reform. Thune notes that Obamacare took a health care system that had problems and made it worse.

Thune’s remarks (as prepared for delivery):

“Mr. President, if there’s one thing that’s become clear, it’s that the Obamacare status quo is not sustainable.

“Prices continue to soar, while choices are rapidly dwindling.

“Between 2016 and 2017, the average premium for a mid-level Obamacare plan on the federal exchange rose 25 percent.

“25 percent.

“For just one year.

“And let’s remember, that’s on top of years of premium increases under Obamacare.

“Mr. President, how many families can easily absorb a 25 percent premium increase?

“Not many.

“And again, that’s just for one year.

“And Obamacare rate hikes aren’t going anywhere.

“Numbers for next year are starting to emerge, and they’re not looking good.

“Connecticut’s Obamacare insurers are requesting average premium increases in the double digits.

“One Connecticut insurer has requested an average rate hike of 33.8 percent.

“33.8 percent.

“In Virginia one insurer has requested an average rate increase of 38 percent.

“Another has requested an average 45 percent rate hike.

“In Maryland, average increases range from 18 to almost 59 percent.

“One insurer has requested a staggering 150 percent rate increase.

“150 percent.

“Mr. President, obviously these kinds of price increases are unaffordable for most families.

“But Obamacare isn’t leaving them many other options.

“Along with soaring prices, choices on the exchanges are rapidly dwindling.

“Roughly one-third of U.S. counties have just one choice of health insurer on their exchange for 2017.

“Several states – including Alabama, Oklahoma, Alaska, and Wyoming – have just one choice of insurer for the entire state.

“And things are only getting worse.

“In 2018, a number of counties may lack any Obamacare insurer at all.

“In February, health insurer Humana announced its decision to completely withdraw from the Obamacare exchanges for 2018.

“Two weeks ago, Aetna – which had already sharply reduced its participation in the exchanges for 2017 – announced its decision to fully exit in 2018.

“That leaves the Nebraska and Delaware Obamacare exchanges with just one insurer for 2018.

“UnitedHealthcare is leaving Virginia.

“And Wellmark Blue Cross Blue Shield is withdrawing from Iowa.

“In the wake of Aetna and Wellmark’s decision, Medica, the last Obamacare insurer for most of Iowa, announced that it will likely leave the state in 2018.

“That would leave 94 of the 99 Iowa counties with no Obamacare insurer next year.

“Iowa families with Obamacare subsidies would have no place to spend them.

“As my colleague Senator Alexander likes to say, that’s like having a bus ticket in a town with no buses running.

“And dwindling health care choices aren’t limited to the Obamacare exchanges either.

“Aetna is not only withdrawing from the exchanges, it’s also withdrawing from the non-Obamacare individual health insurance market in several states.

“Mr. President, more than one insurance CEO has suggested that Obamacare is in a death spiral.

“It’s pretty hard to disagree.

“Combine soaring premiums with a steady insurer exodus, and sooner or later you get a partial or complete exchange collapse.

“And then there are the other Obamacare problems – like deductibles that are sometimes so high that people can’t afford to actually use their health care plans.

“Or narrow plan networks with few provider choices.

“Mr. President, Obamacare may have been well-intentioned, but good intentions don’t make up for a lack of good policy.

“And Obamacare was not good policy.

“Obamacare took a health care system with problems, and it made things worse.

“It’s time to repeal this fatally flawed law and replace it with real health care reform.

“Three weeks ago, the House of Representatives passed an Obamacare repeal and replacement bill.

“The House’s legislation repeals Obamacare’s tax increases, penalties, and mandates and starts the process of restoring control of health care to states and individuals.

“My colleagues in the House have made a good start, and I’m looking forward to building on their bill here in the Senate.

“We have a lot of members with good health care ideas, and we’re going to work hard to produce a bill that will start the process of giving the American people real health care reform.

“Mr. President, Obamacare is failing.

“And it’s failing rapidly.

“Our Democrat colleagues need to stop pretending that this law is ever going to do what it was supposed to do and come to the table to work with us on real health care reform.

“There’s no question that our health care system has problems.

“But Obamacare is not and has never been the solution.

“Real reform is possible though, and that’s what we’re focused on now here in the Senate.

“The kind of reform that will actually drive down prices.

“That will put patients and their doctors, not the government, in charge of health care decisions.

“That will empower states to embrace the solutions that are right for their citizens.

“And that will give Americans more choices and real health care freedom.

“That’s the kind of health care reform Republicans are committed to delivering for the American people.”