WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) addressed one of Obamacare’s many problems, massive premium hikes, citing a recent U.S. Department of Health and Human Services report that found the average individual market monthly premium in South Dakota had more than doubled between 2013 and 2017. Thune reiterated Republicans’ commitment to fixing this broken system and lifting the burden of Obamacare off the backs of South Dakotans.
Thune’s remarks (as prepared for delivery):
“Mr. President, everyone remembers President Obama’s famous – perhaps I should say infamous – promise that he would sign a health care bill that would, quote, ‘cut the cost of a typical family's premiums by up to $2,500 a year.’
“As everyone knows, that didn’t happen.
“Between 2009 and 2016, the average family with employer-sponsored health insurance saw its premiums rise by $4,767.
“And, Mr. President, that’s just the beginning.
“Two weeks ago, the Department of Health and Human Services released a report comparing the average individual market insurance premium in 2013 (the year most of Obamacare’s regulations and mandates were implemented) with the average individual market exchange premium in 2017 in the 39 states that use healthcare.gov.
“Here’s what they found:
“Between 2013 and 2017, the average individual market monthly premium in the healthcare.gov states increased by 105 percent.
“In other words, on average individual market premiums more than doubled in just five years.
“In my home state of South Dakota, premiums increased by 124 percent – or $3,588 over five years.
“That’s money that many South Dakota families had to take from other priorities – like saving for retirement or investing in their children’s education.
“Three states saw their premiums triple over those five years.
“Average monthly premiums in Alaska went from $344 to $1,041.
“An increase of $697 per month – or more than $8,300 a year.
“Over the past five years, the average individual market yearly premium has increased by $4,800 in Arizona.
“By $3,648 in Louisiana.
“By $5,064 in North Carolina.
“By $4,488 in Tennessee.
“By $5,292 in West Virginia.
“Mr. President, those kind of premium increases are not sustainable.
“Some people, of course, receive tax credits to help offset their premium payments, but many others are left to face these massive premium hikes by themselves.
“And most people do not have the money to easily absorb a 105 percent premium increase – or more – over five years.
“And of course, premium increases show no signs of slowing down.
“Numbers for 2018 are emerging, and they’re not looking good.
“Insurers on the New York exchange are requesting double-digit rate hikes.
“A Connecticut insurer has requested an average rate hike of 33.8 percent.
“One Virginia insurer has requested an average rate increase of 38 percent.
“Another has requested an average 45 percent rate hike.
“In Oregon, the average rate hike requested is 17.2 percent.
“Companies offering plans on the exchange here in Washington, D.C., are requesting average rate hikes ranging from 13 to nearly 40 percent.
“In Maryland, average increases range from 18 to almost 59 percent.
“One insurer has requested up to a 150 percent rate increase.
“For just one year.
“And as if the premium hikes aren’t bad enough, many Americans don’t have a cheaper option to choose.
“In 2017, roughly one-third of U.S. counties have just one choice of insurer on their Obamacare exchange.
“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.
“On Friday the Omaha World-Herald announced that 100,000 Nebraskans could end up with zero options for individual market coverage in 2018.
“Iowa is facing a similar situation.
“In April, Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield announced that it will withdraw from the individual market in Iowa in 2018.
“Days later, Aetna announced that it would pull out of the Iowa exchange.
“In the wake of these announcements, 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.
“Mr. President, Republicans in the Senate are currently working on legislation to repeal and replace Obamacare.
“Because Obamacare is broken.
“This law is not working.
“It has never worked.
“And it shows absolutely no sign that it’s going to work in the future.
“From first to last, this law has been a disaster.
“High premium costs.
“Customers losing health plans.
“Customers losing doctors.
“I could go on.
“Given all this, it’s hard to believe that Democrats are still defending this disastrous law.
“I sometimes wonder just what it will take for my Democrat colleagues to accept the staggering amount of evidence that says this law has failed.
“Do premiums have to triple?
“Does every American on the exchanges have to be reduced to just one choice of insurer?
“Or be without an insurer at all?
“Mr. President, Obamacare was going to reduce premiums.
“People were going to be able to keep their health plans.
“They regularly found out that they couldn’t.
“Buying insurance was going to be like shopping for a TV on Amazon.
“Well, maybe – if Amazon only offered one brand of TV.
“Mr. President, the responsible thing to do when a government program has turned out to be a disaster is to repeal it.
“And that’s what Republicans are working to do with Obamacare.
“We’re working to repeal this law and replace it with real health care reform.
“My colleagues in the House made a good start, and we’re working to build on their bill here in the Senate.
“Chairmen Alexander, Enzi, and Hatch have been leading the charge on this, and I’m grateful to them and to their staffs for all their hard work.
“Republicans are committed to rescuing the millions of Americans trapped on the Obamacare exchanges and lifting the burdens this law has foisted onto taxpayers.
“We’re committed to addressing Obamacare’s skyrocketing premium increases.
“We’re committed to preserving access to care for Americans with pre-existing conditions.
“And we’re committed to making Medicaid more sustainable by giving states greater flexibility, while ensuring those who rely on this program don’t have the rug pulled out from under them.
“We need to make health care more affordable, more personal, more flexible, and less bureaucratic.
“It would be wonderful if at least some Democrats would join us in this effort, and stop prioritizing partisanship over the needs of the American people.
“Mr. President, Republicans know that the American people are suffering.
“And we are committed to bringing them relief.
“They are ready for health care reform that actually works, and that’s what Republicans intend to deliver.”