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Thune: Obamacare Not Affordable for South Dakotans

“A 40-year-old non-smoker in South Dakota faces a whopping 36 percent rate hike for a silver plan for 2017… That’s simply not affordable for most South Dakotans.”

September 7, 2016


U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) today discussed the failures of Obamacare, the president’s signature law, including the recently released premium increases in South Dakota, lack of choices for health care plans across the country, and several of the law’s other broken promises.  

Thune also discussed yesterday’s Zika vote in the Senate, during which Democrats chose to block $1.1 billion in funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to combat the disease for a third time.

Thune’s remarks as prepared for delivery:

“Mr. President, as President Obama’s presidency draws to a close, talk tends to turn to his legacy.

“What will President Obama leave behind?

“Internationally, of course, he’ll leave behind a growing terrorist threat and an emboldened Iran on its way to becoming a nuclear power.

“Domestically, the president will leave behind a weak economy, as the recent economic growth numbers for the second quarter made clear.

“And then, of course, the president will leave behind his signature law, Obamacare.

“Many Democrats would still like to think of Obamacare as the president’s signature domestic achievement.

“But you can scan any newspaper and see that it’s well on its way to being a disaster.

“Here’s a small sampling of recent Obamacare headlines.

“From the New York Times: ‘Think Your Obamacare Plan Will Be Like Employer Coverage?  Think Again’

“From the Chicago Tribune: ‘Illinois Obamacare Rates Could Soar as State Submits Insurance Premium Increases to Feds’

“From the Washington Post: ‘Health-care Exchange Sign-ups Fall Far Short of Forecasts’

“From a Lancaster, Pennsylvania, paper: ‘Lancaster Residents Will Have Rising Premiums, Fewer Choices From 2017 Obamacare Health Plans’

“From the Wall Street Journal: ‘Insurers Move to Limit Options in Health-Care Exchange Plans’

“From the Tennessean: ‘Tennessee Insurance Commissioner: Obamacare Exchange ‘Very Near Collapse’’

“Mr. President, I could go on. 

“In fact, I could go on for a long time.

“That’s just a few of the headlines from the past three weeks.

“I could fill an entire speech with the negative Obamacare headlines from just this summer.

“And just to reiterate – these are newspaper headlines.

“They aren’t conservative talking points.

“Obamacare is failing so badly that even those who might like to deny it can’t.

“But let’s get into the specifics.

“What exactly are consumers on the exchanges facing for this coming year?

“Well, for starters, Mr. President, they’re facing huge premium increases.

“36 percent.

“43 percent.

"19 percent.

“22.9 percent.

“89 percent.

“Those are some of the average rate hikes Americans are facing around the country.

“Let’s break that down for a minute.

“Let’s say your health plan for 2016 cost $10,000.

“And let’s say you’re facing a 43 percent rate increase – the average rate increase facing Humana customers in Mississippi.  

“A 43 percent increase means you would have to pay an additional $4,300 for your health insurance next year.


“That’s a massive increase for so many individuals and families.

“And that’s just the rate hike for one year.

“Many people facing these kinds of increases already faced a substantial rate hike for 2016.

“Now they’re expected to pay even more in 2017.

“And who knows what they’ll face in 2018 and after.

“Mr. President, these kinds of rate hikes are completely unsustainable.

“Can you imagine if individuals’ mortgage payments increased at a similar rate?

“Within a couple of years most people wouldn’t be able to afford to pay for their homes.

“And while health insurance may seem like a significantly smaller part of the budget than a mortgage payment, the truth is, for many families, it’s not.

“I’ve heard from at least one SD family whose health insurance payments exceeded its mortgage payments.

“In Tennessee, individuals are facing average rate hikes ranging from 44.3 percent to 62 percent for 2017.

“62 percent.

“How many families can absorb a 62 percent increase in their health care costs? 

“And for just one year?

“Residents in my state of South Dakota are also facing huge rate hikes.

“A 40-year-old non-smoker in South Dakota faces a whopping 36 percent rate hike for a silver plan for 2017.

“36 percent.

“That’s simply not affordable for most South Dakotans.

“And what are customers getting in exchange for their premium hikes?

“Too often, the answer seems to be “Not much.”

“For starters, many customers who are already paying massive premiums face thousands of dollars in deductibles on top of that before their coverage kicks in. 

“Then there are the increasingly narrow networks of doctors and hospitals on the exchanges.

“As the Wall Street Journal reported recently, and I quote, ‘Under intense pressure to curb costs that have led to losses on the Affordable Care Act exchanges, insurers are accelerating their move toward plans that offer limited choices of doctors and hospitals.’

“The days of the president’s “If you like your doctor, you can keep him” promise are long gone.

“Nowadays you’ve not only lost your doctor, you may have very few options to replace him. 

“And of course, all of this is assuming that you still have your health care plan.

“Countless Americans this year are once again discovering the hollowness of the president’s “If you like your plan, you can keep it” promise.

“Because the other side of the story is that insurers are dropping out of the exchanges in droves.

“In August, insurance giant Aetna announced that it is pulling out of 11 of the 15 states where it offers plans on the exchanges.

“Meanwhile, Humana is exiting several exchanges, while mega-insurer UnitedHealthcare is pulling out of a whopping 31 states.

“What does this mean for consumers? 

“Well, for many people, it means that they’ve lost their health plan and their insurance company.

“And that they may have very few options for replacing them.

“The president promised that choosing a health insurance plan would be like buying a TV on Amazon.

“Well, for many people nowadays, going on is like choosing a TV on Amazon – if Amazon only offered one or two TVs.

“According to a report released in August, one-third of the country – one-third – may have just one insurer to pick from on the exchanges for next year.

“If you don’t like that insurance company, well, apparently it’s your tough luck.

“One county in Arizona may actually have no insurers from which to choose. 

“Not one.

“Mr. President, it’s abundantly clear that Obamacare is failing American families.

“Even Democrats are starting to indicate that they realize the current situation can’t continue.

“Of course, Democrats’ answers rarely involve going back to the drawing board to consider a better solution.

“Instead, Democrats generally offer proposals that involve throwing good money after bad.

“More government is the solution, Democrats claim.

“Throw more taxpayer money at the problem!

“Let the government run all health care plans

“(Of course, Mr. President, maybe government-run health care for all was really the plan all along.

“But would you trust the federal government to run your health care plan after seeing how it’s doing with


“Then, of course, there’s the administration’s solution: what the New York Times calls “a major push to enroll new participants into public marketplaces.”   

“Previous enrollment pushes have been of limited effectiveness.

“Enrollment in the exchanges currently stands at roughly 12 million, just over half of what it was projected to be at this point in the law’s implementation.

“But leaving that aside, the administration is unlikely to have a lot of success with a new enrollment push because it’s abundantly clear that it’s pushing a broken program.

“How does the administration think it’s going to make high premiums, high deductibles, and limited choices look attractive to Americans?

“If I were the administration, I wouldn’t hold out too much hope for an advertising campaign coming to the rescue.

“Mr. President, if we wanted to coin a phrase to describe the Obama presidency, it might be “the presidency of diminished expectations.”

“This, after all, is the presidency in which Americans started to doubt the cornerstone of the American dream: that their children will have a better life than they do. 

“It’s the presidency in which we were asked to start looking at weak economic growth as the new normal.

“And obviously, it’s the presidency in which we were asked to look at a future of high premiums and few choices as the new standard for health care.

“But, Mr. President, I don’t think that we need to resign ourselves to the diminished expectations of the Obama presidency.

“We don’t have to be stuck in the Obama economy for the long term, and Obamacare doesn’t have to be our health care future.

“Obamacare’s goals of affordable, quality care were noble goals, but this law has utterly failed as a way of getting us there.

“We need to start over.

“We need to lift the burden Obamacare has placed on American families.

“And we need to replace this law with health care reform that will actually drive down costs and increase access to care.

“Republicans have a lot of ideas to bring to the table. 

“And we’re ready to start working on a solution.

“I hope Democrats and the next president will join us.

“The American people have been stuck with Obamacare for long enough.

“Mr. President, before I close, I’d like to take a moment to talk about another health care issue – federal funding to combat the Zika virus.

“Democrats blocked $1.1 billion in Zika funding for the third time this week – despite the fact that every single Democrat supported the exact same level of funding this spring.

“That’s right, Mr. President.

“Every single Senate Democrat supported this exact level of funding this spring.

“Republicans were all ready to pass a final version of the bill and get this funding into the hands of the people fighting the virus.

“And then Senate Democrats changed their minds.

“They’ve offered a lot of excuses.

“The Zika bill attacks women’s health care, they claim – despite the fact that the bill actually increases women’s access to care.

“It threatens clean water protections, they say – despite the fact that the bill lifts just a handful of redundant regulations for a brief period of 180 days.

“They also claim to dislike the way the bill is paid for – despite the fact that the majority of the money used to fund the bill has been sitting around unused.

“Mr. President, either Democrats are so beholden to special-interest groups that they can’t make decisions for themselves, or they can’t take “yes” for an answer.

“The Zika funding bill provides expanded funding for community health centers, public health departments, and hospitals.

“This bill funds research into a Zika vaccine.

“It funds research into Zika treatments.

“And it streamlines mosquito control efforts, since the best way to protect people is to make sure they don’t get bitten in the first place.

“The head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – the lead government agency for fighting disease – has said that $1.1 billion will take care of immediate Zika needs.

“What are Democrats waiting for?

“Mr. President, the number of Zika cases in the U.S. is rapidly increasing.

“More than 2,700 people within the continental United States are infected, and many more in the territories.

“Democrats have talked and talked about the importance of addressing this crisis, yet they just rejected their third opportunity to act.

“How big does this problem have to get before Democrats decide to stop playing politics with funding?”