WASHINGTON — Senate Majority Whip Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) today discussed the Democrats’ latest political messaging bill, which would repeal guidance that the administration issued to give states more flexibility to design health insurance plans that meet the needs of their residents.
Thune’s remarks below (as prepared for delivery):
“Mr. President, before I begin, I want to say that I was saddened to hear of the death of former Senator Kay Hagan yesterday.
“She was a dedicated public servant.
“My thoughts and prayers are with her family.
“Mr. President, later this week we will vote on a Democrat resolution to repeal guidance the president issued to give states more flexibility to design insurance plans that meet the needs of their residents.
“Democrats have tried to portray this resolution as a move to protect people with preexisting conditions.
“That is just a smokescreen.
“Democrats know very well that Republicans are committed to protecting those with preexisting conditions.
“In reality this is just another political messaging bill.
“It’s also another attempt by Democrats to maximize Washington control of Americans’ health care.
“In keeping with their push toward socialism, Democrats want to make very sure that states don’t have the chance to escape from any of Obamacare’s bureaucracy.
“But let me back up for a minute and talk about the waivers and the guidance from the president that Democrats are attacking.
“Section 1332 of the Affordable Care Act – the law that Democrats enacted on a completely partisan basis – allows states to apply for waivers from certain Obamacare requirements.
“The requirements that can and cannot be waived are the same today as they were the day Obamacare passed.
“Let me repeat that.
“The Obamacare requirements that can or cannot be waived are the same today as they were the day Obamacare passed.
“The 2018 guidance from the White House did not change anything about what requirements can and cannot be waived under Section 1332.
“Let me be very clear:
“1332 waivers DO NOT allow states to waive Obamacare’s preexisting condition protections.
“They do not allow health plans to utilize preexisting condition coverage exclusions.
“They do not allow health plans to refuse coverage for people with preexisting conditions.
“And they do not allow plans to charge individuals more based on a preexisting health condition.
“So what do the 1332 waivers do?
“The waivers give states the opportunity to take action to stabilize insurance markets and try out new ways of providing coverage to individuals who might not otherwise be able to afford insurance.
“My colleagues across the aisle would have the American public believe that these waivers will, quote, “allow states to greenlight substandard, junk insurance plans.”
“Let me remind my colleagues that these plans they deride as “junk plans” are the very same short-term limited duration plans that were permitted in seven out of the eight years of the Obama administration.
“Another refrain we will hear from my Democrat colleagues is that the administration’s guidance will permit states to waive essential health benefits, or EHBs.
“I want to remind them that the Affordable Care Act itself permits the waiving of EHBs by states.
“The Trump administration guidance does not change this.
“So again, while Democrats would have people believe that Republicans are destroying EHBs, states can already choose to waive them, and have not to date.
“Most of the states who have applied for waivers have wanted to use them for reinsurance programs to drive down premiums.
“Again, waivers give states some relief from Obamacare’s one-size-fits-all requirements, allowing them to try out new ways to drive down prices and help individuals afford care.
“It’s about choice, and empowering Americans to decide what type of coverage meets their needs.
“Mr. President, we might not be having this conversation today if Obamacare had lived up to the rosy promises that were made when it was passed.
“But I don’t have to tell anyone that it didn’t come anywhere close to living up to those promises.
“Obamacare was supposed to give Americans without health insurance access to affordable care, while preserving the health insurance of the millions of Americans who were satisfied with their plans.
“As everyone knows, what actually happened was quite different.
“Millions of Americans lost their plans; health insurance premiums went up, not down; and premiums and out-of-pocket costs on the exchanges were unaffordable for many from day one.
“The average monthly premium for a family plan on the exchanges has increased by $742 over the past four years.
“That’s close to the average mortgage payment in my home state of South Dakota.
“So it’s not surprising that states would be looking for ways to help families afford care through 1332 waivers.
“And waivers are in fact helping to lower premiums.
“Seven states that received waivers saw average premiums for a benchmark silver plan drop by 7.5 percent from 2018 to 2019.
“States are using 1332 waivers to make health care more affordable and Obamacare premiums less burdensome.
“They are NOT using the waivers to do anything to undermine protections for people with preexisting conditions – something they couldn’t legally do anyway.
“It’s worth noting that more than one state with a Democrat governor has applied for a 1332 waiver this year.
“Are Democrat senators suggesting that these governors want to undermine protections for people with preexisting conditions?
“Mr. President, numerous Americans are struggling to afford their Obamacare premiums, and many others have been priced out of the Obamacare market altogether.
“It only makes sense to give states as much flexibility as possible to address Obamacare’s problems and expand insurance access for their residents.
“But Democrats are so set on maximizing Washington control of Americans’ health care that they’re determined to oppose any Obamacare flexibility – even if that flexibility is resulting in lower premiums for Americans.
“Today’s resolution is just another example of Democrats’ prioritizing their political ideology over the welfare of the American people.”