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tv   U.S. Senate Confirms Treasury Undersecretary Nominee  CSPAN  June 21, 2017 1:59pm-4:00pm EDT

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quorum call:
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a senator: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from wyoming. mr. barrasso: mr. president, i ask that the quorum call be vitiated. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. barrasso: thank you, mr. president. mr. president, i come to the floor today, having returned from the weekend in wyoming, talking to people as a physician, talking to former patients of mine. and what i see is that the pain of obamacare is continuing to worsen around the country for men, women, families, people who have been living under the obama health care law for a number of years now. and this is an important day when insurance companies have to come up with the filings and the plans on what they plan to do for next year with regard to plans that meet the obamacare mandate. so very soon millions of people will find out if they're going to be able to buy an insurance plan in their own communities regardless of the cost. we've seen that the blue
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cross-blue shield group in maryland has proposed rate increases up to 58% for next year in the state of maryland. this is after they went up 24% last year. how many families can afford such a thing, mr. president? but that's what we're dealing with. that's why it's so critical that we get involved in trying to provide relief for american families at this time with the obama health care insurance market certainly collapsing. and the head of the blue cross/blue shield company in maryland, which is the largest one in the state, has said that their system they see is in the early throes of what is known as the insurance death spiral, that they think prices are continuing to go up, fewer people are signing up, and as a result prices are going to have to be raised even larger. we saw last year 24%. this year the proposal is going forth the next year at 58%. this is a terrifying reality for people on obamacare today.
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one of the big reasons that we've been working so hard on health care reform is to improve access to health care, and not empty coverage but actual health care. so we want to do as republicans is get rid of some of the excessive mandates, expensive mandates, things that are driving up the cost of care and certainly driving up the cost of coverage for that care. when prices come down, people are able to afford insurance, and companies are ready to sell that insurance. i know we have people in wyoming who are ready to buy it. that's how you improve the access to insurance. it's how you also improve access to care. you don't do it by forcing the prices up and then requiring people to buy coverage, which is what the democrats who voted for obamacare did. they said you have to buy it. it's a mandate, whether you like it or not. we know better than you do. that's what we heard from the democrats during the debate on president obama's health care law, and that's what they
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passed. many passed -- voted for it, didn't know what was in it. actually it was the speaker of the house, nancy pelosi, who said first you have to pass it before you even get to find out what's in it. well, president obama gave a big speech, spoke to a joint session of congress, said that people like their plans, they can keep their plans. one of the newspapers called that the lie of the year. so millions of americans then got letters from insurance companies, over 5,000 in wyoming got that letter that said, sorry, your insurance plan isn't good enough for government. people ought to be able to make that decision for themselves, mr. president. families ought to make that decision, not democrats in washington who voted for the obamacare law. they shouldn't have a right to tell the people of my state or any state what is best for them and their family. it's interesting because the democrats don't seem to want to remember that any more. they have selective amnesia. it turned out people liked their
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plan, they weren't allowed to keep that ago. i heard that at the farmers and stock growers meeting, an organization that has been in existence longer than the state has been a state. yorking people who know what -- hardworking people who know what works best for them, works best for their families. some of these outfits have been in those families for hundreds of years. we have something called the centennial ranch program where they gather all the family members when an outfit has been in that family for 100 years and they have been able to survive so much over the years. often they'd say, you know, whether they deal with floods, whether they deal with fire, the biggest problem they have sofn dealing with -- is often dealing with the federal government. seen it all across the board. health care is one of the last things to add to a long litany of federal government involvement in the lives of people of our state of wyoming. so here we are today with this incredible government overreach and the failure of that
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overreach. and even the insurance companies, some of whom supported the passage of the health care law are saying this is not working. and we have a -- reflect the fact that it is not working, they say okay, we're not going to sell insurance anymore. can't make them sell insurance. prices have to go up too much. it's not worth the effort. so one of the big insurance companies, humana, is dropping out of the obamacare exchange entirely next year. they made the announcement. aetna said it is quitting the internal markets in delaware, in iowa, in nebraska, in virginia. anthem is pulling out of ohio. the list goes on. so far there are over 40 counties across the country that are expected to have no one selling insurance on the exchange. no one. in wyoming, we're down to one company that sells. we had two. one lost so much money, they pulled off of the market. the second one which does sell insurance in wyoming continues
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to lose money by selling on the exchange. they're committed to stay, but they scratch their head about what the potential future may hold. but we're now seeing over 40 counties across the country where no one is selling insurance. that's the reality of obamacare. president obama said you pass this, and there will be huge competition, big marketplaces. if there is only one selling insurance, mr. president, it is not a marketplace. it's a monopoly. next year the centers for medicare and medicaid have said that about 40% of all the counties in america will have just one company selling on the exchange. just one. 40% of the counties all across america. that's a monopoly, and what happens when those companies decide to drop out? you know, even for people that get an obamacare subsidy, if there is no one in that community, in that county selling obamacare insurance,
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the subsidy has no value whatsoever. it can't be used. that's another part of the story that the democrats refuse to talk about. in fact, the democrats say a lot of things about insurance coverage that aren't really telling the whole story. they have talked about the congressional budget report. they talked about a number of things. and one of the interesting parts about the congressional budget report, the c.b.o. report, the kind of scorekeepers that take a look at things, the report on the bill that passed the house said that there will be millions of people fewer who will have insurance if the republican-passed bill becomes law. well, the news headlines screamed that the house bill would mean millions of people lose their insurance. that's wrong, mr. president. that is not what happened. according to the congressional budget office, when you look at it and see why is it that there will be fewer people with insurance, under obamacare, if you eliminate the individual mandate, the part of the law that says you must buy a
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government-approved program, the congressional budget office says if you don't mandate it, a lot of people don't want to buy it. they don't view it as a good, a good benefit to them. they don't view it as worth their money. people aren't required to buy insurance. millions of them will choose not to purchase the insurance, especially when they believe it's not a good deal for them personally. i believe americans have that right. apparently the democrats don't believe that americans have that right. they like the mandate. they like making people do things. that, to me, is the difference between a republican approach which provides for freedom, a democratic approach of government and mandates. we want to give people the right to decide what's right for them and for their families. that's right here in wyoming at the wyoming stock growers association and as i travel around the state. people know what's best for them and their families. and then when all of a sudden what they had is taken off the market because the government
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says you can't sell it anymore, that's an affront to their ability to choose what works for them and their family, and it's things that they have had in the past. then they got stuck buying some very expensive plan that covered a lot of things they didn't need, they didn't want, they couldn't afford. but the government said we know better than you do, people of wyoming and people of america. so the congressional budget office says that eight million people who get coverage in the individual market will decide it's just not worth buying. they also said that there will be four million people on medicaid next year, and if you eliminate the mandate, they aren't going to sign up for it even when it's free. even when it's free. because they realize for many people being on medicaid, a failing system isn't providing much for them at all. so insurance isn't being taken from people. these are people who are making a decision as free individuals, americans, to make a decision of how they want to spend their money and what they want to sign up for or not.
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so the legislation that passed the house makes no changes in medicaid in 2018, but yet the c.b.o. says millions of people on medicaid will drop it when the mandate goes away. well, the senate's coming up with its own solutions. we're looking at ways to make sure that americans have access to insurance that works for them. not just what works for democrats in washington. we roll back some of the worst parts of obamacare. prices for health insurance will go down. people will have better options than the one-size-fits-all plans that washington has forced on the american people. they'll have other options that work better for them and their families. our goal is to not do what the democrats did. obamacare actually kicked people off insurance that worked for them. pulled the rug right out from under them. republicans don't want to pull the rug out from anyone.
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our goal is to reform the american health care system so insurance costs less and it meets the needs of the people who buy it. republicans' goal is to focus on care, not just the useless coverage that obamacare had provided for many with narrow networks so you can't keep your doctor, you can't go to the hospital in your community, you can't get the care you need, you can't see certain specialists, which is what we've seen in obamacare. democrats want to talk about people losing their insurance, they need to look at what obamacare is doing to people right now. need to look at people who are losing their insurance because their insurers are walking away from them. need to look at people who are losing their insurance because of the premium increases we're seeing requested in maryland -- 24%, actually went up last year, 58% in certain areas requested for this year. now i hear that democrats say they're worried about whether people with preexisting conditions get insurance. as a doctor, i will tell you my wife's a breast cancer
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survivor, we are absolutely committed as republicans to make sure that no one with a preexisting condition is left out. democrats can't make that claim. they made it over the years. but if there is no one selling insurance where you live, there is no change being offered. and you live in those 40 counties right now with no one selling -- none, zero -- and that number of counties is going to expand next year, if you have a preexisting condition and you're living under obamacare, you cannot get insurance no matter what any democrat says, because no one is willing to sell it to you, even if you get a government subsidy. no one. you are left out. and that's what the democrats have given us in this country with their failed obamacare system. so, obamacare continues collapsing. it's going to bury more
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americans who have preexisting conditions. the other day senator schumer admitted obamacare isn't providing affordable access to care. i think it's an important admission from the minority leader. and now it's time for him and for the democrats to join with republicans in the senate -- join us in providing americans the care they need from a doctor they choose at lower costs. thank you, mr. president. i yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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mr. cornyn: mr. president. the presiding officer: the majority whip. mr. cornyn: mr. president, i would ask unanimous consent that the quorum call be rescinded. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. cornyn: mr. president, as the senate knows and i suspect a lot of people outside of the
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chamber know, we will move forward on the health care reform effort to repeal and replace obamacare very soon, -- soon. a bill perhaps will be released as early tomorrow morning, representing a discussion draft. and i think it's important to remind all of our colleagues of the urgency that we face. we already know that insurance premiums have gone up since 2013 alone for those in the individual market. those would be individuals with small businesses, by 105%, just since 2013. can you imagine in 2013 paying a premium only to realize over the next four years that it would quadruple in just a short period of time? most americans can't just absorb that will additional cost. so we know that many people are struggling from the high costs and lack of quality of care and the choices available to them.
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just again on the cost issue, i still remember president obama saying when obamacare was being sold to the american people that the average family of four would see a decrease in their premiums of $2,500. i think the correct figure is actually based on experience they've seen their premiums go up $3,000. i shared a story last week about a small business owner in texas who had lost his health care. he lost his doctor. and yet he had to pay astronomically more for what ends up to be less coverage. and i would say he's only one person that i've heard from. i've heard from many, many more under similar circumstances. even those who receive their health care from their employer are feeling trapped by obamacare. i had a constituent, for example, from nee needville, tes and his story yet again is all too familiar. after his employer renewed their health care plan, premiums rose
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50%. and his current doctors refuse to accept his plans from the obamacare marketplace. while his health care costs rose, of course, his salary did not follow suit. so he's been forced to dramatically cut back on his standard of living and his living from -- and is living from paycheck to paycheck. now he says to me in his letter, he says he's worried about being able to provide for his family. can you imagine what that must be like? and not thinking of himself but what this means for his coworkers as well and his community. but this is just one of the endless stories that my constituents have sent me over the past few years, and i know texas isn't alone, which causes me to wonder who are our colleagues listening to or not listening to in their states. i mentioned yesterday, i had one colleague whose name i won't
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mention out of respect for his confidential communication, but he said his son -- this is a democratic senator -- had a son who's seen his insurance premiums go up to $7,500 -- i'm sorry, that's the deductible, but his premiums have gone up $5,000. he told me effectively his out-of-pocket costs -- his son's out-of-pocket costs for health care was $12,500 a year. that's another casualty of obamacare yet when we're looking around to see how many democrats are willing to join with us to come to the rescue of people who are being hurt by the destruction of the health care markets, we've seen no one raising their hand or coming forward. so for our democratic friends to attack us for trying to fix the havoc that they wreaked in our health care system is really
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ridiculous. our friends on the other side of the aisle had their chance. they passed obamacare by a party line vote and in the interim it's demonstrated that this is an experiment in big government and massive spending that has simply failed. our friends on the other side know that. and they also realize that regardless of who won the election in december -- excuse me, november, that we would be moving towards a new, better health care alternative. but they're simply unwilling to participate and are sitting on their hands and waiting, indeed hoping that we will fail in our efforts to save many americans, millions of americans from a health care system they were promised but one that was not delivered. so instead of working with us, they effectively are throwing i think what could only be called a temper tantrum. they're trying to shut down any productive activity in the senate, including bipartisan
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committee work. i was in three committee hearings this morning, one involving the intelligence committee and our investigation into russian active measures involving the 2016 election. i was in another important finance committee hearing where we talked about the importance of modernizing the north american free trade agreement or nafta. and then another one in the judiciary committee where we talked about the influx of dangerous gangs into the united states, including ms13 from central american countries. yet our democratic colleagues are so bent out of shape over the health care debate, they're willing to shut down legitimate bipartisan concern for each of those issues by letting our committees operate as they should. and here's the rub. if they actually had a better plan, we'd be more than happy to
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listen. we'd be more than happy to work with them. but the only thing they've offered has been offered by the senator from vermont, one of their presidential candidates, senator sanders who said that what he wants is nothing less than a complete federal government takeover of health care, so-called single payer system. that would wipe out all private insurance and you'd be looking to the government for all of your health care. we know that hadn't worked particularly well in places like canada and england and elsewhere. and we also know that it's completely unaffordable. the urban institute that did a study of senator sanders' single health payer system said in just 2017 alone, it would add more than a half trillion dollars to the -- to federal spending. and it would add trillions and trillions of dollars more over ensuing years. so this isn't a solution.
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this is creating a bigger problem. unfortunately, our democratic colleagues have let the far left faction of their own conference hold them hostage to pushing for a single-payer system that would make obamacare look like a wild and resounding success. as i said, we need only look to our neighbors to the north who under a single-payer system had their health care decisions decided for them by the government while they see their taxes go up every single day. canada is marketed as an affordable outcome but only if your procedure is deemed necessary by the government. in other words, if the government doesn't think the procedure you need is necessary, good luck with that. would you want somebody in the government to make your medical decisions for you or your family without considering your individual medical history? well, i certainly wouldn't. and under a single-payer system, this could leave many families to having to buy supplemental
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health insurance on top of the taxes they've already paid or simply pay cash rewarding high income individuals with a better level health care above that offered to the rank and file citizens under a government program. so singl single-payer systems at a solution, certainly not in this country. and not only is choice and cost threatened under a single-payer system, so is quality of care. just last year in canada, it took an ampleg of 20 -- an average of 20 weeks, 20 weeks for patients to receive medical care that was deemed necessary. the longest recorded wait time since wait times were begun to be tracked. one report estimated the canadians are waiting for nearly one million health care procedures. can you imagine having to wait up to 38 weeks for some medical procedure the whole time
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worrying about your health or the health of your loved one? so single payer is a costly, inefficient, and unfeasible option. and perhaps because of that, we're not hearing many people here on the floor stating what i believe to be the case, which is that is the only choice being offered by our friends across the aisle. but they're not willing to come out here and debate the merits of what we are proposing which is a market-driven, individual choice system which is designed to keep premiums down in a way that makes it more affordable. they're not willing to debate that and a government takeover known as the single-payer option with all of its assorted problems. so the reforms we're seeking are patient centered and market driven. these are the sorts of things that many of our colleagues across the aisle said they would like to see as well, but they have somehow fallen in line with part of their political base
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which makes it impossible for them to have an open, rational discussion about the merits of each proposal. so we're left with no option but to finalize our discussion draft and introduce that tomorrow so that the world can see it, so it can be put on the internet, so we can have a fulsome debate and have unlimited amendments in the so-called vote-a-rama process which i know is very popular around here, but we'll vote dozens of times or more on proposed amendments to the bill. so that's the kind of transparency and openness that i think are important when you're dealing with something as important as health care. but here are the goals of what we were -- what we're going to propose tomorrow in this discussion draft. first, we need to stabilize the markets that have left millions in the country with no choices when it comes to insurance providers.
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under obamacare insurance markets have collapsed. in texas one-third of texas counties have only one option for health insurance, which is no choice whatsoever. and of course in addition to threatening competition, it also lowers quality while doing nothing about rising costs. second, we have to address the ballooning price of obamacare premium increases. since 2013, they have gone up 105%. if we do nothing about it, they are going to go up by double digits again next year. so doing nothing is not an option. again, without competition, there's no room for these prices to go anywhere but up. we have to come to the rescue of the millions of americans who are being priced out of the health insurance market. third, something our democratic
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colleagues have repeatedly called for is that we've got to protect people with preexisting conditions. if we want our health care system to work, we must provide coverage, particularly for preexisting conditions for all americans, and we will do that in the discussion draft proposed tomorrow. lastly, i believe we need to give the states greater flexibility when providing for low-income safety net known as medicaid that is more cost efficient and effective. for example, in my state we asked for a waiver in order to provide managed care for people on medicaid. more than 90% are on managed care, which means if you have a chronic illness, if you have a particularly complicated medical problem, that you have a medical home and making had sure somebody keeps track of your treatment and make sure you get the treatment you need and are entitled to. now we have the opportunity to
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make medicaid a sustainable program. we know that it's not, as currently written, and what we're proposing is to spend more money each year on medicaid -- more money each year on medicaid, but to do so at a cost of living index which will be sustainable and affordable by the american taxpayer. we have the opportunity to address the quality issues and red tape issues and provide this important entitlement to make sure that it's -- it remains on a stable path. so the american people have made it clear time and time again that the status quo of obamacare is not working. all you have to do is look around. there were 60 democratic senators in 2010 who voted for obamacare. they were in the majority -- big majority. how many are there today? well, there are not 60 anymore. they've gone from the majority to the minority, i believe in
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large part because of the unfulfilled promises of obamacare. i would encourage our colleagues across the aisle -- indeed, i would encourage all of us -- to listen to our constituents. there are too many families asking us to come up and step up to their aid. we have to do more than have sing of-payer options that don't work. we need to deliver on health care reform and to do so to the best of our ability. i'm under no illusion this will be difficult. when you are working with democrats who are taking a walk and sitting on their hands, it's impossible to come up with the best possible product under the circumstances, but it will be better than the status quo, which is a meltdown in the insurance market. and we will take large steps
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forward by stabilizing the markets and bringing premiums down and putting medicaid on a is sustainable path forward. we would enjoy our democratic colleagues to join us, if they would, but under the present circumstances it doesn't look like they plan to do so. mr. president, i have nine requests for committees to meet during today's session of the senate. they do not have the approval of the democratic leader, therefore they will not be permitted to meet beyond 2:00 p.m. i ask unanimous consent that a list of committees requesting to meet be printed in the record. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. cornyn: if i could take 30 seconds more because my friend from louisiana is here. i think an objection to the nine committees in the senate are indefensible. it is an important indicator
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like the russian involvement in our election, the judiciary committee looking into the role of ms-13, one of the worst gangs in the united states, we are looking at trade and the five million jobs that cafta has, and for our democratic colleagues to object to us to be able to meet in committees because of their pique over health care is beyond indefensible. i hope the american people realize exactly what they are doing. this is a temper tantrum that i talked about a moment ago. this is not about having an open and honest debate and trying to solve a problem that, frankly, is not just our problem, it is a problem for all americans. we ought to do better than that.
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we ought to hold ourselves to a higher standard than that. this is the type of temper tantrum you get when the minority party is not willing to participate in the debate and will not come up with anything other than a system that will fail to deliver you will quality -- to deliver quality health care to all of our citizens. i yield the floor.
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mr. cassidy: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from louisiana. mr. cassidy: mr. president, i'm here to also comment, as senator cornyn was, on the state of play and the repeal and replace of obamacare. i think sometimes the american people feel like collateral
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damage when republicans and democrats go back and forth as far as what is the best policy. i'm a physician and worked in a hospital for decades and i guess my primary thing is not republican versus democrat but the patient -- the patient struggling to pay her bills, the premiums, the person who can't afford to pay for his medicine. there is a gentleman who went on my facebook page, again, cutting through the political noise, to say -- this is brian from covington, louisiana. my family plan is $1,700 a month. me, my wife, and two children. the a.c.a. has brought me to my knees. i hope we can get something done. the middle class is dwindling away. can everyone just come together and figure this out?
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if that is not a plarngtive plea -- if that is not a plea, he is being crushed by this high premium. the american people need relief. we have to lower the premiums. i say whatever we do has to pass the jimmy kimmel test. that is to say if brian or his wife or anyone else, if they have a terrible illness, they have adequate coverage to pay for what that family needs to take care of that terrible disease. what folks say we're redoing one-sixth of the economy, that is it not true. obamacare attempted to address one-sixth of the economy that is health care. we are focused on the individual market which is about 4% of those insured and medicaid. we are not touching medicare, we're not touching it the employer-sponsored insurance
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market. now -- so it's important to realize that this is not as comprehensively as the affordable care act. it is something far more focused. let's first talk about medicaid, though. under medicaid, i am very concerned about what has been proposed for medicaid, but also concerned about current law regarding medicaid. under the medicaid expansion in the affordable care act, states got 100% of all the costs of the patients enrolled for the first four to five years. as you might expect, states were quite generous in their payments for these patients as they contracted with medicaid care companies to care for them. so much so that those folks enrolled in medicaid expansion, taxpayers are paying 50% more than taxpayers are paying for those under traditional medicaid. and states enrolled roughly 20 million people in the medicaid expansion program. the combination of enrolling so
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many people in the medicaid expansion program and paying 50% more than for traditional medicaid, means that when states have to foot 10% of the bill, which they will by 2020 -- when states have to foot that 10% of the bill, they cannot afford that 10%. unfortunately, under the affordable care act, state taxpayers will not be able to pay what in california is $2-point it billion extra per year as the state's 10% share. similarly in louisiana, my state, our taxpayers -- me, my colleagues, my friends, my neighbors -- would be on the hook for $310 million per year. our state is having a budget crisis because we can't afford $300 million, now it is a $310 million recurring bill every year. one thing that is not said is
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that medicaid expansion in its current format is not sustainable. we have to do something -- to preserve the benefits of that patient, we have to make it sustainable for the federal taxpayer and state taxpayer. for whoever is watching this is both a federal and state taxpayer, you are getting caught both ways. now, i wish -- let me speak a little bit about the process. if we want to speak about medicaid, we just laid it out, let's speak a little bit about the process because much has been said about it. i don't particularly care about how the process has transpired, but i understand leader mcconnell's concern that the democrats would not collaborate. what do i mean by that, susan collins and i and four other senators put together a bill that would allow states to nn the status quo.
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to get what they normally would under the affordable care act and continue a system much as they desire to have their -- for their whole nation. the minority leader, chuck schumer, condemned our bill before we filed it, meaning before he had a chance to read it. without reading our bill, he condemned it even though his state, new york, would have been allowed to continue in the program that they are currently in and receive the dollars to support that program. condemn the bill before he read it even though it would have allowed his state to continue in the status quo. similarly we approached -- many other senators in that same regard -- ten at least on my part -- and none would help us with the bill even though their state could have continued in their current status quo, receiving the income it currently receives.
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that tells me even a good-faith effort to reach across the aisle was not going to get cooperation. that's too bad. that's where i think there is kind of a political back and forth in which the patient -- the american like brian struggling to support and cover his family get lost in the crossfire. a goodwill bill designed to have states do that which they choose to do has not been considered by the other side. i pointed out if even two democrats had walked into mitch mcconnell's office and said we will work with you to pass a bill, they could have gotten far many more things for their state than saying, no, we have not been invited to the party so we will not participate. i say that as an ex plan nation to -- explanation as to how we ended up in this position. as to the bill that is before
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us. i have not seen the written language. i will reserve judgment until i see it. if our desire is to take that patient, the american citizen and make sure his needs or her needs are met -- a family such as brian describes here that cannot afford their current premiums -- there are things in this bill which will lower those premiums. there is the so-called cost-sharing reduction payments for the next couple of years that would continue to -- that would provide certainty to the insurance companies so that when they market insurance on the individual market, there would be certainty. they would be able to know those dollars are coming from the federal taxpayer to support folks for the next couple of years, and they could lower their premiums accordingly. there will be a so-called state stability fund that going forward states could use to create what was called the invisible high risk pool, a reinsurance program, if you
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will, so that if you're a patient on dialysis, a patient with cancer, very expensive to care for, you continue to get the care you require but everyone else in that insurance market has their premiums lowered because there is a little bit of help for those folks with those higher-cost conditions. by that we lower premiums. president trump when he was running for president said he wanted to continue -- wanted continued coverage, care for those with preexisting conditions, eliminate obamacare mandates and lower premiums. what i've seen or at least heard, we are on the path of fulfilling president trump's pledge. now, reserving judgment till i've seen written language, i will say that what i've seen so far keeps the patient as the focus, would address someone like brian, the needs of his family, the needs of their pocketbook as well as their health, and build a basis so
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that going forward states would have the ability to innovate to find a system that works best for them. mr. president, on behalf of those patients i hope that we as a senate, whatever our party, are successful, and i hope going forward we as a senate no matter what our party put the patient as the focal point hoping that our combined efforts, again no matter what our party, will address her needs or his needs both financially and particularly for their health. mr. president, i yield back. mr. president, i note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from connecticut. mr. blumenthal: thank you, mr. president. i ask that the quorum call be limited. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. blumenthal: thank you, mr. president. mr. president, earlier this week on monday morning at 9:00 a.m., i held a last-minute emergency field hearing on health care with our colleagues on the other side of the aisle refusing to hold any official hearings on the bill and refusing to even
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show us the bill, what almost certainly is bad policy that's contained in the bill. i wanted the people of connecticut to know that their voices and their faces would be heard and seen here in washington, d.c. and their stories would be told with or without an official committee hearing. and when i say this emergency field hearing was last minute, it was truly last minute with many people having not even days but hours of advanced notice to come and speak and sharing with me and others what the affordable care act has meant to them and to their families and to their communities and what losing it would mean to them. to say that the room was full would be a gross understatement.
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every seat was filled. and when those seats were gone, people lined the walls two or three deep and squeezed in through the door. they were so anxious to be heard and they were heard loud and clear. they were heard by me and now i want their voices to be heard here. we are continuing this hearin h. in fact, having a second hearing friday afternoon, 1:30 in new haven. we're sending out notices, blasting them to the people of connecticut. we will have a third if appropriate and necessary. because the people who came to this emergency field hearing in connecticut were no different from millions of other people around the country and they were speaking in a sense for all americans.
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in my mind they were speaking for parents who are suffering, providers who are healing, kids fighting back against dreaded diseases. they came because the closed door discussions held in secret here by a small number of colleagues across the aisle will impact them every single day for the rest of their lives. my constituents and the people of connecticut and the people of the country are unrepresented in those discussions. that is a travesty and a betrayal of our trust and our jobs. so on friday we're going to do the same thing, hold another emergency hearing in new haven so people of my state can be heard despite this disgraceful process that has left them and so many others on the outside looking in. they are excluded from democra
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democracy. and that is unconscionable. if nothing else, i hope my colleagues will realize one thing. this is what democracy looks like. this is how we are meant to make decisions with many opinions, much debate, diversity of viewpoint, sometimes messy but always transparent, open, and clear to people whose lives are affected by it. that's what this emergency field hearing was designed to do. since it is becoming increasingly clear that this bedrock principle of our democracy, the right to open and honest debate, is being denied, i want to share some of the stories that i heard on monday, just some of them. and i will be entering into the record a transcript of that hearing if there is no
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objection. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. blumenthal: justice brianna crouch was described by her mother as a beautiful free spirit, as you can see from this side of the photo. she was filled with compassion at 21 years old. had a beautiful and meaningful life ahead of her. all of her life ahead of her. she was a full-time student in a dental program and she had a 4.0 average. but justice, like far too many people, particularly young people in connecticut and around the people, had a substance use disorder and she needed effective long-term treatment to begin that road to recovery. for justice, this treatment came too late, and on august 23, 2015, she overdosed on heroin.
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it led to a brain injury. likely she will never recover from that injury, and more likely than not, as her mother said, quote, i will have to make the decision to bring my daughter home with hospice care. no parent should be faced with these decisions, end quote. that's what jennifer kelly said at the hearing on monday, and that is a picture of justice, as she is today. i want to read exactly what jennifer kelly said. because her words are far more powerful and meaningful than mine could ever be. the american health care act -- the house version of the so-called replacement for the
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affordable care act -- quote, would reduce medicaid funding by $800 million, which provides coverage to an estimated three in ten adults dealing with an opioid addiction. this will be so devastating -- and i'm quoting -- to those seeking treatment for an opioid addiction in a system where families are already begging for help. this will be a tremendous step backwards. so here i am, quoting jennifer kelly, almost two years later pleading for light, fighting once again for families i have never met because i believe that no one should have to fight to get help for addiction in this country like my daughter did. so my question is, mr. president -- not to you, the presiding
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officer; she's talking to president donald trump -- quote, and the members of the senate, what number of lives lost will be enough? what is the magic number of sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, aunts and uncles that we as a nation will are have to -- will have to lose before you realize this country needs help? end of quote. i ask that same question of my colleagues today. i ask the question that jennifer, a broken-hearted mother, asks of all of us: what number of lives will be enough? how many is enough? when will others in this body realize that gutting our health care system and stripping millions of care will simply make this opioid epidemic worse? jennifer was, unfortunately, not
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the only person who came to speak about an opioid epidemic. and, for me, the most moving and powerful among those moments came from maria skinner, who runs the mccall center for behavioral health in connecticut -- in fact, in torrington, connecticut, who was there to give her thoughts and share stories of two young people. i was actually lucky enough to meet both of them. and once again i'm going to just share her word words directly. quote, what i want to do is talk to you about two people and make that a real personal, granular human story. and, you know, these two -- and you know these two people very well. it's frank and sean -- she was speaking to me. you have met frank and sean, who were able to access care and get
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clean and sober because of the medicaid expansion, because they were able to have coverage. and they've come here to these rooms to speak courageously and publicly about their struggle and about their recovery and about how grateful they are to be able to be clean and sober because of the access to care afforded them through their insurance coverage. we went to sean's funeral on saturday, and frank would be here today if he wasn't as brokenhearted as i am. sean was 26 and had been doing really well, was on naltrexone. he was taking a vivitral. and he had to have surgery for a hernia because he road
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motorbikes professionally and the personnia hurt him. he wanted to go back. he was anxious to get back into doing what he loved. and i'm continuing this quote -- so he had surgery and had to come off his medication to do that. he was very vulnerable after his surgery, and he slipped once and he used -- i've been to too many funerals and seen too many mothers and fathers brokenhearted at the coffins of their sons and daughters. we can't make this any harder than it already is. to me, it is unconscionable, end quote. maria is right. jennifer is right. gutting medicaid would be unconscionable. weakening the protections afforded to those with mental health or substance abuse disorders would be truly
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unconscionable. repealing the affordable care act and the provisioning within it that have meant more coverage, more health care, more healing for those suffering from substance use and disorder, struggling to break the grip of this opioid epidemic would be unconscionable and costly. beyond words. and alternative funds, as some reports say republicans have considered, will never replace a permanent insurance program like medicaid. because medicaid guarantees that coverage is there when families need it. no alternative can do that. in connecticut, nearly half of all medication-assistance treatment withstons abuse disorders paid by medicaid.
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my fear is that the republican bill in place means that these people would have no place to go. they would have no support for medication, counseling, and help, no chance to get better, no place to go. i refuse to let us find out the answer to what would happen to them if medicaid is gutted. i refuse to allow it to happen if i have anything to do with it. and people with substance use disorder are not the only ones who will see their coverage threatened by a weakening of the protections for those living with preexisting conditions. in connecticut on monday, sean lang of aids connecticut expanded on what this bill would
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mean for the people living with h.i.v. in this country. quote -- and i'm quoting sean lang -- some of us lived through the early days of the plague. when we went to funeral after funeral, memorial service after memorial service, week after week, month after month watching our friends wither away and die. the health care bill that is currently secretly weaving its way through congress would bring us back to the early days of the plague. h.i.v. is a preexisting condition. over half of the people living with h.i.v. in the country and in this state are over the age of 50 and rely on medicaid as their primary source of insurance. most of these people also have other commore bidties, like substance abuse disorders and
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mental health disorders. what little we know about this bill would be devastating to people with h.i.v. and aids, and it is essentially -- and it slings would amount to a death -- and it essentially would amount to a death sentence. again, having lived through those early days, we don't want to go back there. end of quote. sean's story is one of many that i heard about the fear of losing coverage due to a preexisting condition. gail hire, a 60-year-old breast cancer survivor, has similar concerns about what gutting the affordable care act would mean, not just for her but for everyone around her. she said this about why she came to speak at the hearing -- quo quote, i am not just worried for me about my own health care, although i will be on the receiving end of a lot of bad parts of this.
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i care passionately about the other 23 million americans who are my fellow citizens of every age, every type and need. and it's about the future. it's about our kids. it's about our grandkids who won't have access to treatments, who won't have access to doctors. end quote. i know my colleagues across the aisle don't want to hear these stories. if they wanted to hear these stories from people in connecticut and around the country, millions of stories, we would have hearings, not just emergency field hearings, we would have hearings here in washington before the committee on health, education, labor, and pensions and before the committee on finance and other committees that have jurisdiction on the house side as well as here in the senate.
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we would be having a real debate, a robust discussion. and every one of us here would have a chance to review this bill, if there is a bill, and comment on it and hear from the people we represent. but, unfortunately, my colleagues across the aisle don't want to hear about the details of repealing the affordable care act. and one witness at my hearing, ellen andrews of the connecticut health policy project, really summed up the reason. here's what she said. i quote -- we have been working on expanding health coverage, high-quality affordable coverage, to everyone in the state, and now everyone in the nation. i look back actually in 2010 how many people were uninsured in
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this state before the affordable care act. it was 397,000 people -- almost 400,000. last year it was down by 262,000. that 262,000 fewer people living in our state without insurance because of the affordable care act. that's the end of her quote. i want to share one final story before yielding back my time, because it's about a little boy in connecticut who has a lot to lose if the affordable care act is secretly gutted behind closed doors, as now is happening in realtime right before our eyes, in secret, invisibly in this body. i want to tell you about conner
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curen. two years ago when conner was five years old, his parents noticed that he was lagging behind his twin brother. they brought him to a doctor. and rather than receiving a simple diagnosis, they learned that conner has duchenne muscular dystrophy, a degenerative, terminal disease that has no cure. most people with a disease don't survive their mid-20's. conner's family wrote that their sweet boy, at just five, and full of life, would slowly lose his ability to run, to walk, to lift his arms. eventually, they said, he would lose the ability to hug them. conner needs complex care from
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multiple specialists. it costs an estimated $54,000 a year. thanks to the affordable care act, he cannot be denied coverage when doing so. and he has the coverage he needs for that care. his family also wrote that any elimination of lifetime caps or elimination of health benefits, essential health benefits will hinder his family's ability to access the care that connor needs. this is connor in a picture provided by his family. the a.c.a. removed barriers to connor's care, and they are concerned -- and so am i -- that this reckless, reprehensible bill will put them back to the place they were when
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they first learned about connor's diagnosis. should connor's disease progress, he will very likely need access to medicaid, offsetting the cost of living with a disability. but for his family, the question now is: will medicaid even be there? if that devastating day comes, will he continue to receive the care he needs? connor and his family are not about to give up. they come to my office annually since he was diagnosed to fight for a cure and to fight for the affordable care act. sometimes with tears in their eyes. they raise awareness. they fight for their little boy. and i know they would do it a million times over again if it
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meant connor could get better and live a long and healthy life. connor and others like him are why i am here. connor and others like him are why i will continue this fight against any attempts to repeal the affordable care act and replace it with a shameful, disgraceful bill written behind closed doors, destroying lives and degrading the quality of lives for millions of americans. the people i have met in connecticut who came to this hearing, and countless others who have talked to me about the affordable care act, are fighting for their lives and their health and for others who need it as well. those people i've met in connecticut and the others who will come to our hearing on friday and perhaps afterward are the reason that i'm fighting for
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better coverage for all the people of connecticut and our country. those people are the best of our country. with their fighting spirit and dedication, to the people whom they love, they deserve to be heard. they are the voices and faces of the affordable care act that have been turned away at the door of this capitol. i refuse to allow them to be silent. as i've mentioned, we will be back at it again on friday. because hearing from our constituents is part of our job. it's the bedrock of democracy. it's a fundamental core part what we do. listening to the people we represent. failing to do so is unconscionable, just as destroying the affordable care
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act would be unconscionable, just as denying connor what he needs would be unconscionable, just as ignoring shawn and justice and frank would be unconscionable. i hope my colleagues will listen thank you, mr. president. i yield the floor. the presiding officer: the senator from utah. mr. hatch: mr. president, i'm pleased to yield five minutes of my time to the distinguished senator from georgia. mr. isakson: i thank the distinguished president of the senate and thank the chairman of the committee and i'm honored to take that five minutes, mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from georgia. mr. isakson: a lot of us wake up in the morning with a plan for the day and we know what we're going to do each hour and every five minutes if you're a member of the senate. some days surprise you.
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i went to breakfast this morning for members of the senate who are veterans of the united states military. there were three of us at that breakfast. there were supposed to be more but some didn't come at the last minute. one of the people at the breakfast handed me a piece of paper, four pages as a matter of fact, and said have you seen this. i didn't know what it was but i turned and looked at it. it was a white paper on the impact of president trump's proposed budget on the american veteran. and the guy say you're the chairman of the veterans' committee. i want you to explain why all this is true. so i quickly turned through it from one page to another and looked at each of the headlines and subtitle. every one of them was wrong. there wasn't a statement of fact in it. but there was a purpose to the paper. so i thought all morning about what i would do today to try to get the word out about what is true without getting into a partisan or bickering battle on the floor of the senate about documents that were sent out circuitously by one member of the senate or the other. facts are stubborn things. it is very important to me as
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chairman of the committee to make sure members of the senate know what we're dealing with as we lead up to making important decisions. this white paper alleges that president trump's budget is a circuitous route to privatizing v.a. health services for our veterans which is patently untrue and wrong, and the authors of this in the senate that have written it know it's untrue because they're on the committee. it further allows the funding of health care for veterans has been cannibalized by privatization programs to take private health care out of the veterans administration into the private sector. and i know within a few weeks i'm going to be coming to the floor with hopefully the entire veterans' committee seeking additional funds for the choice program to continue to meet our demand for our veterans and their health care. two and a half years ago this senate and this congress and the former president pad and signed legislation that -- passed and signed legislation that guaranteed every veteran no matter where they lived could go to get services they couldn't
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get within the v.a. anywhere within the private sector within their community approved by the v.a. in other words, they got a choice if they were out of deployment within 30 days they got a choice if they lived within 40 miles of a service area. it became known as the choice program, popular but difficult to manage. popular, 2.7 l million appointments were held in the next two years over the previous two years because of the increased accessibility for health care for our veterans. so i wanted to come to the floor and say the veterans' committee is working with the appropriators and the authorizers to see to it that the health care money that needs to be appropriated for our veterans is appropriately done in the budget proposal that we pass out of this body. i want everybody on the floor to remember every time you allege as a member of the senate that money for veterans is being can balancessed and they're not -- cannibalized and they are not going to get their health services you're accusing the senate of not guaranteeing the services for these men and women
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when they voluntarily sign up to serve their country. i'm never going to forsake my obligation to the men and women that have served us today and have served us in the past and will serve us in the future. i'm never going to be one of those politicians that's not trustworthy to stand behind every promise that's made. we made a great promise to the veterans of america and we're going to keep it because they made the greatest promise of all to us. they would risk their lives for each of us. if you get a document that says the impact of president trump's proposed budget on veterans and it goes into a privatized system of health care, put it in the trash can because that's where it belongs. it's quotes taken out of context, put together to tell a story to frighten folks. we're in the process in the veterans' committee today and every day of working towards seeing to it we meet the funding shortfalls that exist and see to it our veterans get the health care they deserve when they come to our veterans administration. and we'll continue to do so. i have but one responsibility in
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the united states senate of paramount importance and that's my chairmanship in the veterans' committee. i'm not going to let our veterans down and i'm not going to let somebody else allege that we're trying to do something that will not help the veterans or guarantee them their health care. to the contrary, we're going to see to it nobody else takes it away. we're going to do for our veterans what they did for us: pledge our sacred honor to see to it they get the service they deserve, fought for and risked their lives for. i thank the senator from utah for yielding the time, and i yield back my time, mr. president. mr. hatch: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from utah. mr. hatch: mr. president, for the last several weeks i've been hearing quite a bit about process here in the senate, particularly as it relates to the ongoing debate over the future of obamacare. now my friends on the other side of the aisle have apparently protested the strategy of decrying the supposed secrecy surrounding the health care bill and the lack of regular order in
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a its development. they've come to the floor, given introduce -- interviews and hijacked committee meetings and hearing to express their supposedly righteous indignation about how republicans are proceeding with the health care bill. of course hearing senate democrats lecture about preserving the customs and traditions of the senate is a bit ironic. but i'll get back to that in a minute. last week the senate finance committee, which i chair, held a routine nominations markup to consider a slate, a relatively -- of relatively uncontroversial nominees. that same day several of our colleagues and congressional staffers had been viciously attacked by an armed assailant and a member of the house of representatives, of course, was in the hospital in critical condition. i opened the meeting by respectfully asking my colleagues to allow the committee to use the markup as an opportunity to demonstrate
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unity in the face of a violent attack against congress as an institution. and even then my democratic friends were apparently unable to pass up an opportunity to try to score partisan points and rack up video clips for social media by playing for the cameras as they lamented the committee's position in the health care debate. once again, mr. president, the situation is dripping with irony. like i said, i'll get to that in a minute. if my democratic colleagues are going to continue grand standing over the health care debate, i have a few numbers i'd like to cite for them. under obamacare, health insurance premiums in the state of oregon have gone up by an average of 110%. in michigan they have gone up by 90%. in florida, they've gone up by 84%. in delaware, they've gone up by
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108%. and in ohio, they've gone up by 86%. in pennsylvania, they've gone up by 120%. in virginia, they've gone up by 77%. and in missouri, they've gone up by 145%. now, mr. president, i've not picked those states at random. each of these states is currently represented by a democrat on the senate finance committee. of course, those trends extend well beyond the committee. in illinois, where the senate minority whip resides, premiums have gone up by 108%. in west virginia and wisconsin, both of which are also represented by democratic senators, premiums have gone up by 169%. and 93% respectively. montana is in a similar situation with premiums rising
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by 133% under obamacare. now just so people don't go thinking i'm picking on the democrats, i'll note in utah health insurance premiums have gone up by an average of 101%. in wyoming, they've gone up by 107%. and in nebraska, they've gone up by 153%. i can go on, mr. president, but i think my point is clear. health insurance premiums have skyrocketed all over the country by an average of 105%. i'll repeat that. under obamacare, the average health insurance premiums in the u.s. have seen triple digit increases. these are the fruits of the so-called affordable care act. this is the burden obamacare's placed on parents and families throughout our country, and
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people are feeling that burden whether they vote for democrats or republicans. the only difference is that for seven and a half years my republican colleagues and i have been talking about the failures of obamacare. and for seven and a half years senate democrats have done virtually nothing to address these problems. for seven and a half years republicans like myself have pleaded with our democratic colleagues, and with the previous administration to work with us to address the failures of obamacare. and for seven and a half years it has been virtually impossible to get any democrat in washington to even acknowledge that there were any problems with obamacare to begin with. at the cost of health care in this country -- as the cost of health care in this country has skyrocketed out of c


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