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Jul 13 2010

Berwick Recess Appointment Insults Americans

“The President of the United States has his own health care rationing czar.”

Last week, President Obama recess appointed Dr. Donald Berwick to be the Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) spoke about this issue on the Senate floor.  Excerpts of his remarks are below:

“Well, Mr. President, I will tell you that this recess appointment and the overall appointment of Dr. Donald Berwick is absolutely a page out of the playbook of the United States President of delay and obstruction.

“Last year I came to this floor and said, you know, we should have somebody in charge of Medicare and Medicaid.

“When this body is talking about cutting $500 billion from our seniors on Medicare, not to save Medicare but to start a whole new government program, there ought to be somebody in charge of Medicare in this country who can answer the questions what are the impacts going to be?

“But the President of the United States refused to name anyone. At a time when this body was debating how to handle 16 million more Americans jammed and crammed into Medicaid, a program where half the doctors in the country won't see those patients, kind of like giving somebody a bus ticket when a bus isn't coming.

“Those people may have coverage but they're not able to get care. There should have been somebody in charge of Medicaid.

“So the playbook of delay and obstruction belongs to this Administration.

“The playbook of delay and obstruction is what led us here today to a situation where no one was even named to be in charge of Medicare and Medicaid for the United States until after an extremely unpopular and unwise health care bill was signed by the President of the United States.

“Then and only then did the President of the United States decide who he would want to put in charge of Medicare and Medicaid, and to me, Mr. President, this is an insult to the American people, an insult that the American people would never, ever have an opportunity of having open Congressional hearings to have explained to them the positions of this man nominated to head Medicare and Medicaid for this country.

“I think that the President of the United States has made a mockery, a mockery of his pledge to be accountable as an Administration, to be transparent as an Administration.

“I was surprised to see the members of the Democratic side of this Senate vote to kill the program of Medicare, Medicare Advantage for 10 million Americans. These are individuals who signed up for Medicare Advantage because there is an advantage.

“It actually helps with preventative medicine and it helps with coordinated care. That's gone away.

“But yet, the President of the United States didn't have anybody in charge of Medicare or Medicaid to explain what the impact of getting rid of Medicare Advantage would have on those 10 million people who needed coordinated care and needed preventative medicine.

“So then when I hear my colleague from Rhode Island say if you are against Dr. Berwick, then whose side are you on?

“I would say, Mr. President, that I’m on the side of the people of Wyoming, the seniors of this country, the people who are seeing $500 billion of Medicare cut from them to start a whole new government program, and they realize it's not going to help them, and that's why at town meetings and visits around the state of Wyoming, people believe that ultimately they are going to end up paying more for their care and are going to have less care available to them because of this very unpopular health care law.

“So here you have it.  We now have appointed without a hearing, without a debate, without this Senate having a chance to vote, a Director of Medicare and Medicaid who has expressed many opinions, many opinions, Mr. President, that really do fly in the face and are way out of line with the opinions of the American people.

“What is this Administration trying to hide? Why is this Administration unwilling to have hearings? Why is the Administration not allowing Dr. Berwick to come to Congress to explain to the American people his opinions and his views? All we know is what we have read, what we have seen from his speeches, the things that he has written.

“Well, likely, Mr. President, it's because if those things were heard by the American people, this man may absolutely be un-confirmable.

“So if that's what the President wants, then that's what the President got because right now, Mr. President, I will tell you the President of the United States has his own health care rationing czar. You say how can you imagine that sort of thing?

“Well, let's look at some of these quotes. These are from Dr. Berwick. ‘The decision is not whether or not we will ration care. The decision is whether we will ration with our eyes open.’

“This isn't some long ago quote. This is last year, Mr. President.

“This is what he says about the British health care system. He says, ‘I fell in love with the national health service. To an American observer, the National Health Service is such a seductress.’ Who talks like that, Mr. President?

“We have a recess appointee who also went on, has some ideas about wealth in the United States. He said, ‘any health care funding plan that is just, equitable, civilized and humane must, must redistribute wealth from the richer among us to the poorer and less fortunate.’

“So here we have a recess appointee making decisions, who will make decisions for hundreds and hundreds of billions of dollars that impact the lives of the American people without ever having a Senate debate, without ever having a Senate hearing, without ever having one word of testimony because the President of the United States believes he knows better than the people of this country.”

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(WASHINGTON, DC) – U.S. Senators and doctors Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK) and John Barrasso, M.D. (R-Wyo.) today released an oversight report, “Bad Medicine: A Check-Up On The New Federal Health Law,” that examines the implementation of the law nearly 100 days after passage.  The full report is available here.

Coburn and Barrasso write in the report:

“One hundred days after the new federal health care law was passed, Americans remain anxious about how it will impact them and their families.  Unfortunately, when measured against the Administration’s own stated goals, the new health law fails to address the top health care concerns of the American people.” 

“As supporters of cost-effective, common-sense health reform, but staunch opponents of the legislation that passed Congress earlier this year, this report presents the American people with a check-up about the side effects and the implications of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act as it begins to be implemented.”

“More than a year ago, our country began a national conversation about how to best reform our nation’s health care system.  We were both early advocates for real health reform that would lower costs, empower patients, and increase access. We proposed health reform ideas that would ensure all Americans had access to affordable coverage.” 

“The passage of the new law is a lost historic opportunity. However, we hope the American people will not give up on their desire for sustainable health reform but will hold their elected leaders accountable to work together to craft common-sense, bipartisan, step-by-step reforms. We believe that real reform begins with replacing the new law with sensible provisions that will lower costs, increase patient control, and put affordable, high quality coverage within the grasp of every American.”

“The intention of this report is to highlight some of problems with the law and its consequences. After 100 days after passage, the report reveals new information and goes through a litany of problems with this flawed legislation.” 

Facts highlighted in the report include:

FACT:               The new health law increases the cost of health care.

FACT:               Sixteen million Americans are forced into Medicaid – a program that denies care,  has higher rates of infant mortality, and yields lower health outcomes for patients.

FACT:               Citizens will be forced to purchase costlier health insurance or pay a tax, but illegal immigrants will continue to get free care and those costs will be shifted onto citizens.

FACT:               The individual mandate will fail with the IRS as the health care enforcer, but uninsured Americans will be considered violators of the law even as costs increase further.

FACT:               Millions of Americans will lose their current health plan as employers either drop coverage or purchase more expensive, government-dictated health insurance.

FACT:               Patients with pre-existing conditions still face care restrictions, since the new federal risk pool is seriously underfunded and will offer coverage months after required by the new law.

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WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) made the following statement regarding President Obama's decision to recess appoint Dr. Donald Berwick to be Director of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS):

"This recess appointment is an insult to the American people. Dr. Berwick is a self professed supporter of rationing health care and he won't even have to explain his views to the American people in a Congressional hearing.  Once again, President Obama has made a mockery of his pledge to be accountable and transparent."

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Jul 01 2010

President’s Health Care Law Encourages Small Businesses to Get Smaller

A Small Business Owner in Illinois Discovers He Has to Fire Employees, Cut Salaries or Split His Company in Two to Qualify for Obama Tax Credit

On May 7, 2010, the President promised small business owners that:

“In addition, as part of health reform, 4 million small businesses recently received a postcard in their mailbox telling them that they’re eligible for a health care tax cut this year.  It’s worth perhaps tens of thousands of dollars to each of these companies.  And it will provide welcome relief to small business owners, who too often have to choose between health care and hiring.”

While these tax cuts look great on paper, one small business owner in the President’s home state discovered the postcard was literally too good to be true. 

Charles Arp, who manages Penny Printing Company in Sterling, Illinois, recently wrote a column titled ‘Obamacare’s Broken Promise: One Company’s Experience.’  Mr. Arp wrote:

“My firm would have to reduce its workforce and cut employee wages to benefit from the
newly enacted Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Is this what the objective should
be?”

U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) spoke about this issue on the Senate floor.

Jun 23 2010

Barrasso: What Happens When Your Doctor Can’t Afford to Keep You?

After Health Care Law, Doctors Drop Medicare Patients

Yesterday, the White House held another high profile health care event where President Obama again promised that the new health care law will strengthen Medicare. But once again, President Obama failed to explain to the American people that new law cuts half a trillion dollars in order to create a new government program for someone else. 

Earlier this week, U.S.A. Today reported that the number of doctors refusing new Medicare patients because of low government payment rates is setting a new high:

“Recent surveys by national and state medical societies have found more doctors limiting Medicare patients, partly because Congress has failed to stop an automatic 21% cut in payments that doctors already regard as too low.”

During the health care debate, Congress had an opportunity to fix this problem and truly strengthen Medicare. But unfortunately, it jammed the bill through without ensuring that American seniors continue to have access to their doctors.  Today, Senator Barrasso spoke about this serious problem on the Senate floor.  Excerpts include:

“This Congress, this Senate jammed through this a bill that isn't going to provide better coverage.  It's going to jam 16 million more people on to Medicaid…Mr. President, we know that almost half the doctors in the country don't take Medicaid patients. Now we're seeing more and more people as physicians and hospitals saying how do we keep the doors open with what Medicare is paying? So as fewer and fewer physicians are willing to take care of patients on Medicare, limiting their practices on Medicare and Medicaid. 

“It's going to be increasingly difficult for the American people to be able to find a doctor. And that's why, Mr. President, I come to the floor with my second opinion about this health care law, telling you it is time to repeal this legislation and replace it with legislation that delivers more patient-centered solutions, delivers more personal responsibility, more opportunities for individuals who take control of their own health.”

 

Jun 15 2010

Barrasso: Another Broken Health Care Promise from President Obama

06/15/09: Obama – “If you like your health care plan, you will be able to keep your health care plan. Period.” 06/15/10: Obama health law will force Americans to change health care plans

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-Wyo) spoke at a Senate press conference about the Obama Administration’s new health care regulations.   He pointed out that the new regulations will force Americans to change their current health care plans despite President Obama’s promise that Americans can keep their coverage.     
 
Excerpts of his remarks:

“I want to talk to you today about the promises that the President has made about the health care bill.  And as we now know, are broken promises.

“What a difference a year makes.  One year ago today the President went to the American Medical Association meeting in Chicago.  He spoke to the doctors there, but was speaking to doctors as well as their patients about what he wanted to do with health care. 

“The President said ‘If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor.  Period.’  He then said, ‘if you like your health care plan, you will be able to keep your health care plan. Period.’ He said, ‘No one will take it away, no matter what.’

“Well here we are--it’s a year later. 

“Last September the President said, ‘Nothing in this plan will require you or your employer to change the coverage or the doctor you have.’

“And then at the town hall with the seniors just last week, he said ‘If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor.’

“Well on Friday, the Associated Press reported that in just three years, a majority of workers in this country, 51 % will be in plans subject to new Washington requirements. 51% of Americans will not be able to keep what they have, keep what they like, keep what they want. 

“Well you say, that’s the Associated Press, what do the real words say? So I brought to you what was released on Monday.

“The new regulations included all the interim final rules for group health plans and health insurance coverage under the bill.  This came out through the Internal Revenue Service.

“It’s interesting it’s the Internal Revenue Service who’s writing these, along with the Department of Labor and the Department of Health and Human Services.

“If you turn to page 54, there is a table talking about how many people will lose the coverage that they have now that they like and that they want. And for all employer plans through 2013, 51%, a majority of Americans who are receiving their health care through their employer, will not be able to keep the plan they want, to keep the plan they like. 

“A complete violation of the promise the President made to the American people.”

Jun 08 2010

Barrasso Responds to President’s Health Care Tele-Town Hall

“There are a lot of things that the President of the United States did not tell the American people and..that's the reason that 60% of the American people are opposed to this new law.”

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-Wyo) responded to the President’s health care tele-town hall on the floor of the U.S. Senate.   
 
Excerpts of his remarks:

The Truth About Medicare Advantage

“I come to the floor today because the President of the United States earlier today had a town hall meeting to talk about the new health care law.  A law that he promoted and talked about and has been a major point of discussion, debate, and then vote in this chamber over the last year.

“And one of the things that the President said today, he talked about Medicare Advantage.
“He said, ‘first and foremost’ -- I’m quoting the President – ‘first and foremost, what you need to know’, he said, ‘is that the guaranteed Medicare benefits that you've earned,’ he said, ‘will not change, regardless of whether you receive them through Medicare or Medicare Advantage.’

“Well, seniors who know a lot about Medicare Advantage know that that's just not the case. And you don't have to go very far back to find it.

“Yesterday's Wall Street Journal talking about Medicare, and specifically Medicare Advantage, and I’ll just quote from this article, Mr. President.  It says, ‘dozens of Medicare Advantage providers’ -- this is the insurance companies that help with the Medicare Advantage –‘plan to cut back vision, dental, and prescription benefits.’

“Well, wait a second; the President of the United States said Medicare Advantage's benefits will not change. This says that there are a couple of reasons why he's wrong.

“One of the reasons is that the rate the government will pay private insurers to run the plan is frozen. It's frozen at -- in 2011 at the 2010 levels, while medical costs are expected to increase an average of at least 6%.

“So Medicare Advantage benefits are certainly going to change, Mr. President, and they're going to change in a way that is detrimental to the seniors of the country, regardless of what the President said today in his town hall meeting.

The Truth About Deficit and Costs

“Well, then he went on and he said the health bill ‘will actually reduce the deficit, reduce costs.’  That's what the President said today in his town hall meeting in Maryland.

“It's astonishing, because I don't believe any person in this chamber believes that. I don't think anyone listening at home to the town hall meeting believed it.  And the President's Chief Actuary doesn't believe it.

“Actually, the Chief Actuary a month or so after the bill was passed, after it was signed into law came back, released projections that said that the health care overhaul will likely cost about $115 billion more in spending over the next ten years than the original cost projections, taking the cost, the total estimated cost to above a trillion dollars.

The Truth About the Opposition to the Law

“He said (the President), ‘now, having said that, there are some of the folks who are against health reform in Congress.’

“I don't think anybody's actually against health reform, Mr. President, but I’ll tell you, there are a lot of people who are against this bill.

“He said (the President), ‘in fact, you have an entire party out there that's running on a platform of repeal.’ 

“It’s not a party, it's 60% of the American people who say we should repeal and replace this health care law.

The Truth that the President Failed to Mention

“So, the President had this meeting but there are a lot of things that the President of the United States did not tell the American people and it are those things, that's the reason that 60% of the American people are opposed to this new law.

“He didn't mention that Medicare cuts will be $550 billion and those are cuts to hospitals, cuts to nursing homes, cuts to home health agencies, cuts who hospice to help people in the final days and hours of their lives.

“Didn't mention that the new Medicare Director, someone he's recently named, loves the British health care system and says we're going to need to ration care. Didn't see that mentioned to the seniors today.

“Didn't see him mention the fact that 18 -- up to $18 million has been spent on a mailer about the new health care law that many have referred to this as propaganda because it fails to really clearly and honestly express what is going to happen to people on Medicare as they cut $550 billion from their health care over the next years.”

May 26 2010

Second Opinion: Health Care Law Undermines Employer Based Coverage

Barrasso: Companies Discover it’s Cheaper to Pay Penalty than Provide Coverage

The President promised that the new health care law would lower costs and allow people in Wyoming and all across the country to keep their current health care plan.

However, Fortune recently reported that many large companies are considering “dumping the health care coverage they provide to their workers in exchange for paying penalty fees to the government.”

A new Towers Watson study of large employers and their response to the health care law found ‘the overwhelming majority (90%) of employers believe health care reform will increase their organization’s health care benefit costs.  Only 14% surveyed believe the law will contain health care costs for the nation as a whole.’

Today, U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) spoke about this issue on the Senate floor.  Excerpts include:

“Most Americans have health insurance that they like, are happy with, except for the cost. Unfortunately, what this body has passed and what the President has signed is going to increase the cost and decrease the availability.

“And for people who like what they have, they're not going to be able to keep it. Now, you say, where do we come up with that?
 
“Well, there was an article written, a lengthy article, called ‘Documents reveal AT&T, Verizon, others thought about dropping employer-sponsored benefits.’
 
“Why would that be? Well, because of a very different regime it says.

“It says ‘a radically different regime of subsidies, penalties and taxes.’ And that's so much what is involved in this health care law: penalties, subsidies and taxes.

“Many large companies, this goes on to say, ‘are examining a course that was heretofore unthinkable. Dumping the health care coverage that they provide to their workers in exchange for just paying the penalty fees to the government.’

“The bottom line Mr. President, is taking a look at 1,100 pages of documents from four major employers, AT&T, Verizon, Caterpillar and John Deere. 

“So all four of these companies taking a look at the costs and the benefits of dropping health care coverage—the people who like the coverage that they have.

“You take a look at what are the alternatives if you don't want to provide the health care. Well, you pay a fine. You pay a fee.

“So AT&T, major company, employs up to 300,000 people with health care coverage that they like, and they're in a situation where the company is saying, you know, if we drop their coverage and pay the fine, we as a company can save $1.8 billion.

“Is that what this Congress intended? Is that what this Congress imagined? Is that what the people of this country deserve? No.

“What this shows is a bill that was crammed through and down the throats of the American people by an Administration desperate to have something passed into law, something that many people never even read before they voted in favor of it.”

Click here to watch the video of the speech.

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Earlier this week, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius had an op-ed in Politico where she said that “the American people are already seeing benefits” of the new health care law.  Secretary Sebelius specifically pointed out that the Administration is “collaborating with states to set up federally funded high-risk insurance pools to make sure that the Americans with the greatest need for health insurance will be able to get it.”

Unfortunately, Secretary Sebelius failed to explain that only people who have been uninsured for six months are eligible for the new high risk pools.  Recently, the Associated Press of Chicago reported the law leaves some Americans with preexisting conditions behind:

“Julie Kramer, 53, is feeling a bit cheated. She's paid high premiums — about $700 a month — for nearly seven years into Illinois' high-risk pool.

"It feels very unfair. It goes against the spirit of what health care reform was supposed to be," said Kramer, a self-employed writer and owner of Full Moon Marketing Communications in Vernon Hills. "This does seem like a low blow."

Today, U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) spoke about this issue on the Senate floor.  Click here to watch Senator Barrasso’s remarks about Ms. Kramer and other Americans who feel cheated by the new health care law.

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As the Washington Post recently reported “the Obama Administration’s campaign to sell the new health care law to a skeptical public is beginning to take shape.” 

The American people deserve the facts – not more spin.

Unfortunately, President Obama and Administration officials probably won’t tell the American people that the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) predicted yesterday that the new law will cost billions of dollars more than predicted.   Congress Daily outlined the report in a story today:

“CBO released a report Tuesday concluding that authorized costs in the health care overhaul law could exceed $115 billion over the next 10 years.”

Today, U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) spoke on the Senate floor about the CBO report and the doctor shortage in America.  Excerpts include:

“The revelation yesterday from the Congressional Budget Office is that when you take a look at some of the things that hadn't been scored, as they say, cost it out, it is going to add another $115 billion on top of that.

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“Recently the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, had an epiphany.  An epiphany about the doctor shortage in America.

“Last week she said, a nationwide primary care physician shortage had to be addressed before over 30 million Americans get access to subsidized health insurance coverage.

“She said, ‘how are we going to be ready when we already have a shortage in too many parts of the country?’

“The American Association of Medical Colleges tells us, at the current graduation and training rates, we are facing a shortage of 150,000 doctors in the next 15 years.

“Over the past year, medical experts warned Congress -- warned this body, warned the Administration -- that any health reform bill should tackle the issue of physician shortages. 

“But instead of helping doctors, the new law actually discourages the next generation from becoming doctors.

“This new bill cuts payments for doctors and cuts payments for patients on Medicare, and it doesn't include enough money to train new doctors.

“Maybe the Secretary -- maybe the Obama Administration, maybe Democrats in Congress should have paid attention to the experts before jamming this health care law down the throats of the American people.

“Maybe they should have heeded the calls that I heard from medical professionals all across Wyoming and across the country: Slow down.  Let's get it right.

“But, no, they didn't.

“And now the American people are stuck with a law that costs too much, doesn't solve America’s doctor shortage, doesn't even address it and doesn't deliver good care for patients.”

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