Speeches

Madam President I rise today to give voice to some of my fellow Utahns who are suffering because of the health care law passed seven years ago this March.

These are not stories from wealthy Utahns who have had to pay higher taxes. Nor are these stories from low-income Utahns who already had insurance through Medicaid.

These are letters from the too often invisible victims of Obamacare: those middle class families who used to be able to afford health care when they needed it, but are now forced to pay for what often amounts to a second mortgage, for a so-called “insurance” plan that never seems to pay out because of high deductibles.

Jenica from Davis County, Utah writes:

“I am an ordinary mother raising my kids and striving to live within my means. For the first time, my family is facing a year with no health insurance. Our gross income falls a few hundred dollars per month too high for us to receive help through CHIP or UPP programs, but we cannot afford to purchase health insurance through my husband's work or through the Marketplace.

After this year's premium increases, the most inexpensive plan offered to us on the Marketplace is a full quarter of our gross income per month (before taxes), and if we put that into our budget we will not be able to save any money to pay deductibles as healthcare needs arise.

We face the same problem with my husband's work insurance; it would be even more expensive, and we cannot wisely budget a quarter or more of our income toward health insurance premiums.

I know this problem is not limited to my family, and I want you to be aware of those of us who are falling in the gap this year.

We earn barely too much to receive any assistance, but not enough to actually pay for insurance premiums. It seems the wisest course for us is to withdraw from insurance and save our money to pay for medical expenses in cash, as well as saving to pay the fine on our taxes next year.

It is a decision I do not make lightly, as I know that the insurance companies need more people, not less, to participate to make the system work. However, my family cannot afford to participate this year.

I know you will represent us well and take our needs into consideration as you work with the other members of Congress to make our country's healthcare system work for all of us. Thank you for serving our state and our country. May God bless you and your efforts.”

May God bless you too Jenica. I promise I will do everything I can to make sure you and families like yours are not forgotten when we repeal and replace this law.

Trevor from Saint George, Utah had a similar story:

“I recently got a new job and I'm trying to get healthcare. None of the 3 plans my employer offers are affordable to me, even though the government claims they are. Even if I were to buy the cheapest plan, I would never be able to use it because of the high deductibles.

I do not qualify for Medicaid, and earn $1,000 per year too much to qualify for subsidies.

In a nutshell, I can't afford to buy insurance from anywhere, and by not buying it, I can't afford the penalty levied by the federal government. What is someone in my position supposed to do?

The ACA is not helping the very people it was designed to help and is in fact throwing a terrible burden upon me and my family. We need a new healthcare system. This one is not working. Please share my story so that others will be aware that people in my position (and there are many of us) are struggling.”

I will share your story Trevor. And soon we will be one step closer to a new health care system.

The last letter I wanted to share today comes from Washington County. Ron writes:

“Today I received a letter from my health insurance carrier indicating that the premium for me and my two kids (yes, only three people) is increasing from $1,020 to $1,706, an increase of slightly over $8,200 per year. My annual income for 2017 will not be increasing, let alone to cover eight grand.

Later this afternoon, I am contacting my travel agency (a local small business) and asking Judy to cease her research into my family vacation for the summer of 2017. Why would I cancel my vacation and also take away revenue from a local small business? The answer is “67.26%”. That is the percentage increase for my health care insurance.

I need you to see that this is real. It greatly and negatively impacts my family and it subsequently impacts local businesses as more of my money is drained from the economy. I make roughly $60,000 per year. My medical premium is now one third of my gross income! Plus, I still have to pay out deductibles and copays.

Even the bronze programs, which are worthless, are designed to bankrupt a family and end up costing more in the long-run, have exceeded the cost of the mortgage I took out on my St. George home in 2014. More than my mortgage! Repeat more than my mortgage. That should send shivers down anyone’s spine.

One of the most important aspects of America’s middle class is the ability for a family to purchase a home. Now that insurance premiums have exceeded the mortgage payment of a median priced home in the US, I suspect that the dream is now slipping out of the hands of many Americans.”

You are right Ron. Thanks to Obamacare the American dream is slipping away from far too many families.

These aren’t just the stories of a few Utahns. There are fewer affordable options for Utahns throughout the state. In 20 out of 29 counties, Utahns can only choose a health plan from one insurance company. And of the options available, the costs have risen far too much each year. For 2017 plans, insurance rates across Utah increased at least 30 percent on average.

But help is on the way. Thanks to President-elect Donald Trump’s victory this November, we now have the opportunity to uproot this health care law, root and branch.

Now the old system was far from perfect . After we repeal Obamacare we still will have much work to unbundling health care from health insurance so that doctors, nurses, patients, and innovators can do the work of bringing down prices and increasing quality.

But step one is repealing this health care law. Trevor, Jenica, Ron, I hear you. I hear all the Utahns that have contacted me with their experiences with this health care law. And now my colleagues have heard you too.

We will repeal this law and bring real reform to our nation’s broken health care system.