Remarks as Prepared for Delivery
WASHINGTON — Today, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) delivered the following opening statement during a hearing with Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia Burwell on the implementation of Obamacare and the HHS fiscal year 2016 budget request.
“First, I want to thank our witness, Secretary Burwell. We were supposed to have our hearing earlier this year, but events overtook us. So here we are today. I understand the majority of your remarks will be about the president’s budget request. That’s all well and good. But it shouldn’t surprise you that we’re more interested in talking about Obamacare, especially given the president’s remarks this week.
“And I hope he gives you a medal after this—because defending Obamacare is no easy task. I think any objective observer would say this law is on the fritz . . . by the law’s own standards.
“The whole point of Obamacare was to make health care more affordable. But premiums aren’t going down; they’re going up—way up. All over the country, insurers are proposing double-digit premium hikes. In Maryland, it’s close to 30 percent. Tennessee, 36 percent. South Dakota, 42 percent.
“Tax season was like a bad dream before. Now it’s a total nightmare. People could never afford these plans on their own, so the law gave them subsidies. Well, now, two-thirds of the people who got them had to pay the IRS back—on average over $700. That’s not the kind of money most people have lying around.
“And for all of this hassle, what are we getting for it? The argument was if people had insurance, they’d go to the doctor instead of the emergency room. But now even more people are using the emergency room.
“So, whatever the Supreme Court decides this month, I think the lesson is clear: Obamacare is busted. It just doesn’t work. And no quick fix can change this fact. We’re not talking about a fender bender or a flat tire. The whole law’s a lemon. Its very linchpin—its central principle—is government control. That means higher prices, fewer choices, and lower quality. So theanswer isn’t just tighten a few screws and everything will be fine. The answer is to repeal and replace this law with real, patient-centered reforms.
“And the truth is, I don’t have to convince this administration the law is broken. I know that you know it’s broken . . . because you keep trying to fix it. For several years now, HHS has delayed parts of the law—and in some cases rewritten it—on the fly. We know the most egregious example: the subsidies. The law says people who buy plans on state exchanges can get subsidies. It doesn’t say anything about the federal exchanges. And yet, HHS has sent millions of subsidies out the door, putting millions of people at risk.
“More and more it seems the administration isn’t so much implementing the law as improvising it. We already have evidence of the administration using one account to pay for multiple programs—programs that Congress has never funded. That’s one of the main reasons we’re holding this hearing today. It is Congress that wields the power of the purse. And more and more the administration is acting like a purse-snatcher.
“So again, my kudos to you for taking a tough assignment. But the American people deserve better. They deserve a health care system that puts the patient first. They deserve lower prices, more choices, and higher quality. And this committee is going to do all it can to make those reforms happen.”