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Camp Opening Statement: Hearing on the President’s Fiscal Year 2015 Budget Proposal with U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius

March 12, 2014

Secretary Sebelius, thank you for joining us today for a discussion of the President’s 2015 Budget.  

It has been four years since ObamaCare became law of the land, and it has been a bumpy road since then.  Millions of Americans are paying more for health care as a result of the law, a trend which will only continue to spike as a result of the failed health care Exchange launch.  All across the country, low-and middle-income Americans are seeing smaller paychecks and working less. Towns, schools, restaurants and businesses are struggling to comply with the law, finding that they are forced to cut hours or hold off on hiring.  Millions of Americans have discovered the plan they have and like has been cancelled, or that they can no longer rely on the care from their local doctor or hospital.

I hear about how the health care law is affecting communities like my hometown of Midland, Michigan, and how families are dealing with the uncertainty this has brought them and their children.  Unfortunately, and despite Republican attempts to provide Americans relief from the burdens of this law, it appears that this is a roadmap of what is to come.  We now know, after the failed launch of the Exchanges, that since the Administration was unable to meet their enrollment targets and failed to sign up enough young and healthy individuals, premiums will be higher next year.  The Congressional Budget Office also found that, compared to initial estimates, fewer individuals will find health care coverage through the Exchanges, Medicaid or employer-sponsored insurance.

And while Democrat leaders promised that ObamaCare would “create 4 million jobs, 400,000 jobs almost immediately,” the CBO projects fewer Americans will be working as a result of ObamaCare.  In fact, the U.S. economy will see “a decline in the number of full-time-equivalent workers of about 2.0 million in 2017, rising to about 2.5 million in 2024.” CBO went on to emphasize this would mean, “The largest declines in labor supply will probably occur among lower-wage workers.”

Secretary Sebelius, you have stated that “There is absolutely no evidence, and every economist will tell you this, that there is any job-loss related to the Affordable Care Act.”   But, the evidence is everywhere.  We hear it from employers back home, from testimony in front of Congress and we read about it in the papers weekly.

The law is not working as it was promised.  And yet, the President’s Budget doubles down on this law, requesting another $1.8 billion for its implementation.

With so many unanswered questions, it is hard to understand how or why Congress would approve such a request.  I’m hopeful you will shed some light on those questions and provide some answers today.  Basic questions such as:

  • How much taxpayer money has been spent thus far and where did it come from?
  • How much taxpayer money will be spent on subsidies for individuals outside of the Exchange?
  • How much did the failed launch of the Exchange cost taxpayers?
  • How many people have actually paid a premium?
  • How many previously uninsured Americans have signed up for ObamaCare?

And, increasingly we all must ask the question – when is the next delay or next administrative change in the law coming?  It seems not a holiday goes by without a new announcement from the Administration that delays some part of ObamaCare.  

Notably missing from this budget is any mention on how we can secure the promise of Medicare for seniors in the future.  In just a few short years, Medicare will go broke.  This Committee has released numerous discussion drafts based on bipartisan ideas to secure Medicare for current and future seniors, some of which were included in previous budgets from President Obama.  We have the opportunity now to work towards reforms that strengthen the program, and, the longer we wait, the harder the choices we must make will be.  We need to have an open dialogue between the Administration and Congress on this.  I am disappointed that the Administration has walked away from this commitment, and seemingly provided political cover during an election year rather than offer solutions.

I appreciate your making the time to be here today.  And I hope we can count on a more open, constructive dialogue between Congress and the Administration if we are going to make progress on resolving the law’s failures and working toward solutions for our nation’s seniors.