Secretary Sebelius, thank you for joining us today for a discussion of the President’s 2014 Budget.
One of the top priorities for this Committee is to act now to save Medicare so that every generation of seniors can count on it. So, I welcome the inclusion of some conceptual reforms to Medicare – including recognizing the urgent need for a permanent solution to pay local doctors fairly so they can continue to treat our seniors, and improvements to the current Medicare structure to modernize cost sharing.
However, the President’s budget falls far short of what’s needed to save Medicare. Its trustees tell us this important program is going broke, sooner rather than later.
The White House and Congress need to act together now – this year – to save Medicare for the long term. And I challenge you and the President to save Medicare for its own sake, not conditioned upon wringing tax increases from hardworking Americans that has nothing to do with Medicare.
This Committee will act. At the direction of Chairman Camp we are convening a series of hearings beginning next week to examine bipartisan solutions to save Medicare, some supported by the President. I invite you to join this Committee in working toward long overdue actions that protect, improve and strengthen Medicare.
Both Republicans and Democrats can agree that Americans need the right kind of health care reform – reform that lowers costs, improves health and protects the vulnerable. But many Americans are concerned the Affordable Care Act may not be able to deliver.
They have real concerns about how the law will affect their personal health care – that the President’s law will cause health care costs to go up while the quality of care goes down.
This White House repeatedly promised it would lower costs by thousands of dollars for individuals and families, and that Americans would not lose the health insurance they have and like.
Yet, you recently admitted that the mandates in the new law will make health care premiums more expensive. And this week you warned that almost 25 million Americans will lose the insurance they get at work. Clearly the President’s new law is not helping families or local businesses, and this budget does nothing to offer them relief.
To add insult to injury, as our economy continues to struggle and millions of Americans have given up looking for work, the health care law is resulting in fewer jobs and frozen wages. It’s forcing local businesses to replace full-time jobs with part-time jobs.
In one survey from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, over 70% of small businesses said the President’s health care law prevents them from hiring new workers. Another study found it would put over 3 million jobs at risk in the franchise industry alone. As one small businessman in Virginia stated, “I am convinced that the primary reason we aren’t seeing a robust economic recovery is the uncertainty and costs associated with this health-care law.”
In a wood pallet plant I toured in Conroe, Texas, the company owner told me the extra health care costs from the President’s new law is equal to opening two new plants and adding 100 new workers.
Our local businesses and their workers are worried. They’re asking “Why are my health care premiums going up? Why am I losing the health insurance I have and like? Why does Washington keep heaping on new red tape that keeps me from growing my business?”
These are serious questions I hope you can answer today, Madame Secretary.
On top of the $2 billion already spent to set up the bureaucracy for this law, the President’s budget seeks $1.5 billion more, including adding 1,000 new IRS employees to ensure Americans comply with the new taxes and mandates. What we really need are more doctors and nurses, not more IRS agents.
And finally, will the White House be able to deliver on October 1? Three full years after the law was passed this Administration seems in disarray as it rushes to set up the health care exchanges by that date.
With just six months to go, no one has any idea how many and which Americans will be forced into the exchanges, how they’ll operate, what the health insurance plans will look like or if Americans’ private information will be protected.
Patients, local businesses and those expected to deliver health care are extremely concerned. Many Americans believe that so far this has been nothing short of an absolute nightmare.
Madame Secretary, we are looking to you for honest and specific answers. Our families and small businesses deserve to know.
I now recognize Ranking Member Levin for his opening statement.