(House of Representatives - November 19, 2013)

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[Pages H7238-H7241]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []


  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under the Speaker's announced policy of 
January 3, 2013, the gentleman from Indiana (Mr. Messer) is recognized 
for 60 minutes as the designee of the majority leader.
  Mr. MESSER. Mr. Speaker, I rise today for an important Special 
Order--this time, to focus on Republican solutions to our national 
health care crisis.
  The President's health care law has hurt more people than it has 
helped. Taxes are going up, premiums are rising to unaffordable levels, 
workers' hours are being cut, and people are losing the plans they 
like. After more than $500 million spent, the Web site doesn't even 
work. The truth is that, despite all these problems, the American 
people needed genuine health care reform before President Obama signed 
his signature law--and we still do.
  The American people deserve an alternative to the failures of the 
President's health care law, and we have one: The Affordable Health 
Care Reform Act. This important bill replaces the President's health 
care law with patient-centered reforms that genuinely lower costs while 
keeping you in charge of your health care.
  I have a few colleagues with me here today to join in this 
conversation. I certainly would like to start by yielding to 
Congressman Barton.
  Thank you for your leadership on this important issue.
  Mr. BARTON. Thank you. I want to recognize your leadership on the 
Republican Study Committee and the Health Task Force on preparing the 
legislation that you just referred to.
  I am the past chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, the past 
ranking member of that committee; and when the Affordable Care Act came 
through the Congress, I was the senior Republican on the committee of 

                              {time}  1715

  I don't want to tell you and the American people that I told you so, 
but I told you so. We knew that this wasn't going to work.
  For example, we had a hearing today about the Affordable Care Act in 
the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. 
It was focusing on the security of the Web site and on all of the 
problems and when the administration knew about those problems and what 
they did or didn't do. In the course of that hearing, Congressman Cory 
Gardner of Colorado was asking the senior civil servant, Mr. Chao from 
CMS, some questions.
  The gentleman from CMS just kind of, off the cuff, said, You know 
that 60 to 70 percent of the programs haven't been developed yet.
  Congressman Gardner followed up and said, What are you talking about?
  He said, All we are working on right now is the Web site to get 
people registered. We haven't completed that portion of the program 
about billing, that portion about accounting for treatment, how we 
interact with the hospitals and the patients and the doctors. 
Basically, 60 to 70 percent of the system has not been programmed yet.
  Mr. MESSER. Unbelievable.
  Mr. BARTON. Can you imagine that, if we are having the horrendous 
problems we are having on just getting people interacted with making 
choices of which kind of coverage they are going to choose, the 
problems you are going to have when you actually begin to have to use 
the system for real health care in January?
  So I and, I think, you and the other members of the Republican Study 
Committee task force on health, who helped prepare the legislation that 
you are talking about, are going to begin to push to delay the 
Affordable Care Act.
  I have a bill, H.R. 3348, that makes it voluntary the first year in 
that we are not going to impose the individual mandate on people. The 
President has already delayed the employer mandate for a year. My bill, 
H.R. 3348, would delay the individual mandate so that, as we work 
through all of the problems, people can choose to participate or can 
choose not to participate.
  I think it is becoming more apparent every day that the Affordable 
Care Act is like that shiny automobile that you see when you go into 
the showroom or go to the car lot. You see it, and the salesman says, 
Man, this thing is great. It gets 30 miles a gallon. It doesn't use 
much oil. Everything is power steering, and it has air-conditioning and 
a great stereo system. So you put down your down payment, and you take 
it out on the road. Son of a gun. The thing doesn't go above 50. It 
burns oil like it is going out of style. The air-conditioning doesn't 
work. The stereo system barely works. It is just a lemon.
  The Affordable Care Act is a lemon, and the American people and the 
Democrats on the other side of the aisle who voted for it are having 
buyer's remorse.
  So what we need to do is to delay it or to repeal it or to at least 
make it voluntary. Then let's look at some of these alternatives like 
the legislation that we put into play in which we give people real 
choices. It is a patient-centered, client-centered system. We allow 
insurance to be sold across State lines. We beef up affordable savings 
accounts, Health Savings Accounts. We do cover preexisting conditions, 
which I know you will talk about later on, but we do

[[Page H7239]]

it with a high-risk pool on a State-by-State basis.
  The Democrats have told us time after time in the general debate that 
you Republicans are against the Affordable Care Act, but you don't have 
an alternative.
  We have an alternative, and I think it is a good alternative. I am a 
sponsor of the legislation, and I am here to support you in this 
Special Order. As we go through and outline what is in it, I think the 
American people and the other Members of the House who are watching 
these proceedings--more and more of them--will say, We don't like that 
lemon that we have. Maybe we ought to go back, and maybe we ought to 
start over. Maybe some of these ideas in the alternative we should take 
a serious look at.
  So I commend you for your work on the legislation, and I also commend 
you for leading this Special Order this evening.
  Mr. MESSER. Thank you. Once again, I appreciate the gentleman's 
leadership. I appreciate your longstanding leadership on this important 
issue and your longtime leadership in Texas as well.
  As you have said, nobody wants to say, ``I told you so,'' but, 
unfortunately, what has unfolded in the most recent weeks and months is 
exactly what was predicted by folks on your committee and elsewhere 
because you could see from the beginning that the bill was 
fundamentally flawed and just didn't work.
  I want to cite to this Chamber the number 701. According to the 
Department of Health and Human Services, that is the number of Hoosiers 
who have successfully signed up for health insurance on the Affordable 
Care Act exchanges. Indiana isn't alone. States across the country are 
experiencing dismal enrollment numbers. What is worse is that millions 
of Americans, including 108,000 Hoosiers, are getting policy 
cancelation notices from their health insurance companies. These 
notices are coming at a faster rate than people are able to sign up for 
the health care plans under the President's health care bill.
  The President called a press conference once again last week to 
announce to the American people that, if you like your health care 
plan, you can keep it. The problem is, no matter how many times the 
President makes that promise, the promise still isn't true. Saying the 
promise over and over again doesn't magically make it true.
  One of my constituents, Michael Sturgis of Greensburg, called to let 
me know that he received a cancelation letter from his insurance 
company. He was told his monthly premium was going to increase from 
$397 a month to $831 a month--an almost $500 increase per month. His 
$5,000 deductible will now go up to $7,300. So he is spending more 
money for a plan that gives him less.
  This is unacceptable, and it is certainly not affordable. That is why 
we need to pass the American Health Care Reform Act. It is so people 
like Michael and the millions of Americans like him all across this 
country can remain in charge of their own health care.
  Now I would like to yield to a colleague of mine, another person who 
has shown great leadership on this important issue and who is a close 
personal friend of mine as well, the gentleman from North Carolina (Mr. 
  Mr. MEADOWS. I thank the gentleman. I thank, more importantly, his 
heart on representing the people of the great State of Indiana and on 
the fact that he is concerned on a daily basis. We have had 
conversations a number of times on not only how this health care law is 
affecting families but, truly, on how we must find a way to work 
together in a bipartisan way to stop the harmful effects on those men 
and women whom we call neighbors, friends, and constituents. So I thank 
the gentleman for yielding.
  Americans across the country are already feeling the impacts of 
ObamaCare, and many of them are fearful of what lies ahead. I know, in 
my State alone, we have had over 473,000 people who have lost their 
health care coverage due to cancelations because of ObamaCare. They 
keep asking, What is coming next? What is the next thing? Whether it is 
a Web site that doesn't work, whether it is the cancelation of 
policies, whether it is security concerns over the Web site that are 
existing, they are all concerned.

  I held a town hall meeting last night, and 85 percent of the callers' 
questions were related to ObamaCare. I don't think we have ever seen it 
so overwhelmingly lopsided in terms of one issue. Yet it was all about 
families, and for me, it was the families of western North Carolina.
  I had veterans asking me, Does this mean that I am going to lose my 
health care coverage? Is TRICARE going to be sucked into ObamaCare? 
Even though we have had promises to the contrary, we know that there is 
a real move afoot to minimize and to bring it down. So our commitment 
to our veterans is one that has to stay strong, and we have to be 
committed to that. I know that you agree with me on that particular 
  There was a wife who was worried about how she and her husband were 
going to be able to afford the premiums because their premiums had 
tripled. They said, We just don't know how we are going to be able to 
afford it. Then I had a business owner who employs, he said, between 26 
and 28 people. He said, I am not sure how we are going to be able to 
continue to provide health care coverage as premiums escalate. It is 
all about trying to make sure that I keep them gainfully employed, and 
now I am having to try to figure out how we pay for these premiums that 
have increased.
  These are real people. This is not politics. They have faces and 
names, and we have got to address it.
  People across the country have become gravely concerned. A recent 
poll showed more than 58 percent of the people believe that ObamaCare 
is not ready for prime time. In spite of this overwhelming stress over 
ObamaCare, the one question I continue to hear is: What is your 
  Many of the Democrats have claimed that Republicans only want to 
repeal the law rather than to try to fix it, but I can tell you that 
that is not the case because, even in this Congress, Republicans have 
offered over 102 bills to fix some of the problems with the Affordable 
Care Act while the Democrats have only offered 17 solutions.
  Now, last week, we passed one of those solutions, the Keep Your 
Health Plan Act, to make sure that if you like your health care plan 
that you can keep it, but much more needs to be done. The American 
Health Care Reform Act, which you were talking about, now has over 102 
cosponsors. It is a comprehensive solution that was put forth by House 
Republicans to address the serious problems that we have in our 
Nation's health care system.
  It is a multifaceted piece of legislation that provides an array of 
reforms and lower costs, which is something that the current bill 
really doesn't do. We talk about affordable care, but it hasn't really 
been lowering the costs. This is one that keeps it patient-centered and 
makes sure that health care is a decision between the doctor and the 
patient, not between the government and the patient. It provides those 
tax reforms for families and companies, and it levels the playing field 
in providing for health care for all Americans. It fully repeals the 
President's health care law. It eliminates billions in taxes and 
thousands of pages of unworkable regulations and mandates that we have 
already seen, and we are only now starting to find out what the 
implications are. It spurs competition to lower health care costs as we 
know that competition will do that. Yet it allows for the purchase of 
health insurance across State lines, enabling small businesses to kind 
of pool together in order to lower those health care costs, but it is 
really about reforming what we are seeing.
  It reforms medical malpractice laws in a commonsense way that limits 
trial lawyers' fees, but yet, at the same time, it does not diminish 
the protection for our patients if something were to go wrong. It 
expands Health Savings Accounts so that they can use pretax dollars to 
provide for their health care expenses.
  Ultimately, it is a safeguard. It safeguards us against those 
preexisting conditions. I know you have heard from your constituents, 
as I have from mine, that one of the good things about the Affordable 
Care Act is it makes sure those preexisting conditions are

[[Page H7240]]

covered. This does the same thing. It makes sure that they are 
protected. Yet, at the same time, it makes sure that those high-risk 
pools are extended and guaranteed that availability--a protection that 
many Americans depend on and need.
  I just want to thank you for your leadership on this particular 
issue. I believe it is time we worked together in a bipartisan way to 
fix this problem piece of legislation. We have put forth a proposal, 
and I urge my colleagues across the aisle to join us. I thank you for 
your leadership in highlighting this this evening.
  Mr. MESSER. Thank you. I certainly appreciate the gentleman and his 
leadership. I am sure you have been asked by many, both privately and 
publicly, the same thing that I have been asked, which is: Aren't you 
just really rooting for ObamaCare to fail?

                              {time}  1730

  The comment I make every time I am asked that question is, no, I am 
rooting for the millions of Americans who are now being harmed by this 
bill. All the moms and dads that are worried about whether they are 
going to have insurance that had it before. The people who were 
promised things, that they would suddenly magically have insurance, and 
now they are not getting it.
  In the areas across the country where there were promises that rates 
would go down and now rates are going up, those folks now are caught at 
this point. I do think we have a responsibility. You and I both know, 
anybody that has been following here, we were opposed to ObamaCare and 
led efforts, along with many others, to try to make sure that we didn't 
have it.
  We also have always recognized that the status quo wasn't acceptable 
in health care either. That while we had a lot of great things in our 
system--certainly some of the best health care treatment in the world--
we had a program that was unaffordable and rates were going up.
  We have free enterprise-based, patient center-based solutions that 
can make a difference.
  I appreciate your leadership and highlighting this.
  Mr. MEADOWS. You are absolutely right. I know that I have got 
physicians in North Carolina that are looking at retiring because of 
dealing with the bureaucracy of this new law. We have got hospitals who 
thought it was going to be a great advantage to them in covering those 
costs that are now looking and saying, well, the implementation of it 
is really--what we were promised and what we are getting may not be 
exactly the same.
  We need to make sure that we right this ship, that we do what is 
  I am honored to be able to cosponsor this legislation with you and 
look forward to your leadership, and I thank you.
  Mr. MESSER. Thank you very much.
  For months, the President has unilaterally enacted modifications, 
repeals, and delays to his own law, yet none of those so-called 
``fixes'' have fixed this flawed law. Health care costs have continued 
to skyrocket. This is a huge burden on employers, individuals, and 
  The American Health Care Reform Act will drive down the cost of 
health care through increased competition, individuals will be able to 
purchase health insurance across State lines and, as my colleague 
highlighted, businesses can pool together to get the same buying power 
as large corporations.
  Under the American Health Care Reform Act, families will have the 
flexibility to pick the coverage that best fits their needs. When 
people are in charge of their own health care, they become better 
consumers, which will encourage competition in the health care market. 
Real savings will only happen when people, not Washington bureaucrats, 
are in charge of their own health care.
  Next up, I would like to highlight a real leader on this important 
issue of providing an alternative to the failed programs of the 
President's health care law, my friend and colleague from Louisiana, 
the chairman of the Republican Study Committee, Mr. Scalise. Great to 
have you here.
  Mr. SCALISE. I want to thank my friend and colleague, Mr. Messer from 
Indiana, for yielding and for your leadership in talking about this 
here on the House floor.
  I think a lot of us over the last few years that this law has been on 
the books, while we have been pointing out all of the many problems 
that it is creating for families, we predicted, unfortunately, we saw 
this coming. This ``train wreck,'' as it was called by the lead sponsor 
in the Senate who rammed the bill through, he called it a train wreck 
recently because he finally acknowledged how devastating this would be. 
Of course, the President, we all remember that promise that was 
repeated time and time again: If you like what you have, you can keep 
it. Something we all embrace.
  Of course, I knew, you knew, so many of us knew, I think even the 
President knew, unfortunately, when he was making that promise time and 
time again for the last 3 years, that that promise could not be kept 
under the President's health care law; just with all the mandates, all 
the unworkable taxes and mandates and these government bureaucrats that 
come between patients and doctors and get in the middle of health care, 
and IRS agents coming with the hammer to enforce this law.
  We all knew. We saw that there would be no way people would be able 
to keep the health care that they liked. While we repeated it many 
times, it wasn't real until recently when millions--millions--of 
families started getting cancelation notices, losing the good health 
care that they have today and enjoy.
  I have gotten letters from so many of my constituents. We reached out 
through social media with Facebook and Twitter and Share with Steve and 
asked for their stories. I remember Shaun from Covington who said, I am 
losing the good health care I have.
  I posed the question to Secretary Sebelius at a hearing. I said, here 
is a guy in my district, we are hearing this over and over again, he is 
losing his health care, what do you tell him? She said, well, just go 
in the marketplace. Of course this is the Web site that doesn't work 
that spent over $500 million of taxpayer money. Not one person has been 
held accountable, by the way, for that failure.
  As we point out all these failures, we also said there is a better 
way. We as conservatives stepped forward and said, we ought to put down 
on paper the things we stand for: market-driven, consumer-patient 
oriented health care reforms that actually lower costs, that will 
actually increase access. We put it together in a bill called the 
American Health Care Reform Act, H.R. 3121, a bill anybody can go look 
up and read. In fact, a bill that is less than 200 pages long with all 
the great reforms in it. Of course, comparing and contrasting that to 
the President's health care law with over 2,700 pages, all these 
unworkable mandates.
  What the bill does is just basic commonsense reforms that should have 
been done years ago. We, of course, as you mentioned, allow people to 
buy across State lines. People in America, probably some of the best 
consumers in the world, with the Internet with so many options, people 
go online every day and find good products for their family. They don't 
care where that product is from. If it is good for their family, they 
are going to buy it.
  With health care you really can't do that. You don't really have that 
opportunity. The health care law has taken those options away from 
families. So we say, let's empower people again, let's put patients 
back in charge of their health care decisions.
  I am from Louisiana. If I find a better deal for my family in the 
State of Maryland, I can go buy that plan. I should be able to buy that 
plan. Right now I really can't. Yet you do that with car insurance and 
so many other products. You are able to buy across State lines, and it 
gives you opportunities.
  We do so many other things to make sure people with preexisting 
conditions can't be discriminated against, allowing small businesses to 
pull together.
  Again, this is a bill that has been put together by conservatives in 
the House. In fact, a number of medical doctors, actual medical 
doctors, people with real world experience in health care, helped draft 
this bill and, ultimately, we brought it forward and we have over 100 

  So I think the momentum is building as the President's law just 
continues to

[[Page H7241]]

collapse and, frankly, the President's credibility collapses with it. 
People I think are looking for that better way, and we have it with the 
American Health Care Reform Act.
  Again, I thank the gentleman from Indiana for his leadership, and I 
yield back.
  Mr. MESSER. I certainly appreciate the gentleman from Louisiana and 
his leadership. I know you were quoted over the weekend on FOX News by 
George Will describing the tragic circumstances that most Americans see 
themselves in, those that have lost their health care plan. I would 
like you to expand on that just a little bit, if you don't mind.
  Mr. SCALISE. Sure. One of the things we have heard so much from this 
administration about health care as they have referred to people's 
plans, good plans, they refer to many of them as ``lousy'' plans. I 
have been in hearings where we have had Obama administration officials, 
in fact the President himself goes around chastising people and saying, 
you might be losing your plan, but it probably wasn't that good of a 
plan anyway.
  Who is it for some Washington politician to tell somebody, and in 
Covington, Louisiana, as a constituent of mine, Shaun, said, who is it 
for the President to say that Shaun's plan was lousy when Shaun liked 
his plan? The President's promise was not, ``If Barack Obama likes what 
you have, you can keep it.'' The promise was, ``If you like what you 
have, you can keep it.'' No Washington politician or bureaucrat or IRS 
agent should be able to take that away from you.
  Yet, as that was happening and they are berating people saying, your 
plan wasn't that good, it was a lousy plan, I said it is kind of like a 
guy who burns down your house and then he shows up with an empty bucket 
of water and then he sits there and gives you a lecture on how bad and 
lousy your house was before the fire. All you want is your house back. 
You didn't want somebody to burn it down in the first place.
  People just want their good health care. They sure don't want to be 
lectured by some bureaucrat or politician in Washington saying, hey, 
your plan really wasn't that good because I don't think it was that 
good; when, in fact, the person back home is saying, I thought it was 
good, it was good for my family, my doctor can go see my kids, and I 
want to continue that relationship with my doctor, and they are about 
to lose it. They are losing it with these Washington politicians who 
helped ram this bill through.
  That is why I think, as the President's health care law collapses on 
all the weight of these unworkable mandates and taxes, we need to put 
up an alternative, and we have an alternative called a better way--the 
American Health Care Reform Act.
  We want to help bail those people out with a real bucket of water and 
a real relief sign that there is something that we are doing, not only 
to point out how bad the law is--they are seeing it play out every 
day--but also how we can actually fix the problems that are becoming 
even worse because of this law.
  Mr. MESSER. Again, I thank the gentleman. Thank you for your 
  As we have talked about before, the American people needed health 
care reform before the disaster of ObamaCare rolled out. Obviously, we 
need it now more than ever given the failings of recent days. H.R. 
3121, the American Health Care Reform Act, is an answer.
  There are several principles upon which we should all be able to 
agree when it comes to genuine health care reform.
  First, patients should not be denied health insurance because of 
preexisting conditions.
  Second, any Federal policy changes must be designed to drive costs 
down, not up, as we have seen under the so-called Affordable Care Act.
  Third, you should be able to keep your health care plan if you like 
it. I agree with former President Bill Clinton when he has said that, 
given that very clear promise that was made by President Obama on 
behalf of the Federal Government to the American people, we need to 
pass legislation--we have already passed a bill in the House--but we 
need to pass legislation that makes sure that promise is kept.
  Fourth, we need commonsense medical liability reform that puts an end 
to the expensive system of defensive medicine that we have now.
  Health care decisions should be left up to you and your doctor, not 
Washington bureaucrats.
  The American Health Care Reform Act is centered on these five 
  Frivolous lawsuits are driving up health care costs and forcing good 
doctors out of the medical field. The American Health Care Reform Act 
improves medical liability law. Frankly, Indiana has been a leader in 
this area because of leadership from former Governor ``Doc'' Bowen, a 
physician back in the 1960s. The Indiana medical malpractice reform 
approach would be a great Federal model, and its principles from that 
plan is a part of H.R. 3121, which we are talking about today.
  We need improved medical liability law that allows doctors to 
continue practicing medicine without fear of excessive and unfair 
  I also would like to talk to you a little bit about the importance of 
medical savings accounts. Fellow Hoosier Pat Rooney is known as the 
``father of health savings accounts'' from his work as the president 
and CEO of Golden Rule. They were established in 2003 while Pat Rooney 
was the chairman of the Golden Rule Insurance Company. Pat believed 
people should own their own health care.
  Health savings accounts have proven to be a useful tool for 
individuals and families while navigating the health care system. Our 
plan, H.R. 3121, expands health savings accounts and enhances their 
performance by increasing the cap on contributions and expanding the 
allowable uses of health savings account funds. This gives people more 
control over how they spend their health care dollars and allows them 
to invest pretax dollars toward their future health care needs.
  Mr. Speaker, no one doubts that real reform is needed, but there are 
two distinct visions for the future of health care in our Nation.
  The President's plan expands the Federal Government's role in health 
care, raises taxes, and imposes unfair and unworkable mandates on the 
American people. Our plan, H.R. 3121, the American Health Care Reform 
Act, puts people in charge of their own health care. It encourages 
competition to lower costs and expand coverage.
  American families, businesses, and individuals deserve real solutions 
to the very serious problems that exist in health care in America 
today. The American Health Care Reform Act provides a path to true 
  Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.