Senator Lankford Discusses Effects of Obamacare on Oklahoma Families on Senate Floor

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WASHINGTON, DC –Senator James Lankford (R-OK) today delivered a speech on the floor of the Senate to discuss the skyrocketing health care cost for Oklahomans and to share stories of Oklahoma families who have lost their health care or struggle to support their family under the current government-run health care system. During the speech, Lankford encouraged the Senate to deal with the issues of the Affordable Care Act and the need to let Americans choose their own health care, not the federal government.

This week, Lankford introduced the Patient Access to Higher Quality Health Care Act of 2017, which lifts the ban on the creation and expansion of physician-owned hospitals and allows them to participate in Medicare and Medicaid.

Remember back in the earliest days the Affordable Care Act being passed? It was all about, ‘premiums will decrease.’ In my state premiums went up just last year, one year, 76% in the individual market. One year increase, 76%. The year before under the Affordable Care Act, they went up 35% in one year. Premiums not only did not stabilize, they’ve accelerated out of control. This was all about, ‘deductibles will decrease.’ Deductibles have also skyrocketed. It was about, ‘if you like your doctor or if you like your health care, you can keep it.’ Doctors have moved to other hospitals. Doctors’ offices have stopped being independent. They have to be able to work for other facilities to be able to maintain the compliance requirements there so most of the independent doctors in Oklahoma are no longer independent doctors. They now work under a corporate structure or they cannot survive. And this whole thing about competition on the open market, we used to have multiple companies in Oklahoma that provided insurance. We now have one. Every other company has left. One company left. There is no competition driving down prices. It’s a monopoly, and it’s the same thing happening all over the country.

A single mom that has children from Norman, Oklahoma, contacted us and said this. That her family have seen their premiums triple over the last two years. Currently their premiums are $1,500 a month with a deductible for their family of $24,000. Another family contacted me that has a disabled child. Their federally-mandated health insurance under Obamacare for 2016 was $895. For 2017, $1,553 a month for this family with a disabled child. A husband and wife in Tulsa, Oklahoma, they wrote me and they said this: Their current monthly expense for just insurance is $1500 a month, twice the amount of their house payment. They have a relative that is working three part-time jobs because they can’t get a full-time job because under Obamacare, a full time job also requires all the benefits. And no one is hiring in that full-time area because of the additional requirements of Obamacare. So they’re working three part-time jobs and because they’re working three part-time jobs, they have no health insurance. They’re also paying the penalty fine on their taxes for not having insurance. So not only can they not get a full-time job because of the Obamacare requirements, they’re paying a penalty because of it as well.

What do we need to do? Let me give you a couple of quick thoughts. We’re going to need transition time. Whatever you hear about all of the conversation we have about the Affordable Care Act or replacing the Affordable Care Act, please know that all of the conversations for us begin with how do we do a good transition from where we are now to where we need to be. I have folks say, well, will next week this end? Will next year this suddenly goes away? No. There will have to be a transition process and it will be over several years. We’re also still looking at some of the most basic elements. For instance, I’ve had folks say, my kids, I want to be able to keep them on my insurance till 26. That’s been assumed, quite frankly, by the House and by the Senate. What the house already passed already keeps that. There’s been a lot of conversation about pre-existing conditions. Most of the conversation we have had as a senate behind closed doors is about taking care of people with pre-existing conditions. Those are very real issues. We understand the dynamic of what happens back and forth with insurance companies and families and the struggles that families have with their cancer patients, diabetics, rare blood diseases, Alzheimer’s, so many struggles that are out there. We get that. That’s in our conversation as well. But we’ve got to be able to find practical ways to be able to start leveling out the cost of insurance. We can’t survive with rates skyrocketing like they are. And people need to know that are in the safety net, the safety net is actually going to be there.

So I would encourage continued communication. Lots of folks have contacted my office an every side of this issue. Keep doing that. Lots of folks in this chamber have had dialogue. And though it looks like a partisan exercise, it’s actually a pretty open conversation among our conference to try to figure out how we’re going to actually help families, help our states, help our federal budget, and help us to be sustainable in these critical issues. I’ve got lots of other letters I can bring. There’s lots of other stories out there. But I think we know enough to be able to know, this is something that needs to be done. So while the nation gets distracted, we cannot. Let’s finish the health care conversation. Lots of families are counting on us.