WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio), a member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, spoke at a hearing today on the state of health insurance markets since the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Portman praised Lt. Gov. Taylor, who testified before the committee about the realities of rising health care costs in Ohio, for her work as Director of the Ohio Department of Insurance to illustrate the effects of the Affordable Care Act in Ohio:

“This is not just a theoretical issue about health care policy; it’s about people’s lives and their inability to get the right insurance that covers their families. I’m grateful to Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor for her expertise as a CPA and for sharing her experiences as Director of the Department of Insurance about the consequences of the President’s health law on Ohioans, and about how, after eight years of stagnating wages, slow economic growth, and a rising cost of living, they deserve relief from its broken promises.”

Portman, who just yesterday introduced legislation to allow states to offer Americans more health insurance options next year, discussed with Lt. Gov. Taylor the unsustainable path of ACA and the burden it has put on middle-class Ohio families.

Transcript of Portman’s remarks and questioning with Lt. Governor Taylor can be found below and a video can be found here

Senator Portman: “Thank you Mr. Chairman. This has been a very interesting discussion. Look, our healthcare system wasn’t perfect before the Affordable Care Act, but as was indicated by pretty much every speaker today, even you Mr. Kreidler—and I appreciate your saying this—many of the pledges and promises that were made just haven’t been kept. And you could say ‘well that’s because of overpromising and it still means that this is an improvement,’ but I have to tell you for a lot of my constituents it’s not an improvement. It’s created more problems for them. And it’s not just higher costs. It’s people losing their insurance. We haven’t even talked about the co-ops, which is part of the Affordable Care Act and this committee has done some good work on that as well as our subcommittee. We’ve got tens of thousands of Ohioans that have lost their coverage under the co-op because, you know, pretty much every few weeks another co-op goes under. This is has been tough for people. I have got 30 specific examples here of constituents I brought with me today out of the hundreds we’ve gotten. We have a portal on our website where people can tell us their experience. I’m not going to go through all of them because I don’t have time, but…it’s not just this theoretical issue that’s a debate about health care policy. It’s about people’s lives and their families and their inability to get insurance that covers them. So I think you have done a good job, Lt. Gov. Taylor, today in talking about the numbers, but behind those numbers are people. So here’s Chad from Archbold: ‘The plan we had when Obamacare was signed into law, the one we liked, was canceled at the next renewal. Company said they were no longer able to do it due to the law’s passage. Didn’t meet the requirements of the law. He promised we could keep our plan if we liked it. He promised lower rates. Our premiums have risen 92 percent and we keep raising deductibles to keep it from going up more.’ I hear that a lot back home. People say, ‘yeah I’ve got healthcare coverage but really I don’t because my deductible is $5,000-$7,000 now and that means it’s like I don’t have coverage.’ One thing I think we should point out—and I couldn’t agree more with Senator Carper and others who spoke and said that—we need to do this on a bipartisan basis. That wasn’t done with Obamacare obviously as Senator McCain who was here at the time talked about. I wasn’t here at the time but I saw it being shoved through. But we need to figure out how to deal with this issue of not just the cost, but the quality of the care. Competition is going to help with that too, right. So let’s talk about competition for a second. You’ve given some troubling testimony today, Lt. Gov. Taylor, and you talked about the fact that you’re seeing a big increase next year. I think you said these rates are about a 12 or 13 percent increase next year. I mean, who can afford that? This is in the exchanges, individual market exchanges. You said it’s gone up 91 percent since the 2013-2014 time period.”

Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor: “Yes”

Portman: “Wow. What do you see happening in the future? What’s it going to be in 2018 and what’s it going to be five years from now. What do you think is going to happen if things don’t change?”

Taylor: “Well it’s really hard to predict the future, but if we look at the past and what has happened over the last several years, my biggest concern for the next couple of years is that we still aren’t going to have a stabilized market because as we continue to lose carriers providing covering on the federal exchange, that obviously creates turmoil within the market that’s in that particular district or in that particular region and that creates a lot of chaos. Where there’s chaos it’s hard to price products. Where that happens, obviously it’s the consumer in the end that gets harmed because they’re going to pay more or they’re going to have—as has been stated by some my colleagues—a shrinking provider network, as we’re seeing also in Ohio, where we just don’t have the provider networks that consumers in Ohio are used to. My concern over the next couple of years where our early study that we commissioned in 2011 may have predicted that the market would stabilize by now. Unfortunately that has not happened. I’m not certain that that’s going to happen in the next year or two either.”

Portman: “Well, it hasn’t stabilized and what’s interesting about your testimony is that it’s gotten worse and very recently it’s gotten worse. So, I’m looking at your testimony here: 17 companies in 2016 were approved to offer health care in the federal exchanges. Only 11 have decided to offer plans in 2017, right?”

Lt. Gov. Taylor: “That’s correct.”

Portman: “So here we’re at a period of where you would have expected some stabilization. Instead, you have just the opposite. We have 88 counties in Ohio, how many now only have one insurer? I was doing the math when you were talking about it and I think it’s about 25 percent of our counties.”

Lt. Gov. Taylor: “Nineteen.”

Portman: “That’s about 25 percent, I think, that have only one insurer. I know that, again, it’s a complicated area there’s a lot of debate about what we do, but just the lack of choice and the lack of competition. I said it relates to costs, but it also relates to quality care. Recently there was a group called the Kaiser Family Foundation that put out some estimates on this. They’re saying that 19 percent of enrolles could have a single ensurer by next year, 2017. They talk about the increase in costs: substantially, double digit costs for people. They just can’t afford it. Eighty-six percent of Obamacare premium were subsidized by tax dollars, so people will say ‘I’m not on the exchange,’ because most people aren’t on the exchange. ‘It doesn’t affect me.’ Well it does affect all of us because we’re all taxpayers. But the other thing that’s happening in Ohio—and I’m told is happening around the country—is that these insurers who can’t make a profit under the xhanges because of the way they are structured, are doing what? They are all staying in business. They are either leaving the exchanges, which as you see, AETNA just left Ohio as you reported a few weeks ago. But they’re also cost-shifting, right? So if you are a person in an exchange plan, the bad news is your costs are going up dramatically. Deductibles, co-pays, premiums, everything. If you are being subsidized by that, that helps you clearly. But then the taxpayers are obviously paying that, but also we have this situation where, if you’re in an employer-based plan—which is where most of us are—you’re seeing an increase in yours as well, because these companies aren’t going out of business.  Do you have any evidence of that in Ohio? That there’s cost shifting from the insurance companies who can’t make it on the exchanges because they’re losing money–and I assume we have number on those, I know Anthem for instance loses money in Ohio and other states that they’re in –but these companies aren’t in trouble because they’re cost-shifting onto the private employers. That’s a concern outside of all that we’re talking about today.”

Lt. Gov. Taylor: “Right, Senator Portman, I think it was Aetna when they made their announcement they were pulling out of many markets across the country, had announced a $400 million loss on their federal exchange business. Just using that number, clearly, there are some insurers that are finding it very difficult…”

Portman: “I really appreciate your expertise and being a CPA and understanding how insurance works and, as you say, looking at these broader dynamics in health care—which was not done in the Affordable Care Act, unfortunately. That’s what we have to do in this place and we have to do it on a bipartisan basis unlike last time and we have to come up with something that actually makes sense in the real world. And so you do have the ability to provide people with an affordable, high-quality healthcare.”

NOTE: Portman has led the effort in exposing the failures of the Affordable Care Act’s Consumer Operated and Oriented Plans (CO-OP) program. With the announced closing of Ohio’s CO-OP InHealth Mutual, nearly 22,000 Ohioans have to scramble for new health insurance coverage while facing rising health care costs, despite having been encouraged by the Obama Administration to enroll in the Obamacare marketplace and to trust in its plan options. Portman has been demanding answers, saying that the Administration “owes these Ohio families a solution to a problem it created.” 

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