Floor Speech: Citing ISER Study, Murkowski Says Democrats Health Care Bill Would Be Poor Fit for Alaska

"In this morning's Wall Street Journal there is an article--actually, an editorial--and it starts out: ''Another Day, Another Study,'' confirming that Obamacare will increase the price of health insurance. It goes on to talk about a Blue Cross study. It talks about CBO numbers. But the reality is, we have numbers all over. I think we all recall the quote from Mark Twain: You've got liars, damn liars, and statisticians.

"Well, I think we are caught up in that world now of dueling numbers. Our numbers say this is going to increase your premiums. The other side's numbers say it is going to decrease your premiums. So the real question is, Who is right and whose numbers do you look to?

"Well, I think it is important, as so many of my colleagues have mentioned this morning, when we are talking about whether it is the home health care statistics in a State they impact, to look to those States and what they are saying the impact will be. So I have gone to our State's think tank, if you will. The Institute for Social and Economic Research at the University of Alaska is the entity that does a lot of analysis, not only on health care policy and issues but other economic issues. I have asked them, let's sort through some of these numbers. Let's sort through some of the statements that have been made out there. I think it is important to share this morning some of the statements coming out of ISER.

"When we talk about the premiums Alaskans are going to face, instead of a statement, a very simple statement, that, well, your premiums are going to go down, what ISER is saying is, when we look to the CBO estimate of the increase in the average premium for the nongroup market, what we expect to see is about a 12-percent increase by 2016. For single coverage, this is about $1,160 a year, and for family coverage it is about $2,900 in 2016.

"ISER is still conducting the analysis to determine the extent of the subsidies that may be available for Alaskans that could, in fact, reduce those premiums. But I think it is important to make clear that we are understanding what we are talking about when we make statements such as, well, this is going to increase or this is going to decrease. We need to make sure we are looking at all of the numbers.

"CBO has very clearly stated that the average premium per person for new nongroup policies is going to be between 10 and 13 percent higher in 2016 than the average premium. So we have to say, well, what is the difference between that statement and the statement the Democrats have made saying that the premiums are going to decrease by 14 to 20 percent? We have to look behind the screen, behind the curtain.

"Two of the factors, administrative efficiencies and new enrollment, will make premiums go down, but these reductions are then overwhelmed by a 27- to 30-percent increase in premiums because of the coverage requirements that are mandated within the bill. The Democratic analysis that is out there omits this 27- to 30-percent increase, fundamentally flawing the analysis.

"What are some of the other things ISER has taken a look at as it relates to this bill that is before the Senate right now? They have stated that because Alaska is a high-cost State, it is highly likely health insurance plans in Alaska will become subject to the excise tax on health insurance sooner than the U.S. average. The preliminary estimate is that roughly 50 percent of health plans in Alaska will be subject to the tax by the year 2016 compared to only a 19-percent average in the rest of the lower 48. They have also indicated that while the uninsured population will be reduced in Alaska, adding approximately 65,000 new enrollees to the market, their concern--and this is a statement I think is very important--is that the newly enrolled Medicaid expansion, and through the new exchange, will create a big surge in demand that could easily create what they call a ''traffic jam'' in the health care system and send the Medicare beneficiaries to the back of the line in Alaska due to Medicare's low reimbursement rate. This is exceptionally important for us to understand.

"On today's front page of the Washington Post there is an article about Texas ---- The only statement we need to remember from this article is that even with insurance, you need somewhere to go.

"Thank you, Madam President. I yield the floor."

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