Nebraskans are facing more bad news as Obamacare continues to unravel. On September 23, Blue Cross Blue Shield announced its departure from Nebraska’s exchange due to losses totaling in the hundreds of millions of dollars.
This change from the state’s largest insurer will leave 20,000 Nebraskans looking for new coverage as they enter 2017. Fortunately, the announcement came prior to the open enrollment period in the Obamacare exchanges, giving consumers time to find a new plan.
Dwindling options under Obamacare are nothing new. CoOportunity Health, a Consumer Operated and Oriented Plan (co-op) created under President Obama’s health care law, sold plans covering 120,000 Nebraskans and Iowans in 2014. It soon became the first co-op to close, leaving consumers without coverage after the open enrollment period had already ended.
Since then, 17 of the 23 co-ops, which received more than $1.7 billion in federal loans, have closed or are in the process of closing. All six of the remaining co-ops are struggling to remain solvent.
In February 2015, as reports removed any last doubts about CoOportunity Health’s impending liquidation, I introduced a bill to prevent taxpayers from having to pay Obamacare’s individual mandate penalties if they lost their insurance in the wake of a co-op closure.
Originally, I designed the legislation to assist Nebraskans and Iowans impacted by CoOportunity Health’s collapse. As the number of failed co-ops across the country began to rise, more Members of Congress took an interest in moving the bill forward. The Ways and Means Committee, on which I serve, passed the bill in early September 2016.
On September 27, the U.S. House passed my bill in a bipartisan vote. The final legislation, known as the CO-OP Consumer Protection Act, exempts taxpayers from the individual mandate for the remaining months within the calendar year in which their co-op insurance plan was cancelled. It applies retroactively to individuals who lost coverage after December 31, 2013, including those in Nebraska and Iowa who lost plans sold by CoOportunity Health.
During debate on the bill in Committee and on the House floor, defenders of Obamacare accused me of trying to undermine the entire health care law. Frankly, I wish the bill could dismantle the unworkable mess known as Obamacare, but this is not its purpose.
It is a simple bill rooted in fairness. Americans who lost their health insurance through no fault of their own deserve certainty rather than having to take their chances within the federal bureaucracy to avoid paying a tax penalty. They need time and flexibility to find a plan which works for their unique circumstances, especially when they face even fewer coverage options and possibly having to start over on their deductibles.
It is absurd for the government to penalize consumers who tried to comply with the law but could not do so due to the law’s own failures.
Obamacare’s cycle of spending and mandates is not sustainable. As we work to bring relief to Americans, we need our next president to work with us on our plan to give Americans more health coverage options while reducing costs and returning decisions to patients and their doctors.Read More
Congressman Adrian Smith (R-NE) will meet constituents of the Third District during a mobile office on Wednesday, October 5, in Brewster.
A mobile office allows constituents to meet directly with Congressman Smith about federal issues and take advantage of the constituent services available through his office, such as assisting individuals with challenges they face while working with a federal agency, ordering flags flown over the U.S. Capitol, and booking tours in Washington, D.C.
Smith, who has offices in Grand Island and Scottsbluff, will hold the mobile office in Franklin on Wednesday, October 5, at the following time and location:
Blaine County Courthouse 145 Lincoln Ave, Brewster, NE 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m. (CDT)
For additional information, please contact Congressman Smith’s Grand Island office at (308) 384-3900.Read More
Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed Congressman Adrian Smith’s (R-NE) bill, the Co-Op Consumer Protection Act, to provide relief from Obamacare penalties to taxpayers who lost their insurance coverage due to the failures of the Consumer Operated and Oriented Plans (co-ops) created under the President’s health care law.
Congressman Smith’s opening statement on the House floor on his bill, the Co-Op Consumer Protection Act.
Congressman Smith’s closing comments on his bill.
“This is a simple bill rooted in fairness,” Smith said. “Americans who lost their health insurance through no fault of their own deserve certainty rather than having to take their chances within the federal bureaucracy to avoid paying a tax penalty. These consumers deserve time and flexibility to find a plan which works for their unique circumstances, especially when they face even fewer coverage options and possibly having to start over on their deductibles.
“It is absurd for the government to penalize consumers who tried to comply with the law but could not do so due to the law’s own failures. Though the President continues to advocate for the individual mandate at all costs, no matter how much it hurts law-abiding citizens seeking to do the right thing, Americans should not be forced to continue to shoulder these unnecessary hardships.”
More than $2 billion, largely in the form of low-interest startup and solvency loans, was distributed to approved co-ops under the Affordable Care Act.
CoOportunity Health, which sold plans covering 120,000 Nebraskans and Iowans in 2014, was the first co-op to close. Now, 17 of the 23 original co-ops, which received more than $1.7 billion, have closed or are in the process of closing, with the remaining six also struggling to remain solvent.
H.R. 954 exempts taxpayers from the individual mandate for the remaining months within the calendar year in which their co-op insurance plan was cancelled. The bill applies retroactively to individuals who lost coverage after December 31, 2013, including those who lost plans sold by CoOportunity Health in Nebraska and Iowa. The Ways and Means Committee, on which Smith serves, is the committee of jurisdiction for H.R. 954.
Click here to read Smith’s op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, “ObamaCare’s Cascading Co-Op Failures,” from November 2, 2015.Read More
At a recent event I attended in the Third District, Arlene, a woman 106 years young, also participated. As the festivities began, and the opening words of the national anthem were sung, I saw something which will stay with me for quite some time.
Arlene placed her hands firmly on the armrests of her wheelchair and pushed herself up to stand for the entirety of the national anthem. Her love of country was too strong for her to stay seated.
Unexpectedly, The Star Spangled Banner has become the latest public display of the division in our country. Started by quarterback Colin Kaepernick, a number of professional athletes have taken to the practice of sitting or kneeling out of protest when the national anthem is played. They have the right to do so, but this is exactly why so many Americans disagree with their actions.
America is the greatest country on earth, a beacon of freedom to the world. It is not perfect, as nothing run by humans can be. However, these athletes have been given great opportunity in this country. They are welcome to voice their opinions, but I wish they would exercise their right to protest in a way which does not disrespect our country and the flag so many have fought and died to protect.
I have had the honor of attending numerous military send-off ceremonies this year. As these brave Nebraskans prepared to leave their families and the comforts of home behind, they were confident in their missions and clearly driven by a deep love of country and desire to serve. When we stand for the national anthem, we stand to honor them and all those before them who have defended the country we are privileged to live in today.
There is much to celebrate about America. At the same time, it is clear we are a divided country, and we must work toward restoring unity. Refusing to stand for the national anthem does not bring people together. It is something we all must work on in our daily interactions with others, and I hope our next president will focus intently on helping to mend the divisions we see today.
Our country recently marked the fifteenth anniversary of the September 11 terror attacks. Even as the years pass, we can never forget the heroism shown by so many Americans during those terrible events. In the midst of such horror, the strength of America brought hope to a grieved world.
We must continue to embody the patriotism and unity Americans demonstrated in the aftermath of September 11, as our military men and women continue to defend us against those who threaten our freedom and security. The least we can do for them is to stand for The Star Spangled Banner and reflect on their sacrifices.
I will not soon forget Arlene’s refusal to stay seated when the national anthem began. I am sure there are things about America she would like to change, but she would not allow anything to stop her from standing. May we all unite through doing the same.Read More
Congressman Adrian Smith (R-NE) released the following statement today after the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) acted illegally when it issued new requirements for anhydrous ammonia storage without a public comment period.
OSHA’s interpretive memorandum impacts approximately 3,800 agriculture retailers and would cost the industry in excess of $100 million to comply, likely forcing small retailers to stop selling anhydrous ammonia and restricting producers’ access to this important input. When issued in July 2015, OSHA’s changes took effect immediately.
Smith introduced the Fertilizer Access and Responsible Management (FARM) Act in the House in May 2016 to block OSHA’s new regulations on anhydrous ammonia. Today’s ruling requires OSHA to utilize the formal rulemaking process if the agency wishes to pursue a rule change on anhydrous ammonia.
“The Obama administration has made a habit of unilateral action, but I am glad the judicial branch has stepped in to protect producers from this unlawful regulation,” Smith said. “Retailers and producers deserve to have their voices heard on the impacts of a rule change of this magnitude rather than having it forced upon them with no input. We must continue working to empower producers and remove barriers to their success, namely by rolling back onerous regulations like this one.”
Smith is the founder and co-chairman of the Modern Agriculture Caucus.Read More
Congressman Adrian Smith (R-NE) released the following statement today regarding the announcement Blue Cross Blue Shield of Nebraska will not sell individual health insurance on the Obamacare marketplace in 2017. “When Nebraska’s largest insurer must stop participating in the Obamacare marketplace due to losses totaling in the hundreds of millions of dollars, what more proof do we need Obamacare is not sustainable? The president’s health care law has already hurt thousands of Nebraskans with the collapse of CoOportunity Health, and now 20,000 more will lose coverage and have to scramble to figure out how to avoid tax penalties with even fewer choices.
“Obamacare is a failure, and Nebraskans cannot continue to shoulder its consequences. We need our next president to work with Congress on our plan to give Americans more health coverage options while reducing costs and returning decisions to patients and their doctors.”Read More
Congressman Adrian Smith (R-NE) spoke on the floor of the House of Representatives today in memory of former Third District Congressman Bill Barrett. He then requested a moment of silence be observed.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Today I rise in memory of former Congressman Bill Barrett. He passed away earlier this week in his hometown of Lexington, Nebraska.
Mr. Barrett devoted his life to service.
From his speakership in the State Legislature to the years he spent in Congress, he was known for being true to his word and bringing people together to get things done.
Serving Nebraskans was his top priority, and his dedication to the Third District and our state set a lasting example for me and all who have sought to fill his shoes.
Mr. Barrett was an influential conservative leader and a champion of agriculture. The Third District is now the top-producing agriculture district in the country, and we owe much of that to Mr. Barrett’s tireless work.
His former staff have recounted how he would always ask, “Does this help the Third District?” He was a true statesman who sought to serve others rather than himself.
He worked so hard representing the 60-plus counties of the Third District for the 10 years he served.
I extend my condolences to Mr. Barrett’s wife and tremendous teammate, Elsie, and their family.
Mr. Speaker, I’d like to request a moment of silence.Read More
Congressman Adrian Smith (R-NE) congratulated Toni Reiman of Beatrice today on receiving the 2016 Angels in Adoption Award for Nebraska’s Third District. Following Smith’s nomination, Toni was invited to Washington, D.C. to be honored alongside other Angels in Adoption from across the country at a ceremony this evening.
"Toni has adopted five children and fostered many more," Smith said. "As she creates a loving, supportive home for them, she also actively facilitates contact with their biological families to help them stay connected and learn more about themselves. It is a privilege to name Toni the 2016 Angels in Adoption award recipient for Nebraska’s Third District and honor the lasting impact she has made in so many children’s lives."
The Angels in Adoption initiative, coordinated by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute, provides Members of Congress the opportunity to honor an individual or entity from their districts for extraordinary contributions on behalf of children in need of homes.Read More
Congressman Adrian Smith (R-NE) spoke on the floor of the House of Representatives in support of H.R. 5613, sponsored by Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins (R-KS), to delay enforcement of supervision requirements on Critical Access Hospitals. The bill, which passed the House today, contains Smith’s language requiring the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) to report on the economic and staffing impacts of these regulations on rural hospitals.
Physician supervision rules require a physician’s presence and supervision over nearly all routine procedures administered in hospitals, which can be especially burdensome for rural hospitals with fewer doctors and resources.
Thank you. I rise today in support of H.R. 5613 to once again delay enforcement of supervision requirements on Critical Access Hospitals.
It has unfortunately become an annual ritual for us to pass legislation to block this arbitrary regulation, which requires a physician to be on-site and present for the administration of most procedures, no matter how basic.
As a condition of participation in the Critical Access program, a facility must have 25 or fewer beds, be distant from the next-closest hospital, and have a physician on call and available within 30 minutes.
The individuals who practice at these facilities, including doctors, nurses, physician assistants, and nurse practitioners, have a very strong understanding of what care can be safely provided in their Critical Access setting and which cases should be transferred to a larger facility.
However, CMS’s effort to accommodate the concerns of rural providers hasn’t been to empower these professionals, but to create a limited list of procedures which can be done without a physician on-site.
For this reason, I appreciate the Chairman and the sponsor from Kansas working with me to incorporate my language into this bill, which requires MedPAC to report on the economic and staffing impacts of these regulations on rural hospitals.
Based on discussions I have had with hospitals across Nebraska’s Third District, I expect MedPAC’s findings will make a strong case for repealing this regulation outright.
I urge passage of this bill, which is vital to communities across rural America, and I yield back my time.Read More
Congressman Adrian Smith (R-NE) released the following statement today regarding the passing of former Third District Congressman Bill Barrett.
“Congressman Barrett devoted his life to service. From his speakership in the State Legislature to the years he spent in Congress, he was known for being true to his word and bringing people together to get things done. Serving Nebraskans was his top priority, and his dedication to our district and state set a lasting example for me and all who have sought to fill his shoes.
“With the passing of both Bill Barrett and Duane Acklie within days of one another, Nebraska has lost two influential conservative leaders. Andrea and I send our condolences to Bill’s and Duane’s families. These outstanding Nebraskans will be dearly missed.”Read More
2241 Rayburn HOB
Washington, DC 20515
Congressman Adrian Smith has earned praise for his leadership, hard work and dedication to Nebraska commonsense. Smith has tackled issues ranging from biofuels and other forms of domestic energy to transportation research and development to fashioning legislation promoting rural America.
Smith has consistently voted against tax increases, massive government bailouts, and was unwavering in his opposition of the misguided health care bill now creating massive uncertainty for our nation’s job creators.
Smith, a co-sponsor of the Balanced Budget Amendment and a supporter of a Congressional earmark moratorium, has earned a reputation as a solid conservative through his votes to protect the rights of gun owners, efforts to limit the scope of government, and his strong pro-life voting record.
Smith, who serves on the House Committee on Ways and Means, actively promotes access for Nebraska agriculture products in Asia, South America, and throughout the world. Nebraska’s $4 billion in worldwide agricultural exports creates $6.7 billion in additional economic activity. Smith supports trade agreements which will continue to create new opportunities for our agriculture producers and their products to keep Nebraska’s economy strong.
Smith’s assignment on the Ways and Means Committee also puts the Nebraskan on the front lines in the debate on how to create jobs, promote economic growth, and directly impact tax policy – such as the Death Tax which threatens family farms and ranches.
Smith’s also has introduced the bipartisan Small-Scale Hydropower Enhancement Act which would help stimulate the economy of rural America, empower local irrigation districts to generate revenue, and decrease reliance on fossil fuels by encouraging the use of small-scale hydropower projects.
The Gering native, whose family has called Nebraska home for six generations, was first introduced to politics by his grandfather. Prior to his election to Congress, Smith served his hometown as a member of the City Council. He then represented District 48 for eight years in the Unicameral.
He continues to reside in Gering.
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