Education & the Workforce Committee
Walberg Statement: Hearing on "Protecting America's Workers: An Enforcement Update from the Mine Safety and Health Administration"
Today’s hearing is timely for two important reasons. First, in just a few days, our nation will observe Workers Memorial Day, a time to remember the men and women who have been injured or killed at work. It is also a time to reaffirm our commitment to tough, responsible policies that will help protect the health and safety of America’s workers.
And secondly, just a few weeks ago, the people of Montcoal, West Virginia, and neighbors in surrounding communities observed the five-year anniversary of the Upper Big Branch mining disaster. There is no doubt that the families of the 29 miners who died live each and every day with the painful memory of this tragic event. Our thoughts and prayers are with these families and every family that has lost a loved one while on the job.
Upper Big Branch is a terrible reminder that bad actors will look for ways to cut corners and jeopardize the well-being of their workers, despite a moral and legal obligation to make safety the number one priority. I am pleased that those who had a hand in the Upper Big Branch tragedy are being held responsible. It is taking some time, but justice is being served.
An independent report from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health underscored why bad actors must be held accountable. The report said: “If [the Mine Safety and Health Administration] had engaged in timely enforcement of the Mine Act and applicable standards and regulations, it would have lessened the chances of – and possibly could have prevented – the UBB explosion.”
That is why time and again this committee has urged MSHA to do better and use every tool it has to keep miners safe. Under your leadership, Assistant Secretary Main, the agency has implemented a number of changes to its regulatory and enforcement practices. The purpose of today’s hearing is to examine these efforts and determine whether they serve the best interests of America’s miners.
We have a lot of ground to cover in a short period of time, including controversial changes to the “pattern of violations” regulations, revised standards governing exposure to respirable coal dust, changes to the agency’s citations and penalty policies, and new rules on the use of proximity detectors on continuous mining machines.
Clearly, you have been busy, Assistant Secretary Main. As you know, we haven’t agreed on every issue, and when we haven’t, we’ve expressed our concerns and encouraged the agency to move in a different direction. However, when the agency does take responsible steps to improve health and safety enforcement, you have and will continue to have our full support.
Both your agency and this committee share the same goal: We want to ensure strong enforcement policies are in place so that every miner returns home to his or her loved ones at the end of their shift. I look forward to a frank and robust discussion today and continuing our work together to help reach that shared goal.
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WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education, chaired by Rep. Todd Rokita (R-IN), today held a hearing to learn about the Bureau of Indian Education, housed under the Department of Interior, and the significant challenges facing the schools it has a responsibility to support.
“As reports from congressional committees, government watchdogs, investigative journalists, and academics have detailed, the state of [Native American] education is abysmal,” Chairman Rokita said. “Too many schools lack adequate infrastructure and educational resources, compromising the health, safety, and future postsecondary and professional opportunities of the children they are intended to serve. And it has been this way for far too long.”
“There is much room for improvement in the BIE system,” said National Congress of American Indians President, Brian Cladoosby. Explaining the disappointing history of federal Indian education policy, he continued, “At the very basic level, tribes are seeking the fulfillment of the … trust relationship with the federal government.”
As Minneapolis Star Tribune editorial writer and Pulitzer finalist Jill Burcum described in her four-part series on BIE schools entitled, “Separate and Unequal,” these vulnerable children were promised a quality education that preserves their heritage and have been forced to attend deplorable schools.
Falling ceilings, broken water heaters, and electrical hazards are just a few of the problems plaguing students and educators, Burcum noted at the hearing. “You’d think that conditions like this would inspire urgency at the federal agencies that oversee these schools,” she said. “They haven’t … there’s a longstanding defeatism within the [Department of] Interior about improving conditions at BIE schools and an entrenched, spread-out bureaucracy too often focused on red tape for red tape’s sake and not on progress.”
Education, Workforce, and Income Security Director at the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office, Melissa Emrey-Arras, described how “organizational fragmentation and poor communication” have inhibited the ability of the federal government to uphold its commitment to Native American children. She concluded, “Unless these issues are addressed, it will be difficult for Indian Affairs to ensure the long-term success of a generation of students.”
“Congress should demand action from the Department of Interior,” said Burcum. “The agency needs to overhaul its confusing, rigid bureaucracy.”
“Nobody can visit one of these schools and not say, ‘we need to fix this,’” remarked Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN). “We have a bureaucratic mess. We all owe it to these kids to get past the confusing [bureaucracy] and stop saying it’s somebody else’s problem. It’s time now for it to be all of our responsibility.”
To learn more about today’s hearing, read witness testimony, or to watch an archived webcast, visit www.edworkforce.house.gov/hearings.
Nearly a century ago, the federal government made a promise to deliver to Native American children a quality education that preserves their customs and culture. Under the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Indian Education, the federal government is expected to support the education of more than 40,000 students through approximately 185 elementary and secondary schools located on or near Indian reservations.
Unfortunately, the federal government is failing to keep its promise to these vulnerable children.
As reports from congressional committees, government watchdogs, investigative journalists, and academics have detailed, the state of BIE education is abysmal. Too many schools lack adequate infrastructure and educational resources, compromising the health, safety, and future postsecondary and professional opportunities of the children they are intended to serve. And it has been this way for far too long.
A 1969 Senate report from the Committee on Labor and Public Welfare describes the federal government’s failure to provide an effective education as a “national tragedy and a national disgrace” that has “condemned the [American Indian] to a life of poverty and despair.”
Despite countless calls for change, all we have seen is decades of inaction. As one of today’s witnesses chronicles in an acclaimed Minneapolis Star Tribune series on the failing BIE system, “federal neglect [continues to handicap] learning at BIE schools nationwide … Kids shivering in thin-walled classrooms or studying under leaky roofs year after year aren’t getting the education they need or deserve.”
A report by the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office further details these concerns. Entitled the “Bureau of Indian Education Needs to Improve Oversight of School Spending,” the report reveals a chronic failure to fix and replace decrepit and antiquated schools. The GAO cites a bungling bureaucracy that includes a lack of information to effectively monitor and fix the problems plaguing school facilities, as well as confusion and poor communication about who is actually responsible for addressing the various needs of these schools.
The details of these reports are sobering. However, words on paper will never fully convey the troubling state of Native American education. That is why members of the Education and the Workforce Committee have visited these schools to learn firsthand about the challenges they face.
This year, I have visited several BIE schools, including the Theodore Roosevelt Indian School and John F. Kennedy Indian School in Arizona with BIE director Dr. Monty Roessel, as well as the Bug-O-Nay-Ge-Shig (BUG-OH-NAY-GHEE-SHIG) School in Minnesota with Chairman John Kline.
The conditions at these schools are deplorable. Some classrooms lack desks, books, computers, pencils, and paper, while others lack proper flooring, roofing, and ventilation. Some schools are missing a working water heater. Others are missing front doors and are rodent-infested. And for many students, attending these unsafe and unhealthy schools is their only option.
Despite the many obstacles that stand in the way of these students and educators, their resiliency and determination to create better lives for themselves is nothing short of inspiring. They understand the importance of an education and the opportunities it will afford them. I’ve also met dedicated teachers and school administrators who are working hard to overcome these challenging conditions and help improve the lives of their students with quality educational opportunities.
It is paramount that we uphold our promise to provide Native American children an excellent education that preserves their tribal heritage. Though the current system poses significant challenges, turning a blind eye is not the answer. The federal government must live up to its responsibility.
We look forward to learning from our witnesses about the Bureau of Indian Education and the schools under BIE’s jurisdiction. I am confident today’s hearing will help advance real solutions that ensure Native American children have access to safe and healthy schools that support quality teaching and learning.
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On Wednesday, April 22 at 10:00 a.m., the Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education Subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Todd Rokita (R-IN), will hold a hearing entitled “Examining the Challenges Facing Native American Schools.” The hearing will take place in room 2175 of the Rayburn House Office Building.
The federal government, primarily through the Departments of the Interior and Education, provides financial assistance for children on Indian reservations and Native American children in public schools to ensure they receive a quality education comparable to their peers. The Bureau of Indian Education (BIE), housed under the Department of Interior’s Office of Indian Affairs, provides direct education to approximately 41,000 students through 185 elementary and secondary schools located on or near Indian reservations. Of these schools, 126 schools are operated by tribes through BIE grants, while 59 schools are directly operated by the BIE.
According to the Government Accountability Office, BIE-administered schools spend 56 percent more per student than traditional public schools and graduation and student achievement rates are consistently below the national average. Additionally, an investigative series by the Minneapolis Star Tribune found many schools are in severe disrepair without adequate facilities and educational resources.
Wednesday’s hearing will give members an opportunity to learn more the Bureau of Indian Education and the challenges facing Native American schools. For more information on hearings, visit edworkforce.house.gov/hearings.
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Ms. Jill Burcum
Minneapolis Star Tribune
Mr. Brian Cladoosby
National Congress of American Indians
Ms. Melissa Emrey-Arras
Director of Education, Workforce, and Income Security Issues
U.S. Government Accountability Office
Mr. Quinton Roman Nose
Tribal Education Departments National Assembly
House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN) issued the following statement after the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) released new guidance concerning employee wellness programs:
This agency’s recent hostility toward employee wellness programs is contrary to the law and the best interest of America’s workers. While I am encouraged the EEOC is trying to fix a problem it has created, the devil is in the details. We intend to thoroughly examine the agency’s proposed guidance and closely follow the process as it moves forward. And make no mistake, we reserve the right to take legislative action if the agency continues to discourage innovative health plans that have helped control costs and improve the lives of workers and their families. The president himself has said we need to encourage the use of employee wellness plans, and that is precisely what we intend to do.
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Washington’s outsized role in education has imposed a series of one-size-fits-all policies that assume federal bureaucrats know better than parents, teachers, and local leaders. As Education and the Workforce Committee member Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) writes in a recent op-ed, “the quality of our children’s education is too high a priority to rely on a one-size-fits-all approach. The Student Success Act, he continues, would help bring control of K-12 education back to his home state of South Carolina:
I support meaningful solutions to improve education, like H.R. 5, the Student Success Act. This bill promotes common sense reforms and encourages school choice by allowing existing funds to follow low-income students to their school of choice. This will reward the excellent public schools we have in the Second District and help students across the nation escape failing schools. Our bill also prevents the federal government from imposing coercive one-size-fits-all standards, like Common Core, and returns the authority to schools to spend their money where they need it most—not where the federal government thinks is best.
In addition, our bill gives more freedom to schools to hire the best teachers for the job by eliminating federal hiring requirements. It also prioritizes transparency in school funding to ensure taxpayer dollars are used to benefit students. Finally, the bill bolsters accountability at the Department of Education, requiring increased public oversight before issuing new regulations. We must put students above bureaucratic red tape, and this bill takes a positive step toward student-centered education.
This past week marked the beginning of the fourth quarter grading period for our schools. It is a fresh start for students and their grades for the next nine weeks. Let’s give our students a real fresh start next year by voicing support for the Student Success Act to help create meaningful changes in our education system.
To read the full op-ed, click here.
To learn more about the Student Success Act, click here.
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WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Committee on Education and the Workforce, chaired by Rep. John Kline (R-MN), today held a hearing to discuss the importance of federal child nutrition programs as the committee begins an effort to reauthorize these programs later this year.
“Healthy meals are vitally important to a child’s education,” Chairman Kline said. “It’s just basic commonsense that if a child is hungry then he or she is less likely to succeed in the classroom and later in life … It’s the responsibility of this committee and Congress to reauthorize these programs so that students and families receive the support they need in the most efficient and effective way.”
Witnesses echoed Chairman Kline’s sentiments. As First Lady of the Commonwealth of Virginia, Dorothy McAuliffe, remarked, “The impact of hunger and malnutrition on children is devastating, well-documented, and obvious to anyone who is a parent or works with children … How can we expect our children to be hungry for knowledge, if they are just plain hungry?”
The last reauthorization of child nutrition programs in 2010 vastly expanded the role of the federal government. As a result, program costs have increased while student participation has decreased. Furthermore, many schools are struggling to address wasted food and the nutrition needs of each individual student. When asked what Congress can do to improve these programs, witnesses responded with the need for increased flexibility to effectively serve children.
“Some of the new regulations have resulted in unintended consequences, which threaten our ability to better serve students’ nutritional needs,” said School Nutrition Association President, Julia Bauscher. She added, the US Department of Agriculture “estimated that this year, schools must absorb $1.2 billion in added costs as a result of the new rules.”
Senior Director of Share Our Strength, Duke Storen, highlighted the success of public-private partnerships to “make the federal programs run more efficiently and effectively” and to decrease the costs imposed on school districts.
Director of the Texas Hunger Initiative at Baylor University, Kathy Krey, agreed: “Public-private partnerships bridge local, state, and federal resources to maximize the efficiency and reach of these programs. Innovative collaborations increase the capacity of communities to take ownership of their needs so that children can stay fueled for learning all day, all year round.”
At the same time, Mr. Storen reminded members of the critical need to “update these programs to remove bureaucratic barriers and create efficiencies that will allow us to reach those kids who currently go without.”
"We have to find a better way forward," Chairman Kline concluded, "one that continues our commitment to providing nutritious meals for America’s students, while giving state and school leaders the flexibility they need to make it a reality."
To learn more about today’s hearing, read witness testimony, or to watch an archived webcast, visit www.edworkforce.house.gov/hearings.
Healthy meals are vitally important to a child’s education. It’s just basic commonsense that if a child is hungry then he or she is less likely to succeed in the classroom and later in life. That is why our nation has long invested in services that provide low-income students nutritious meals in schools. Those services are authorized through a number of laws, such as the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act and the Child Nutrition Act.
In just a few short months, these laws and the programs they authorize will expire, including the national school lunch and breakfast programs, the Supplemental Nutritional Program for Women, Infants, and Children or WIC Program, and several others. It’s the responsibility of this committee and Congress to reauthorize these programs so that students and families receive the support they need in the most efficient and effective way.
Why is that important? Because no child should go to school hungry – it’s that simple. Today’s discussion is not about whether we agree on this basic principle; I am confident we all do. Instead, our discussion today is about beginning a larger effort we will continue in the coming months to ensure the best policies are in place to help reach this goal.
Last week, I had an opportunity to tour a school lunchroom at the Prior Lake High School in Savage, Minnesota. Students and faculty described what’s working and what isn’t working in federal nutrition programs. As a result of our conversation, two important realities are abundantly clear.
First, our school nutrition professionals are dedicated men and women doing the best they can under difficult circumstances, and no one should question their commitment to providing students nutritious meals. Unfortunately, rules and regulations put in place in recent years have made their jobs harder, not easier. The cost of the lunch and breakfast programs for schools are going up, yet fewer meals are being served. In fact, the number of children participating in these programs is declining more rapidly than any period over the last 30 years.
Second, as we reauthorize these programs, we have to provide more flexibility at the state and local levels. Those working in our schools and cafeterias recognize that this has to be a priority. Even students understand the urgent need for more flexibility.
During my visit to Prior Lake High School, I talked with a number of students about their school lunch program. Right now, the federal government determines the number of calories, vegetables, and grains that are served to students, which means Washington is dictating how much food every child is served at every school meal. That is one reason why students are urging the school to drop out of the program. Many children are bringing food from home or buying more food because the portion sizes served at school are too small for a full meal. As one student, Corinna Swiggum, noted, “A lot of times, we’re going back and getting junk food, not healthy food.”
This isn’t what these children want. This isn’t what their parents or school administrators want, and it’s not what we want either. We have to find a better way forward, one that continues our commitment to providing nutritious meals for America’s students, while giving state and school leaders the flexibility they need to make it a reality.
That is why we are delighted to have you here today, Mrs. McAuliffe. Through your work, you are demonstrating that promoting healthy lifestyles is not just a federal priority, but a state and local priority as well. Often we are told we need more federal involvement because states can’t be trusted to help those in need. But through your leadership, you’re showing states can take the lead on tough issues in partnership with the federal government.
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House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN) and Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions Subcommittee Chairman Phil Roe (R-TN) issued the following joint statement in response to the Department of Labor’s fiduciary rule proposed earlier today:
It’s remarkable it takes a regulatory proposal spanning hundreds of pages to define a single word. It will take time to examine this new proposal and determine whether it’s a better approach or just the same flawed scheme we’ve seen before. We have said all along that we're open to modernizing current rules in a way that provides more protections to Americans. However, we will strongly oppose any rule that makes it harder for working families to plan for retirement. Our country faces difficult retirement challenges, and the last thing we should do is create new barriers to the retirement security the American people deserve.
This is a sweeping regulatory proposal that will impact the lives and financial well-being of millions of Americans. It’s deeply troubling the administration has refused to fully cooperate with our oversight requests to determine whether close coordination took place across the federal government to ensure a clear, consistent standard emerged. It is time for the administration to stop paying lip service to good government and start delivering the facts to prove it. The American people and this Congress have every right to know how this regulation was crafted, and we expect a complete response to our oversight inquiries without further delay.
To learn more about the committee's oversight of the rulemaking, click here.
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The Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions chaired by Rep. Phil Roe (R-TN) today held a hearing to explore the consequences of the president’s health care law on the five year anniversary of its enactment.
“Health care reform should have been an opportunity to preserve and build on what works with commonsense, market-based reforms that would expand access to more affordable coverage,” remarked Rep. Roe. “Instead, a costly government takeover of health care was imposed on the American people, and five years later the law continues wreaking havoc on families, businesses, and even schools. It’s hard to recall a time when supporters of a law promised so much and delivered so little.”
During the hearing, witnesses expressed continued concern with the negative impact of the law on the nation’s workplaces, including:
- Reduced Hours for Workers - [ObamaCare’s] definition of full-time employee is having an adverse impact on both employers and employees … According to [the Society for Human Resource Management] SHRM’s March research survey, 20 percent of SHRM members’ organizations have already reduced part-time hours to below 30 per week or are planning to do so in the following year to comply with the ACA. - Sally Roberts, Director of Human Resources, Morris Communications Company
- Uncertainty for Employers - For the past several years we have operated in a constant state of unknown … It seems as soon as we have some clarity on an issue, we come to realize that it was only a temporary extension or that we were guided in the wrong direction to begin with … [We] have no idea what to plan for because we don’t know what changes to legislation or regulations will bring next year or beyond. – Skip Paal, Society of American Florists
- Increased Health Care Costs - Although the [law] purports to lower health care costs for Americans, costs continue to rise for employers and employees alike. According to a recent survey, 77 percent of respondents said that their health care coverage costs increased from 2014 to 2015 … the [law’s] current coverage requirements are increasing costs and restricting employer flexibility to offer a benefits package that best meets the needs of employees. – Sally Roberts, Director of Human Resources, Morris Communications Company
- Loss of Existing Health Care Coverage - We are facing a troubling cycle in the world of employer sponsored care … Some employers will exit the system, but we believe that more will look to make serious changes in approach. These employer based changes typically include more cost-sharing components … the cost sharing then impacts the affordability of health care for employees, who will become unsatisfied with their employer sponsored care and look to Washington for answers. – Tevi Troy, President, American Health Policy Institute
“When it’s all said and done – after all the broken promises, fewer jobs, lost wages, website glitches, and cancelled health care plans – 35 million individuals will still be without health insurance,” concluded Rep. Roe. “The American people can no longer afford this costly mistake. It is time to move the country away from this government-run health care scheme and toward a more patient-centered health care system.”
To learn more about today’s hearing, read witness testimony, or to watch an archived webcast, visit www.edworkforce.house.gov/hearings.
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House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN), Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN), House Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions Subcommittee Chairman Phil Roe (R-TN), and Senate Employment and Workplace Safety Subcommittee Chairman Johnny Isakson (R-GA) today introduced legislation that will preserve long-standing union election procedures by safeguarding the right of workers to make informed decisions about union representation, ensuring the ability of employers to communicate with their employees, and protecting the privacy of workers and their families.
“Starting today, an ambush union election scheme will begin wreaking havoc on our nation’s workplaces,” said Chairman Kline. “Through his labor board, the president has endorsed new rules that will stifle employer free speech, cripple worker free choice, and jeopardize the privacy and safety of workers and their families. We promised that the fight against ambush elections wasn’t over. That is why today I am pleased to join my House and Senate colleagues in introducing legislation that will rein in the board's unprecedented overreach, protect the rights of workers and employers, and preserve a fair union election process.”
“The NLRB’s ambush election rule forces a union election in a little as 11 days—before an employer and many employees even have a chance to figure out what is going on,” said Sen. Alexander, chairman of the Senate labor committee. “Congress must act to stop this damaging rule, which sacrifices every employer’s right to free speech and every worker’s right to privacy—all for the sake of boosting organized labor.”
“Unions and employers deserve a chance to make their case on unionizing,” said Rep. Roe, “and employees deserve adequate time to consider the consequences of their decisions, but the ambush election rule unfairly rushes the decision-making process. The safeguards we are seeking to restore with these bills give employees the freedom to make an informed decision. It is unacceptable that the NLRB would force employers to disclose personal information, potentially opening the door for workers to be intimidated, threatened or coerced. Now, more than ever, we should be protecting the rights of workers, and my bill does just that by returning decision-making power to the employee and their families."
“The National Labor Relations Board continues to skew the playing field between management and labor,” said Sen. Isakson. “I have been fighting against these unfair rulings by the NLRB since President Obama took office. This bill protects free speech and ensures that workers are afforded the opportunity to make informed decisions about their right to organize, while safeguarding their personal information and privacy. At a time when our economy and our middle class are trying to recover from a recession, the NLRB’s ambush election policy is absolutely the wrong thing to do and I urge Congress to pass the Workforce Democracy and Fairness Act to restore a level playing field.”
BACKGROUND: The NLRB’s rule – which goes into full effect today, April 14 – shortens the length of time in which a labor union certification election is held to as little as 11 days. In 2014, more than 95 percent of union certification elections occurred within 56 days. Furthermore, the median number of days from petition to election was 38 days. These numbers surpass the performance goals set by the NLRB itself. The rule gives employers essentially no time to communicate with their employees before a union election and undermines the ability of workers to make an informed decision. In addition, it forces employers to provide employees’ personal information to union organizers without employees’ consent.
The legislative response proposed by Reps. Kline and Roe and Sens. Alexander and Isakson would:
- Ensure workers have enough time to make an informed decision in a union election by prohibiting any election from taking place in less than 35 days.
- Provide employers at least 14 days to prepare their case to present before a NLRB election officer and protect the right to raise additional concerns throughout the pre-election hearing.
- Reassert the board’s responsibility to address critical issues before certifying a union, including voter eligibility and the appropriate unit of employees that will form the union.
- Empower workers to control their personal information by allowing each employee to determine the personal contact information that is provided to union organizers.
To learn more about the legislation introduced in the House, click here.
To learn more about the legislation introduced in the Senate, click here.
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Roe Statement: Hearing on “Five Years of Broken Promises: How the President’s Health Care Law is Affecting America’s Workplaces”
As a practicing physician for more than 30 years, I experienced first-hand the marvels of the U.S. health care system and how it has helped improve the lives of countless individuals. But I also saw the challenges of our health care system, one that is too bureaucratic, too costly, and leaves too many Americans without the coverage they need to care for themselves and their loved ones.
Health care reform should have been an opportunity to preserve and build on what works with commonsense, market-based reforms that would expand access to more affordable coverage. Instead, a costly government takeover of health care was imposed on the American people, and five years later the law continues wreaking havoc on families, businesses, and even schools. It’s hard to recall a time when supporters of a law promised so much and delivered so little.
The American people were promised that if they liked their health care plan they could keep it. Not true. Millions of Americans have received letters notifying them that their health insurance is being cancelled because it doesn’t comply with the dictates of the health care law. Patients have learned in horror that their trusted doctors are no longer in their health insurance networks. And it will only get worse. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projects seven million people will lose their employer-sponsored coverage over the next 10 years.
The American people were promised health care costs would go down. In fact, the president promised to lower premiums for the average family by $2,500. Not true. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, health care costs for the average family increased by 26 percent during the last five years. The average employee with an employer-sponsored insurance plan experienced a seven percent increase in their share of health care costs.
Finally, the American people were told the health care law would boost the economy. Again, not true. More than 450 employers have publicly stated they are cutting hours or making other staffing changes to avoid the law’s punitive mandates, including the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs, Trig’s Supermarkets and Coach’s Fast Food in Wisconsin, Shari’s restaurants in Oregon, and the Henrico County School District – as well as other school districts – across the Commonwealth of Virginia. The Congressional Budget Office estimates the law will result in two million fewer full-time workers.
Many of these difficult changes are taking place in the service industry, which means lower-wage workers are bearing the brunt of the ObamaCare burden. Schools are also cutting hours, undermining the quality of education America’s students deserve. We’ve heard time and again from the administration that these are mere anecdotes or, in the words of then-Secretary Sebelius, “speculation.” Yet even those who supported the health care law have no choice but to recognize its harmful consequences.
Members of the AFL-CIO endorsed a resolution that warned of an “underclass of less than 30-hour-workers” as employers seek to avoid paying penalties under the health care law. The International Brotherhood of Teamsters and other union leaders said the law will “shatter not only our hard-earned health benefits, but destroy the foundation of the 40 hour work week that is the backbone of the American middle-class.” Finally, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers lamented that the law “imposes increased benefit costs, fees, and new taxes on our [multiemployer health care] plans.”
Unfortunately, more pain is right around the corner. In just a few short years, nearly half of all large employers will be hit by the so-called “Cadillac tax.” It’s estimated the federal government will collect more than $85 billion through this tax over the next decade. That’s money that could be used to raise wages or create new jobs; instead it will go into the coffers of the federal government. And don’t forget, that right now, the Supreme Court is deciding a case that may result in millions of Americans being stuck with government-run health insurance they cannot afford.
Remarkably, when it’s all said and done – after all the broken promises, fewer jobs, lost wages, website glitches, and cancelled health care plans – 35 million individuals will still be without health insurance. The American people can no longer afford this costly mistake. It is time to move the country away from this government-run health care scheme and toward a more patient-centered health care system.
A key part of that effort is oversight hearings like the one we are holding today. Congress must shine a light on the president’s fatally flawed law. We have a very distinguished panel of witnesses to help us do just that. I would note for my colleagues that today’s panel includes three employers to share their perspectives on how the law is impacting their workplaces. I look forward to a robust discussion.
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WASHINGTON, D.C. – House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN) and Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education Subcommittee Chairman Todd Rokita (R-IN) have requested information about how the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) responds to reports of neglect and abuse at Head Start centers.
In a letter to HHS Secretary Sylvia Matthews Burwell, Kline and Rokita expressed their “deep concern” for the health and safety of children enrolled in the Head Start program. They write:
This concern stems from apparent discrepancies in how the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) decides when to suspend or terminate the contracts of Head Start and Early Head Start grantees and whether those decisions are made in the best interest of the children being served.
Despite recent reports of “significant health and safety problems” and “immediate danger” at the New York City Administration for Children’s Services (NYC ACS), including unsanitary facilities, physical and sexual abuse by a teacher, and exposure to poison and toxic substances, HHS has allowed NYC ACS to continue operating 196 Head Start centers rather than suspending or revoking their $130 million annual federal grant and appointing an interim grantee to prevent disruptions in services.
The letter continues, “The decision to allow NYC ACS to continue operating its grant appears to represent a divergent path from other decisions regarding safety concerns at centers.”
After sending the letter to Secretary Burwell, Kline and Rokita remarked:
Quality early childhood education plays an important role in helping children succeed in life. Congress has a responsibility to ensure our investment in early childhood education provides a safe and secure learning environment for the nation’s most vulnerable children. Health and safety must be leading priorities. The secretary needs to explain how these decisions promote the well-being of students and serve their best interests.
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The House Committee on Education and the Workforce will hold hearings this week on the five year anniversary of President Obama’s health care law and various child nutrition programs in preparation for reauthorization of the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act and the Child Nutrition Act.
On Tuesday, the Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions will hold a hearing entitled, “Five Years of Broken Promises: How the President’s Health Care Law is Affecting America’s Workplaces.” The hearing will examine the consequences of the health care law, including higher costs, reduction in hours and jobs, and loss of existing health insurance coverage. More information about the hearing, including location, webcast, witness list, and testimony can be found here as they become available.
On Wednesday, the full committee will hold a hearing entitled, “Serving Students and Families through Child Nutrition Programs.” Federal child nutrition programs, such as the federal lunch and breakfast programs, deliver vital support to low-income students and families. In 2010, Congress expanded these programs resulting in a series of costly regulations. Schools have experienced a more than $1 billion cost increase in the lunch and breakfast programs, while the number of students and families served has decreased by 1.4 million. Wednesday’s hearing provides members an opportunity to hear from school nutrition experts about the current state of federal child nutrition programs and the role they play in the lives of students and families. More information about the hearing, including location, webcast, witness list, and testimony can be found here as they become available.
For more information on hearings, visit edworkforce.house.gov/hearings.
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