Skip to main content

tv   US Senate  CSPAN  May 24, 2016 11:02am-12:31pm EDT

11:02 am
microdemographics. it will join osha's just-released injury reporting regulation that will result in sensitive employer data being posted on the internet for use by unions and trial lawyers. and it will join the department of labor's recently issued persuadeer regulations, so-called, that is intended to chill the ability of employers to retain competent labor counsel during union organizing campaigns. mr. president, this retirement rule is only the most recent in a series of actions that make it much harder for employers to add jobs and much harder for workers to climb the economic ladder of opportunity. i thank the president. i yield the floor. i notice the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
11:03 am
11:04 am
11:05 am
11:06 am
11:07 am
11:08 am
11:09 am
11:10 am
11:11 am
11:12 am
11:13 am
11:14 am
11:15 am
quorum call:
11:16 am
a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from iowa. mr. grassley: i ask take the calling of the quorum be suspended. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. grassley: i ask to speak in morning business for ten minutes. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. grassley: i want to address an important investigation that has produced significant results for low income people that the
11:17 am
republican majority in the senate helped bring about. in late december 2014, news reports indicated that a nonprofit hospital chain in missouri and kansas, mosaic life care had been aggressively suing low-income patients. these news reports further indicated that many of these patients qualified for financial assistance and were wrongly placed in collection. let me be clear. nonprofit hospitals should not be in the business of aggressively suing their patients. as recipients of tax exempt status, these hospitals have a heightened duty to assist patients in qualifying for financial assistance. that means these hospitals must implement a financial assistance policy where low income persons
11:18 am
receive free or reduced cost care. further, these types of hospitals must assist low-income persons in ensuring that the proper paperwork for government assistance or private insurance is properly filed. in essence because of the favorable tax treatment, these hospitals receive, they have a duty to help our nation's most vulnerable. for these reasons, i began my investigation into mosaic to determine what if anything went wrong. on january 16, last year, i sent a letter to mosaic to begin my inquiry. over the past year my staff has met with mosaic representatives, exchanged numerous e-mails and have many phone calls to get a better idea of the process at
11:19 am
issue. it became clear that mosaic was lacking the right number of personnel to manage financial assistance intake. common sense tells me when anyone visits a hospital, it is often a scary event under any condition. when we go to hospitals, it's generally because something has gone wrong. in that moment of need, we put our lives in the hands of professionals to help us get healthy. in those moments of paindz and fear -- pain and fear, we put our trust in medical professionals to give us the right care. in other words, we place our trust in the hospital to have hired the right people. and normally after treatment is provided, here comes the bill.
11:20 am
again, common sense tells me nothing in life is free. not always the patient -- someone, not always the patient, will always have to pay the bill. common sense, no free lunch. but when it involves low income persons and a nonprofit charity hospital has provided the treatment, that hospital should provide some type of financial system or help to get financial system if available. that obligation exists simply because of the tax exempt status. if you want that status of tax exemption, you're supposed to help those less fortunate. so when that bill comes, the hospital must ensure that it has people in place to assist the
11:21 am
patient in filing for financial assistance if it's available. and if the patient doesn't have any coverage but his or her income is so low that they qualify for free or reduced cost care, the hospital should ensure that patients know that help is available. common sense. employees should explain the process and patients' rights. tax exempt hospitals cannot be in business to profit off poor people who may not know what form to file. that is not what congress intended to happen when we created the tax exemption. during the course of my investigation into mosaic, i made clear that they must have adequate personnel. in response to my overtures, mosaic has hired seven resource
11:22 am
advocates to assist with medicaid, supplemental assistance, and social security disability applications. two additional financial counselors were reassigned to focus solely on assisting patients navigate the -- assisting patients navigating the financial assistance process. importantly, mosaic will hire an additional financial counselor get indicated to its outpatient clinic. and finally, five patient financial service representatives have been assigned with the duty of ensuring the timely processing of financial assistance applications. these are very important as well as productive steps to take. it just makes sense for a charitable health care institution to help its
11:23 am
low-income patients rather than sending debt collectors after them and suing them. it's common sense. you can't get blood out of a turnip. further, during the course of my investigation, i made clear that charging interest on accounts prior to final judgment would further burden the poor. nonprofits need to take steps to reduce debt burdens, not increase that debt. in response, mosaic will no longer charge interest on accounts until a final court judgment. and further, to provide even more opportunity for patients to receive financial assistance, mosaic has extended its four-statement bill cycle to six. that will allow more opportunities for patients to
11:24 am
receive notice of their ability to receive financial assistance. these steps will help patient, in the long run. again, common sense tells me it is important and it is important to note that there is a certain amount of self-responsibility to be accepted when someone incurs a bill for services rendered. but that doesn't mean hospitals should lend a helping hand. just look at any medicare and/or health insurance bill that you get. you know then how intimidating that document can be. the changes i just mentioned are not the end to all this, however. i would like to note a much more profound result. i repeatedly urge mosaic to look at low-income patients already in the collection system or the
11:25 am
court system. over the course of several months, i urged them to consider for giving their -- for giving their debt when it was obvious people didn't have the income to pay. in response, mosaic instituted a threethree-month debt forgivenes period running from october 1, 2015, to december 31, 2015. importantly, during this forgiveness period, mosaic lowered the threshold by which a patient could qualify for financial assistance. when a patient was in collection or already subject to court judgment, they could apply for debt forgiveness. mosaic recently informed me of the ruts of their change of policy. the debt forgiveness period rutted in 5,542 financial assistance applications of which 5,070 were approved, a total of
11:26 am
six and nine-tenths million dollars in debt, interest and legal fees were forgiven. the average debt forgiveness amounted to $5,052. so, over 5,000 people no longer have to worry about their debt burden. 5,000 people are free from the vice grip of almost $17 million. medical debt is vicious. it is a mental and emotional drain that can bring the strongest amount of people to their knees. for some patients they will never be able to pay off their debt. mosaic eventually did the right thing. it deserves credit for that. it probably shocks mosaic that i would compliment considering
11:27 am
from where i started in this investigation but i speak from the heart that when they make these changes, they ought to be complimented. now, thousands of people have a new lease on life thanks to the mosaic meeting nonprofit tax exempt spotses. -- responsibilities. that's where we're coming from. if it hadn't been for the tax exemption and accepting the responsibilities of tax exemption, it would be no way that we could complain about mosaic. now, a lesson to all 535 members of congress that i want to point out. this is why oversight is so important. that is why i take my responsibilities as chairman of the judiciary committee so seriously. results matter. i yield the floor.
11:28 am
mr. president, i ask consent that time spent in the quorum call be charged equally against both sides during debate in relationship to house joint resolution 88. the presiding officer: is there objection? without objection. mr. grassley: i yield the floor. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from new jersey. a senator: thank you very much. mr. president, i rise today to join my colleagues in supporting the conflict of interest rule that was recently finalized by the department of labor. mr. booker: this is a fair and balanced rule that protects our nation's retirees and savers.
11:29 am
it is a rule, in fact, that makes sure that amidst a retirement crisis in this country where people are having a harder and harder time making sure that after working a lifetime, they have the money they need to retire. it is bringing common sense back to that process. i officially -- firmly believe the conflict of interest rule should not be a partisan issue. that's because this rule really comes down to those fundamental ideas that really know no party bounds. again, the ideas for me are about honor and common sense. by honor i mean the idea that we are a country that believes every american deserves a fair opportunity to succeed. fairness is at the core of our nation's ideals. this idea that we are all bound to do what we can to identify and change systems that stack the deck against hard-working families that play by the rules. this body and its history has
11:30 am
done so much to level the playing field and make sure that we have a free market and a fair market. it's because we as a nation value dignity and stand up against those who seek to exploit or take advantage of others. in fact, we understand that we have an obligation to our country, men and women. we have an obstacles to each other to ensure that the level playing field is there and no one can take advantage or exploit another. we participate in and abide by and are meant to benefit from this social contract and understand that a social contract and a vibrant economy are not mutually exclusive. actually, they're mutually supportive. these principles make america exceptional. they empower and embolden our free market economy. they generate strength and security for more families. they ensure abundance in the
11:31 am
ideals of life, liberty, and our ability to pursue happiness. and so i believe we're honorbound to uphold these principles, to ensure fairness and opportunity for all, to understand that that is a key ingredient in broad-based economic growth and strength. and so when i talk about common sense, i mean that people have a reasonable expectation in a free market of being treated fairly and justly, especially in those areas that are most critical to our lives. it's rational, therefore, for us to insist that when we're treated bay doctor, it's just common sense that that doctor is going to place the interests of our health over their own financial interests. it's understandable that when we go to see a doctor that what is paramount is what's in our best interest. it's also understandable that we have that standard when it comes to the law, that when we seek
11:32 am
legal counsel, we are right to expect our lawyers to act in our best interests. that is the standard for doctors and for lawyers, for our health and well-being and for those legal decisions in our lives that will affect the lives -- our lives profoundly. it means that when we seek advice on an issue as serious as our health, our livelies hads and our standard -- our livelihoods and our finances, we expect to be treated with the highest standards of care. and it doesn't in any way inhibit their ability to make a livelihood. indeed, in many cases, to flourish. and while the vast majority in the financial industry are strong advisors who put the interests of their clients first, the challenge we have right now is, unlike doctors and lawyers, those financial advisors are not required to put the interests of their clients at that high level of a
11:33 am
fiduciary standard. and as a result of not having that high standard of care of doctors and lawyers, there are some in the industry that actually take advantage of of families trying to plan for their retirement. a large money market manager recently said, as active equity managers -- these are sophisticated people, by the way. this money manager said, as active equity managers, we've all been on the hook lately to justify our value proposition, and we should be since the facts clearly show that as an industry, we have not consistently provided the performance that our investors deserve. here are folks that have incredible financial knowledge, sophistication, acumen talking to everyday americans, trying to put forth this idea that they're going to help them retire with security, but they have no obligation to do what's in their best interest, to do what's in
11:34 am
that highest standard of care. that is problematic. and the industry leaders understand that. they understand this we can't allow space for those who seek to exploit for their own financial interests families that are struggling to retire. and it's this idea that is really at the root of the conflict of interest rule, the idea that hardworking morons saving for retirement -- americans saving for retirement deserve to be treated with fairness, with honor, with that mutual obligation that americans should have towards each other. that if they seek advice from a financial advisor, they deserve to get advice that prioritizes their needs above all others. this is about fairness. this is about common sense. now, i was proud to stand with the secretary of labor, secretary perez, and my colleague senator warren and senator murray when this final
11:35 am
rule was announced, and i'm proud that prior to that the rule went flew a very length -- through a very lengthy and diligent process that allowed for robust feedback from all types of stakeholders. throughout the rule making proficiency the department of labor -- process, the department of labor demonstrated inclusiveness of all perspective and an unyielding commitment to protecting our nation's workers and retirees, protecting the bedrock of our country, the very idea of the middle class, that you work hard, you play by the rules, and you could retire with security and dignity. the result of all of the department of labor's work and their commitment to this ideal is a fair and balanced rule, based on the ideas of that common sense and honor. and the fact is, for so many americans, it could not come at a more important time. in fact, it could not come at a
11:36 am
more urgent time. we have a retirement crisis in our country. so many people are working harder and harder but are finding themselves with more month at the end of their money than money at the end of their month. many people are finding it harder and harder to save for retirement. in fact, right now, only one in three americans are -- one in three americans aren't saving for retirement. the federal reserve found that a whopping 47% of americans don't have the savings to even cover a $400 emergency expense, and since the financial crisis, retirement readiness for the average american has actually decreased. families are seeing greater challenges now securing their own future. they're seeing greater difficulties securing that american dream of being the work, hard, play-by-the-rule,
11:37 am
retire with dignity and security. i know this personally, and my office does because we hear from constituents all the time about their real stories, not just in the difficulties of planning for retirement but by dealing with a financial industry that often takes advantage of their clients. last year i heard from one of my constituents in lakewood who wrote to tell me about his mother. after losing her husband, she went to seek advice from a financial advisor to help her sort out her finances and plan for her retirement. she put her trust, her livelihood in the hands of this advisor. but the conflicted advice shereceived ended up costing her -- she received, ended up costing her tens of thousands of dollars. saving for retirement is stressful. at kitchen tables across the country, families are stugstruggling how to best save for retirement and here was a conflicted advisor giving advice
11:38 am
that more benefited them than the person costing my resident in lakewood tens of thousands of dollars because they trusted and relied the advice given them was in their best interest. this is wrong, and it's unfair. and especially for those americans who don't have much to begin with, the way they manage their retirement savings means so much. huge gulfs continue to purr sis in -- to persist between minority families and their white peers. this is a problem for all of america, from all different backgrounds. it is a crisis in our country. and so for so many americans in regards to this rule, there is so much at stake. and good advice from a retirement advisor can make a world of difference. in fact, it can make the difference between security and financial crisis. it can make the difference between retiring with ease
11:39 am
versus retiring with stress and dependency. that's why the advice of a trusted retirement professional is so important. and there are so many good actor in this space who know that increased transparency, increased accountability, and the ideas of profitability don't need to be mutually exclusive. in fact, there are people making extraordinary livings in this space doing the right thing by their clients. honest, hardworking brokers who know that updating the standards expected of retirement advisors is common sense, it is fair, and it actually helps america as a whole become stronger. that's why industry leaders are already making changes to prepare for this rule's implementation and why a c.e.o. of a major money management firm recently implored his industry colleagues saying, let's not lose sight of why clients engage
11:40 am
us in the first place: to help them saving money, they they'd no buy a house, send their kids to college, retire comfortably, and meet other long-term financial goals they have. this c.e.o. is 100% right, and i'm happy that many companies are beginning to ensure their retirement plans make the most of their employees' savings. according to a recent "wall street journal" report, the administrative costs of retirement plans fell to their lowest level in 2015. the needle is moving in the right direction. to attempt to block this rule now, though, would be a step backwards and it would send a message to hardworking americans and retirees that they simply don't matter enough to this body, that this body cares more about special interests than hardworking families; it cares more about financial advisors on
11:41 am
wall street and their ability to exploit middle-class americans than it does those middle-class americans who believe in the american dream that is being put at risk. to not support this rule would be to roll back what we all know: is that we can create a win-win with a fair economy that doesn't exploit people who are vulinerm but uplifts -- vulinerm but uplifts them where both middle-class retiree and financial advisor can have success. americans, i know men and women in our country and many who serve here that we know ourselves the challenges of planning for retirement. look, on the day this rule was announced earlier this year, i understood that some people would try to fight this, and i turned to the folks listening and said, look, this fight is not over. we're going to have to continue. let us as a nation fight for what's right, not for the special interests of the wealthy few, not to allow people to
11:42 am
feast upon the retirement savings and the hard work of others, but let's fight to affirm the middle-class dream in america. let's fight to make sure that we are doing right by folks by creating a level playing field. this is a fight for people like the constituent of mine who not only lost her husband but too much of her savings and now is trying to pink the pieces -- pick up the pieces. this is fight is not over for hardworking families across this country who are diligently saving for retirement and for whom these hidden fees unfortunately represent a threat to undermine decades of their hard work. these hidden fees are insidious. these hidden fees exploit people to enrich others. these hidden fees are un-american. and so we must continue to make sure that those hardworking advisors who exploi exemplary --
11:43 am
who provide exemplary levels of service are the ones being elevated in this system and not being maligned by the few bad actors who feast upon other people. this fight has to be about what it means to be an american. this is what this body did when it passed the retirement security income act 40 years ago. we believed in this idea that america is a place where you work hard, where you play by the rules, you can retire with dignity. and don't have to worry that your doctor or your lawyer or your financial advisor will exploit you and thrust you into insecurity. -- or worse. this is what we must do in this body. in the spirit of past actions, we must put the interests of the middle-class constituents first, plain and simple. this rule is fair. this rule is balanced.
11:44 am
this rule helps our free market economy. this rule creates great standards that should be applied when it comes to something as precious and fundamental as our retirement savings. it creates honor in this business. it creates honor for america. the needle has moved forward. we cannot allow the needle to roll back. mr. president, i yield the floor. mr. cornyn: mr. president? the presiding officer: the republican whip. mr. cornyn: mr. president, today we will be voting on something known around here as the fiduciary rule that the senator from new jersey just spoke on. later we'll be voting on
11:45 am
inspection of catfish. now, people might wonder, as significant as those two issues are, why we're not dealing with the defense authorization bill that senator mckin has been -- senator mccain has been press pressing our democratic friends to get started with. there's simply nothing more important than to make sure our in uniform have the support and resources and training they need in order to fight our nation's fights and win our nation's wars. because of the objection of democratic leader yesterday, here we are. i have to say to my friend, the senator from new jersey, talking in support of this fiduciary rule that was created by dodd-frank, to me this exemplifies the paternalism that has typified this administration when dealing with the economy. they don't actually believe that consumers know how to make good choices for themselves so
11:46 am
they're going to force a federal regulation and rule and standard, one-size-fits-all standard on the financial services industry. and i have to say i don't think it's any coincidence that our economy grew at .5% last quarter. that's pathetic economic growth, and it's simply not fast enough for our economy to create the jobs in order to allow people to work full time instead of part time. and those who have left the labor force to rejoin the labor force and to provide for their families and pursue their dream. but it unfortunately is typical, i think, of the regulatory approach of the obama administration, which i think is, helped strangle the economy and economic recovery. many people much more knowledgeable than i, economists, have said that after
11:47 am
the 2008 fiscal crisis, we should have seen a bounce, a v-shaped sroupbs. -- bounce. we hit bottom and should have bounced back up. unfortunately we have not had much of a recovery, if you can call it recovery, since 2008 because unfortunately people are in doubt whether their plans for a small business or medium-size business or large business, for that matter, will be put in political peril because of the uncertainty of the regulatory approach of the obama administration. so that's why we need to disapprove of this fiduciary rule to get the government out of the way, particularly when it comes to people who choose their own financial advisors. it's just tphoerp -- another example of the wet blanket the regulatory approach of the obama administration has been on the economy in general; just one small example. as i said at the outset, we should be talking about the
11:48 am
national defense authorization bill which passed out of the armed services committee with overwhelming bipartisan support. i want to say only three members of the armed services committee voted against it. but rather than be debating that, here we are. we should be talking about and voting on the defense authorization bill because obviously how important it is to our country's safety and security. as i mentioned, it provides our military the funding and authorities that they need in order to protect and defend us. and it ensures our war fighters are equipped for success on the battlefield. i saw that the president's senior advisor, ms. valerie jarrett, claimed recently that president obama had ended two wars and that this was part of his legacy. i'm just wondering which wars she was referring to.
11:49 am
because, frankly, the world is on fire, as the director of national intelligence, james clapper, has said never in his long career -- and i think it goes back 50 years or more -- in the intelligence community has he seen a more diverse and more threatening environment. so we know we have conventional threats like newly embold'nt vladimir putins -- emboldened vladimir putin and we have isis which has morphed from al qaeda, the radical religious ideology which has told them that they can in the name of their religion murder innocent men, women and children. a few weeks ago i had the chance to travel with some of my colleagues from the house side to visit some of our troops stationed in the middle east, and it was obviously an honor to
11:50 am
visit with them who aring serving our country so selflessly in remote parts of the world where they are separated from families and putting country above self. we had a chance to visit at the u.s. navy's facility in bahrain and visit the m.f.o., an international peacekeeping group at the north camp in the sinai peninsula. quite a few members of the texas national guard is srefrbd -- served there. in meeting with these folks on the ground and learning about the situation, it is clear the middle east is racked with instability and violence at every turn. i've previously spoken about how the imprudent drawdown of u.s. troops in iraq without getting a
11:51 am
status of forces agreement which would have allowed a larger u.s. presence there, much as we had after the war in germany, in japan and elsewhere where we, frankly, have seen thriving economies and stable countries spring up after the wake of terrible wars. unfortunately, president obama did not see that as a priority. and because of the precipitous drawdown in iraq a power vacuum was left. and if there's one thing we should have learned on 9/11 is that power vacuums are breeding grounds for terrorists. and that is as true today as it was back then. so now the islamic state, the latest iteration of islamic extremism has carved out a safe haven in iraq and syria and it continues to grow in north
11:52 am
africa and the middle east. the terrorist groups' influence in the region couldn't be clearer. as i mentioned on the sinai peninsula, i had a chance to visit with some of our soldiers about the threats they face with isis-affiliated groups every day, including the use of improvised explosive devices by some of these groups that have now pledged allegiance to the islamic state. back in march it was reported that an isis group killed more than a dozen of egypt security forces on the sinai and unfortunately that carnage continues. there's no doubt that isis is continuing to work against u.s. interests and against our allies targeting not only egyptian forces in this instance, but at times u.s. forces on the ground as well. unfortunately, isis has taken advantage of a power vacuum led in libya after the president led
11:53 am
a coalition to topple libyan strong man muammar qaddafi and unfortunately created another power vacuum there which continues to this day. you would have thought we would have learned something from our experience in iraq, but apparently president obama did not because he had no real plan for a postqadhafi libya. no plan and no strategy in place on how to move forward afterwards. and as i said, now libya is a failed state and a breeding ground for isis. in tunesia, we actually had the chance to visit with the u.s. ambassador to libya. unfortunately, the ambassador and his country team said we haven't actually been to libya. they are literally an embassy in compile -- exile in libya. one thing we know for sure is
11:54 am
that libya plays host to an increasing number of isis fighters. some even estimate that the ranks of isis have doubled in libya in the past year alone. and left unchecked, this isis-safe haven in libya, a country which is obviously strategically located across the mediterranean from europe where it's pretty easy passage up into the e.u., movement around the e.u. and in countries, 38 countries in total have visa waiver agreements with the united states and can travel to the united states from those countries without a visa. but this jumping off point in libya to europe and then to other places is a real threat and provides another base from which isis can continue to terrorize and target the united states and our friends and our partners. as i mentioned, we were able to travel to tunesia and visit with the relatively newly elected,
11:55 am
democratically elected president there. tunesia touts it's as one of the success stories of the arab spring but their hold on the country is fragile primarily because the terrorist threat has killed tourist activity which has been part of the economic lifeblood of that beautiful country, again, right on the mediterranean sea in north africa. unfortunately, tunesia has seen an influx of its own citizens traveling to libya to join isis. and today tunesia remains one of the major sources of foreign fighters for this terrorist army. so after its campaign of rape and genocide against the yazidis, christians and shia muslims, isis continues to expand across north africa and the middle east, all the while working against u.s. interests not only in the region by inciting violence and terrorist attacks, but also in europe and
11:56 am
in places like san bernardino, california. of course our military serves in dangerous places all over the world, as do other people who bravely serve in a civilian capacity with our intelligence community and others. and today the threats extend all the way from an agos -- aggressive russia at nato's doorstep to an increasingly belligerent china in the south china sea, a topic the president is no doubt discussing during his visit in hanoi. there were the repeatedunchecked volatilities. given these threats, dangers and needs, you would think there would be bipartisan support for doing our work here and actually debating and voting on the defense authorization bill. the bottom line is that our military men and women must be prepared for all of these potential contingencies and the
11:57 am
defense authorization bill is our chance here in congress to make sure they have the training and equipment to do just that. it's pretty clear, mr. president, that the administration's disengagement around the world over the last seven years has not been working. and i've been saying that for some time. but the defense authorization bill that we will move to tomorrow is an opportunity for congress to provide our troops to the greatest extent possible and ensure that they're ready to face all of these threats. unfortunately the defense authorization bill would authorize resources to fight isis, to counter russian aggression and shore up u.s. and nato capabilities. so as we begin this debate and discussion, let's keep at the forefront of the conversation the men and women who are out there in harm's way facing these myriad threats. separated many times from their family and their community and their friends. and let's work in good faith to
11:58 am
get this bipartisan bill passed as soon as we can. mr. president, i don't see any senator interested in speaking, so i would note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
11:59 am
12:00 pm
quorum call:
12:01 pm
12:02 pm
12:03 pm
12:04 pm
12:05 pm
12:06 pm
12:07 pm
12:08 pm
12:09 pm
12:10 pm
mr. wyden: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from oregon. mr. wyden: i ask unanimous consent to vacate the quorum call, madam president. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. wyden: last month the department of labor laid out new safeguards that will help middle-class savers in a rule pertaining to advice given by financial advisors. today the senate has taken up a resolution of approval -- or, excuse me -- of disapproval that will undo that progress. i urge my colleagues to oppose it. the senate ought to be doing everything it can to help middle-class workers to save for retirement. instead, this resolution would go in the opposite direction. workers from oregon and across the nation are facing a savings crisis. fewer and fewer people have access to the type of simple, reliable pensions that were once
12:11 pm
commonplace. the leave-it-to-beaver ideal of getting a job, and working your way up and retiring with a pension and a gold watch -- that is simply not the prospect in front of many american workers today. for most americans, the road to retirement now takes many more twists and turns, and the burden of figuring out how to save, which seems to get tougher all the time, often falls directly on the workers themselves. first come the tough questions, and they come right up front: when to start saving? how much to set aside? when to retire and how much to draw down each month? what happens if you outlive your savings? you've got to study the markets, stocks and bonds, mutual funds, exchange traded funds, index
12:12 pm
funds. you have to decide what kind of risks you can afford to take on. it's even complicated for employers who have to pick from a long list of different kind of retirement plans. 401(k)'s, simple ira's, s.e.p.'s, stock bonus plans to name just a few. americans frequently turn to financial planners to help figure these issues out. now, it's my view that the overwhelming majority of these advisors are honest individuals who act in the best interest of their clients. but without modern protections in place, some bad actors, unfortunately, choose to push their clients towards products with higher fees and lower returns. it could mean the loss of tens
12:13 pm
of thousands of dollars from a retirement account over a lifetime of savings. to be clear, this is not some kind of esoteric issue that hardly anybody faces. it is a very substantial drain on middle-class savings. one estimate by the council of economic advisors said that conflicts of interest in retirement advice cost americans $17 billion every single year. that's where the labor department's new rule comes in. the rules pertaining to fiduciary investment advisors who act solely in the interest of their clients date back to 1975. obviously, in the more than 40 years since then, there have been very large changes in the retirement world. many more 401(k)'s, fewer professionally managed pension funds, and many more individuals
12:14 pm
and employers -- especially small employers -- lean on advisors for help determining how to invest their funds. it seems to me, the law ought to be modernized to reflect those changes. so the new rule seeks to lay out modern safeguards that are going to help protect middle-class savers and small business owners. what it says is that going forward, all retirement savers will be able to get advice that is in their best interest. it's a simple principle, and my hope is that policy-makers on both sides of the aisle will give it strong support. now, madam president, it's important to recognize this the labor department made a number of changes based on legitimate concerns that were raised as this rule came together. for example, last summer, i wrote a letter to secretary perez with a number of my colleagues from the senate
12:15 pm
finance committee that flagged a number of issues and asked the secretary to ensure that any final rule would work effectively. as i say, madam president, a group of us -- democratic members on the senate finance committee -- said there were a number of issues that we thought needed a bit more work. and i'm pleased to see that the secretary took many of our suggestions. for example, our senate finance letter -l highlighted the importance of a smooth transition to the new rule so the secretary actually took steps that included an extended implementation period. now instead of finding fresh approaches to help americans prepare for retirement, colleagues on the other side have brought forward a resolution of disapproval under the congressional review act that would in effect block these new protections.
12:16 pm
in 20 years since it became law there has been only one successful disapproval resolution under the congressional review act. under no circumstances should this extreme tool be used to make it harder for middle-class americans to get sound retirement advice. now in wrapping up, madam president, it seems to me that the bottom line is that for middle-class savers, for small business owners across the country, when you have rules of the road, that date back more than 40 years, we ought to come together to update them to protect our small businesses, to protect the middle class, to build a stronger ethic of saving in america. that's what this is all about. i strongly urge my colleagues to oppose the resolution of
12:17 pm
disapproval. and with that, madam president, i yield the floor and i note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
12:18 pm
mr. thune: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from south dakota. mr. thune: madam president, are we in a quorum call? the presiding officer: we are. mr. thune: i ask that it be suspended. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. thune: if you asked natives americans in my state
12:19 pm
about how they feel about health insurance, they have been receiving substandard care for years. too often clean exam rooms appear to be a luxury for south dakota's native american patients. dirty facilities and dirty, unsanitized equipment are common. and patient care is often slipshod at best. one health service facility was in such disarray that a pregnant mother gave birth on a bathroom floor without a single medical professional nearby, which shockingly wasn't the first time this had happened at this facility. another patient at the same facility who had suffered a severe head injury was discharged from the hospital mere hours after checking in only to be called back later the same day once his test results arrived. the patient's condition was so serious that he was immediately flown to another facility for care. a patient at pine ridge hospital
12:20 pm
in pine ridge, south dakota, was discharged from the emergency department and died from cardiac arrest two hours later. an investigation by the centers for medicare and medicaid services found that the patient failed to receive an adequate evaluation before his discharge. the situation in south dakota has gotten so bad that there's a real chance the federal government will terminate its medicare provider agreements with as of yesterday, three indian health service facilities in my state. that's right, madam president, three. yesterday my office was notified that yet a third i.h.s. emergency department in the great plains area had been found in violation of medicare's conditions of participation. in other words, these three emergency departments have been delivering such a poor level of care that the government isn't
12:21 pm
sure it can trust them to care for medicare patients. the associate regional administrator for the centers for medicare and medicaid services noted that the problems at this third hospital are -- and i quote -- "so serious that they constitute an immediate and serious threat to the health and safety of any individual who comes to your hospital to receive services." end quote. well, madam president, to describe the level of care at indian health service facilities as substandard is an understatement. the government is failing in its treaty responsibility to our tribes. i've been working on legislation to increase accountability and improve patient care at the indian health service. last week my friend, our colleague from wyoming who chairs the indian affairs committee in the senate and i introduced the i.h.s.
12:22 pm
accountability act. our bill takes a number of important steps to start the process of reforming the indian health service. first, we create an expedited procedure for firing senior leaders at the agency who aren't doing their jobs. the i.h.s. has suffered from mismanagement problems for years. to name just one example, the health service settled an $80 million lawsuit with unions that came about because i.h.s. could not manage the basic administrative task of dealing with overtime pay. the money that i.h.s. used to settle this lawsuit came in part from funds that should have been used for patients. $6.2 million alone came from money originally destined for i.h.s. facilities in the great plains area. unfortunately, madam president, the indian health service has frequently responded to mismanagement by shifting staffs
12:23 pm
between positions and offices instead of simply firing incompetent staff. we're not going to clean up the agency's problems that way. if a member of the indian health services leadership is standing in the way of providing quality care to patients, and that person needs to find another line of work. the bill i drafted with my colleague from wyoming will help make sure that happens. our bill also streamlines the hiring process at i.h.s. and ensures that tribes will be consulted when the agency is hiring for important positions. this will help the i.h.s. get dedicated, high-quality employees on the job faster. our bill also addresses the problem i.h.s. has had in retaining quality employees. a provision in our bill gives the secretary at the department of health and human services, which oversees the indian health service, increased flexibility to reward employees for good performance and to set the kinds
12:24 pm
of salaries that will keep good employees on the job longer. finally, our bill directs the government accountability office to review the whistle-blower protections that are currently in place at i.h.s. and determine whether we need to add any additional layers of protection. one of the obstacles to improving care for our tribes has been less than honest reporting from the indian health service. time and again we found that conditions on the ground have not matched up to information reported to congress. on december 4 in 2015, for example, officials from the indian health service stated that a majority of the concerns at the floundering rose bud hospital in rosebud, south dakota, have been addressed or abated. yet, mere hours later i was informed that the rosebud hospital emergency department was functioning so poorly that emergency patients would be
12:25 pm
diverted to other hospitals beginning the next day. as of today it has been 171 days since that emergency department was placed on diverted status. 171 days, madam president. clearly the issues at rosebud have not been addressed or abated on december 4. in 2014, i requested a status update on the great plains area from then-acting director of the indian health service. in her response, she stated -- and i quote -- "the great plains area has shown marked improvement in all categories. and significant improvements in health care delivery and program accountability have also been demonstrated." end quote. and yet we continue to receive frequent reports of abysmal patient care.
12:26 pm
i'm pretty sure that sending a man home with bleeding in his brain and having a mother give birth prematurely on a bathroom floor are not signs of significant improvement. having a realistic picture of what's going on at indian health service facilities is absolutely essential if we hope to start improving the standard of care that our tribes receive. that's why whistle-blower protections are so important. our bill will help make sure that the system protects those who come forward to expose the problems facing patients. madam president, i'm proud of the bill that my colleague and i have introduced, and i hope that the senate will take it up in the near future. while this is an important step, it is still just the first step. i will continue to consult with the nine tribes in south dakota
12:27 pm
and others to see what additional steps we need to take to fix the problems at the indian health service once and for all. our tribes deserve better than what they have been receiving, and i'm not going to rest until all our tribes are getting the quality care that they deserve. madam president, before i conclude, i'd like to take just a minute to talk about some aviation security issues that were brought into sharp relief by the recent crash of an egypt air flight. last week 66 people died when egypt flight 804 from paris, france, to cairo, egypt, crashed into the mediterranean sea off the egyptian coast. with investigators still recovering evidence, it's too soon to come to any conclusions as to the cause of this tragic accident. but, with the absence of evidence indicating an obvious
12:28 pm
technical failure, u.s. and egyptian officials have suggested terrorism a potential cause of the crash even without a credible claim of responsibility from any group. given the global risk environment and previous acts of terror, investigators are focusing their attention on anyone who may have had access to the egypt air aircraft while it was sitting on the ground, including baggage handlers, caterers, cleaners and fuel truck workers. at the senate commerce committee we've been very focused on this type of aviation safety and security issue over the last year. in december of 2015 the committee advanced legislation to address insider threats posed by airport workers and enhanced vetting of airline passengers. as the senate took up the f.a.a. reauthorization act of 2016, we engaged in a constructive and open process to consider amendments. ultimately the senate adopted a
12:29 pm
number of aviation security amendments including a security amendment that i cosponsored with commerce committee ranking member nelson, senator ayotte and senator cantwell that would strengthen security at international airports with direct flights into the united states. the amendment added a security title to the f.a.a. bill that included legislation marked up in the commerce committee as well as other initiatives. among other things, the amendment requires t.s.a. to conduct a comprehensive risk assessment of all foreign last point of deep par tour airports. airports, foreign airports with direct flights to the united states. the amendment also requires t.s.a. to develop a security coordination enhancement plan with domestic and foreign partners, including foreign governments and airlines, and conduct a comprehensive assessment of t.s.a.'s workforce abroad. it also authorizes t.s.a. to help foreign partners by
12:30 pm
donating security screening equipment to foreign last-point-of departure airports and to assist in evaluating foreign country's air kaorg security programs -- cargo security programs. these provisions are similar to those of h.r. 4698, the safe gates act of 2016, and together with the other stkaourt -- security provisions adopted take concrete steps to confront the real terrorist threat that we're facing. i believe these provisions in the f.a.a. reauthorization bill will help make air travel from foreign countries to the united states safer and more secure. the senate passed this legislation in april, and now it's time for the house of representatives to act. the house of representatives should take up our f.a.a. bill without delay so that we can get a final bill with timely security and safety reforels on the president's -- reforms on the president's desk before the

15 Views

info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on