News Center

Dear Friends,

This week, the Senate overwhelmingly passed the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act of 2014, which would protect millions of homeowners from being hit by huge flood insurance premium rate hikes.

Specifically, H.R.3370, will mitigate the unintended, unaffordable annual flood insurance premium increases felt by many homeowners that were included in the Biggert-Waters law enacted in 2012. The bill reinstates the grandfathering provision of the flood insurance program, protecting homes that complied with previous flood maps from being hit with rate spikes due to new mapping. H.R.3370 also helps ensure the financial solvency of the National Flood Insurance Program by including a modest annual premium surcharge.

I was proud to lead the bipartisan effort to protect millions of hardworking families across the country from the steep increases in their annual flood insurance premiums. This critical action will bring relief for many Americans and Georgians who were facing unaffordable flood insurance premiums that could have caused them to lose their homes and see their home values plummet. Had these increases taken full effect, the effects would have been devastating to families as well as local economies.

Sexual Assault in the Military

This week, the Senate passed a bipartisan bill aimed at improving the way sexual assault is handled in the military. The legislation adds additional reforms and strengthens the responses to S.1197, the National Defense Authorization Act for FY14. I have participated in recent discussions over how best to address this crisis in our military. I have met with victims of sexual assault in the military and heard their painful stories as well as their ideas on how best to address the crisis of sexual assault in the military. Any instance of sexual abuse in the military is abhorrent, and in the very unfortunate event that sexual misconduct takes places, it must be addressed quickly, properly and in a manner that protects the rights of the victim. I was proud to support this legislation.

Obamacare

The administration continues to make major changes to its 2010 health care law, commonly referred to as Obamacare, to suit its whims. The latest change came last week when the administration released a rule on March 5, 2014, exempting some self-insured health plans, such as those commonly run by unions, from Obamacare’s reinsurance fee in 2015 and 2016. The three-year, $25 billion reinsurance fee is meant to stabilize the individual market if too many sick customers sign up for insurance between 2014 and 2016. Prior to this announcement, the fee applied equally to everyone with a private health insurance plan or a health plan administered by a private insurer. Those who did not receive a special carve-out will now likely have to pay a bigger share of the fee.

This week, Sen. Saxby Chambliss and I joined 23 of our Republican colleagues in calling on the Obama administration to immediately rescind its rule creating an unwarranted special carve-out for some unions from Obamacare fees.

In a letter to Office of Management and Budget Director Sylvia Burwell, we wrote: “…to express deep disappointment that your agency has approved a final rule creating an unwarranted special carve-out benefitting certain unions over other Americans. We demand that the rule be immediately rescinded or we will consider using options such as the Congressional Review Act to stop the rule from going into effect.”

“The Congressional Review Act is an important backstop against executive branch excess and overreach. It is regulations such as this one that demonstrate why a Republican-led Congress enacted this law in 1996. …The American people deserve answers when their own government proposes to undermine their right to equal treatment under law. Carving out some unions from a multi-billion dollar reinsurance fee, the cost of which will ultimately be borne by every other American with private health insurance, is unacceptable.” Click here to read the full text of the letter.

Medicare Advantage and Obamacare

I previously shared the news that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) would be making changes to further cut the Medicare Advantage program, likely leading to higher premiums, loss of benefits and fewer choices for seniors enrolled in these popular plans.

Fortunately, after receiving significant pushback, the administration announced their decision this week to withdraw proposed changes to the Medicare prescription drug program.

I am pleased the administration has agreed to withdraw proposed changes to Medicare Part D that would have undermined the continued success of the Medicare prescription drug program and forced many Georgia seniors to lose their current drug coverage. It is my hope the administration will similarly acknowledge the damage caused by Obamacare’s devastating cuts to the Medicare Advantage program and work with Congress to protect access to care and benefits for millions of seniors enrolled in these popular plans.

Veterans’ Affairs Hearing

This week the Veterans’ Affairs Committees of the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate held a joint hearing to receive a legislative presentation from several Veterans’ Service Organizations. During my opening statement, I pointed out the need for longer-term budgeting as a way to assist our veterans as well as the government organizations they depend on to allow for better planning.

As a member of this committee, I used the opportunity to question Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki about ensuring accountability and oversight at the Department of Veterans Affairs to follow up from the VA Field hearing I held in Georgia last August. The August hearing examined the April 2013 reports from the Department of Veterans Affairs Inspector General detailing mismanagement of inpatient and contracted outpatient mental health programs at the Atlanta VA Medical Center in the wake of three veteran suicides and to address the steps the VA has taken to improve the mental health care provided in all of their facilities. In addition to Shinseki, I asked questions of Undersecretary Robert Petzel, who also testified in Atlanta in 2013, that followed up on the August 2013 hearing, as well as delving further into statements he made at a hearing in the House two weeks ago.

In Other News

On Monday evening, I hosted a telephone town hall meeting with hundreds of constituents from across Georgia. We discussed a variety of topics, from the situation in Crimea, Ukraine and Russia, to the Savannah Harbor Expansion Program. If you are interested, you can listen to my town hall meeting on my website or sign-up to participate in the next telephone town hall. 

I also had the opportunity to meet with students from Newnan, Ga., this week, as well as our Senate Page from Georgia, Ammishaddai Grand-Jean from Jonesboro, Ga.

What’s on Tap?

Next week, the Senate will be in recess. When the Senate reconvenes on March 24, we will possibly begin work on legislation regarding the Ukraine and the Sustainable Growth Rate, or “Doc Fix,” that expires on April 1, 2014.

Sincerely,
Johnny Isakson