The Laudable Pursuit: The Next Steps Towards Health Care Reform

Senator Mike Lee
2017-07-28 15:55:17
July 28, 2017 "to elevate the condition of men--to lift artificial weights from all shoulders, to clear the paths of laudable pursuit for all, to afford all an unfettered start and a fair chance, in the race of life." --Abraham Lincoln Chairman's Note: The Next Steps Towards Health Care Reform Last night was a setback for health care reform. There is no way around that. But it may also be a blessing in disguise. The bill we were voting on, what many in the media were referring to as a "skinny" repeal bill, was truly an anemic effort. While it did repeal the individual mandate permanently, it provided only temporary relief from the employer mandate and medical device tax. It also left the rest of the Affordable Care Act's regulations, taxes, and subsidies completely intact. By some estimates it repealed just two percent of Obamacare. Even worse then the product we were voting on was the process that led to last night's vote. The bill we voted on around 1:30 this morning was only released about three hours before. It was only a handful of pages, so there was time to read it (for a change). But there was no serious debate or deliberation about its contents. Amendments could be offered, but without reports from the Congressional Budget Office about their impact on the economy and the federal budget, they required 60 votes for passage. The bill was written in secret, with no input from either the formal congressional committees charged with oversight of our health care system, or the informal working group assigned by our leadership to craft the legislation. My preferred amendment sat at CBO for four weeks without being given a "score" detailing its projected costs and benefits. My colleague Ron Johnson (R-WI) waited four months for a CBO report on various Obamacare provisions, without any response. This is not the way the Senate is supposed to work. It is not the way a free people is supposed to govern itself. When the bill failed, many declared the issue dead. But as long as Obamacare is on the books, hurting millions of Americans and driving up the cost of healthcare, this issue isn't going anywhere. We must now go back to the drawing board. We must to go back to the proper committees of jurisdiction and start from the beginning by identifying the specific policy problems we are trying to solve and then craft reforms to solve them. The United States is a large, vibrant, and diverse country. There is no reason to assume the health care policies that work in a state with the demographics of Florida will also work in a state like Utah. What we need to identify is a politically palatable way to give states the freedom needed to craft their own health care solutions. At the heart of this effort must be true freedom from the federal regulations that are the main drivers of our nation's rising health care costs. Seeking Accountability for Federal Lands and Water Projects Click here to watch video Issue in Focus: A Privacy Update The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution states plainly that Americans cannot be subjected to "unreasonable searches and seizures" of our "persons, houses, papers, and effects." But what about emails, text messages, and digital documents? Do they qualify for protection under the Fourth Amendment? Any reasonable observer would answer yes, given how much intimate and personal information we share through those mediums every day. Electronic communications and records are the "papers and effects" of an online age. They should clearly be protected from government snooping. It is stunning, then, that current law does not give provide sufficient protection to electronic communications. This needs to change, and it will if I and several of my colleagues are successful. America's online privacy laws are based on a bill passed way back in 1986, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA). This well-intended bill prohibited the federal government from intercepting electronic communications and accessing some stored data. That's because its authors understood that electronic communications were no different than phone calls or letters transmitted by homing pigeon. But when Congress wrote the ECPA in 1986, the "Internet" as we know it did not exist-its predecessor, ARPANET, was used only by academic researchers, the military, and a few hobbyists. Congress did not anticipate that within a few decades the Internet would be used by billions to communicate, read the news, and even shop for groceries. So they carelessly included a provision in ECPA that permitted the government to access many forms of archived data without getting permission from a judge. Under the provision, electronic records stored with third-party service providers for longer than 180 days are deemed "abandoned," in the same way that a physical storage unit can be abandoned. Government agents can then access "abandoned" records by subpoenaing the third party. As a result, we know that government agencies such as the IRS Criminal Tax Division have advised agents that they can rummage through Americans' old emails without a search warrant-all because, in the words of the FBI, we shouldn't have a "reasonable expectation of privacy" in our emails. This provision may have seemed harmless in 1986, the year Metroid and Legend of Zeldadebuted in 8-bit graphics on the NES. Practically nothing was stored in a digital form back then. But the law is dangerously outdated in 2017, when any citizen can store all of his personal records online in perpetuity through services like Google Drive and Dropbox. Since 2013, I have worked with Sen. Pat Leahy (D-VT) and several other colleagues to protect Americans' papers and effects wherever they are found-whether in a server farm, the Cloud, or a safe deposit box. This week we re-introduced two bills that would go a long way to accomplishing this goal, the ECPA Modernization Act and Email Privacy Act. The bills would bring online privacy protections up to par with the protections we expect for other forms of communication. They would require government agents to obtain a search warrant based on probable cause to access our records, with reasonable exceptions for national security searches and emergency situations. The ECPA Modernization Act is a little broader than the Email Privacy Act, since it also requires law enforcement to get a warrant before they can track your location by using your cell phone location data, but both these bipartisan bills are long overdue updates to our federal privacy laws. The federal government never relinquishes its power over our lives easily. It has fought these reforms at every turn. Washington, D.C. Office 361A Russell Senate Office Building Washington, D.C., 20510 Phone: 202.224.5444 Fax: 202.228.1168 Salt Lake City Wallace F. Bennett Federal Building 125 South State, Suite 4225 Salt Lake City, UT 84138 Phone: 801.524.5933 Fax: 801.524.5730 St. George Office of Senator Michael S. Lee 285 West Tabernacle, Suite 200 St. George, UT 84770 Phone: 435.628.5514 SaveSaveSave SaveSave SaveSaveSave Save Save This message was intended for: xxx You were added to the system October 2, 2015. For more information please follow the URL below: newsletter.senate.gov/p/isceruYExN Follow the URL below to update your preferences or opt-out: newsletter.senate.gov/p/osceruYExN To unsubscribe from future mailings, send an email to mailto:xxx?Subject=Unsubscribe&body=Please%20remove%20me%20from%20further%20mailings with "Unsubscribe" as the subject line.
July 28, 2017

"to elevate the condition of men--to lift artificial weights from all shoulders, to clear the paths of laudable pursuit for all, to afford all an unfettered start and a fair chance, in the race of life." --Abraham Lincoln

Chairman's Note: The Next Steps Towards Health Care Reform

Last night was a setback for health care reform. There is no way around that. 

But it may also be a blessing in disguise.

The bill we were voting on, what many in the media were referring to as a “skinny” repeal bill, was truly an anemic effort. While it did repeal the individual mandate permanently, it provided only temporary relief from the employer mandate and medical device tax. It also left the rest of the Affordable Care Act’s regulations, taxes, and subsidies completely intact. By some estimates it repealed just two percent of Obamacare.

Even worse then the product we were voting on was the process that led to last night’s vote. 

The bill we voted on around 1:30 this morning was only released about three hours before. It was only a handful of pages, so there was time to read it (for a change). But there was no serious debate or deliberation about its contents. Amendments could be offered, but without reports from the Congressional Budget Office about their impact on the economy and the federal budget, they required 60 votes for passage.

The bill was written in secret, with no input from either the formal congressional committees charged with oversight of our health care system, or the informal working group assigned by our leadership to craft the legislation.

My preferred amendment sat at CBO for four weeks without being given a “score” detailing its projected costs and benefits. My colleague Ron Johnson (R-WI) waited four months for a CBO report on various Obamacare provisions, without any response.

This is not the way the Senate is supposed to work. It is not the way a free people is supposed to govern itself.

When the bill failed, many declared the issue dead. But as long as Obamacare is on the books, hurting millions of Americans and driving up the cost of healthcare, this issue isn’t going anywhere.

We must now go back to the drawing board. We must to go back to the proper committees of jurisdiction and start from the beginning by identifying the specific policy problems we are trying to solve and then craft reforms to solve them.

The United States is a large, vibrant, and diverse country. There is no reason to assume the health care policies that work in a state with the demographics of Florida will also work in a state like Utah.

What we need to identify is a politically palatable way to give states the freedom needed to craft their own health care solutions. At the heart of this effort must be true freedom from the federal regulations that are the main drivers of our nation’s rising health care costs. 

Seeking"Accountability for Federal Lands and Water Projects

Click here to watch video

Issue in Focus: A Privacy Update

The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution states plainly that Americans cannot be subjected to “unreasonable searches and seizures” of our “persons, houses, papers, and effects.”

But what about emails, text messages, and digital documents? Do they qualify for protection under the Fourth Amendment? 

Any reasonable observer would answer yes, given how much intimate and personal information we share through those mediums every day. Electronic communications and records are the “papers and effects” of an online age. They should clearly be protected from government snooping. 

It is stunning, then, that current law does not give provide sufficient protection to electronic communications. This needs to change, and it will if I and several of my colleagues are successful.

America’s online privacy laws are based on a bill passed way back in 1986, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA).

This well-intended bill prohibited the federal government from intercepting electronic communications and accessing some stored data. That’s because its authors understood that electronic communications were no different than phone calls or letters transmitted by homing pigeon.

But when Congress wrote the ECPA in 1986, the “Internet” as we know it did not exist—its predecessor, ARPANET, was used only by academic researchers, the military, and a few hobbyists. Congress did not anticipate that within a few decades the Internet would be used by billions to communicate, read the news, and even shop for groceries. 

So they carelessly included a provision in ECPA that permitted the government to access many forms of archived data without getting permission from a judge. Under the provision, electronic records stored with third-party service providers for longer than 180 days are deemed “abandoned,” in the same way that a physical storage unit can be abandoned. Government agents can then access “abandoned” records by subpoenaing the third party.

As a result, we know that government agencies such as the IRS Criminal Tax Division have advised agents that they can rummage through Americans’ old emails without a search warrant—all because, in the words of the FBI, we shouldn’t have a “reasonable expectation of privacy” in our emails.

This provision may have seemed harmless in 1986, the year Metroid and Legend of Zelda debuted in 8-bit graphics on the NES. Practically nothing was stored in a digital form back then. But the law is dangerously outdated in 2017, when any citizen can store all of his personal records online in perpetuity through services like Google Drive and Dropbox. 

Since 2013, I have worked with Sen. Pat Leahy (D-VT) and several other colleagues to protect Americans’ papers and effects wherever they are found—whether in a server farm, the Cloud, or a safe deposit box.

This week we re-introduced two bills that would go a long way to accomplishing this goal, the ECPA Modernization Act and Email Privacy Act.

The bills would bring online privacy protections up to par with the protections we expect for other forms of communication. 

They would require government agents to obtain a search warrant based on probable cause to access our records, with reasonable exceptions for national security searches and emergency situations. 

The ECPA Modernization Act is a little broader than the Email Privacy Act, since it also requires law enforcement to get a warrant before they can track your location by using your cell phone location data, but both these bipartisan bills are long overdue updates to our federal privacy laws. 

The federal government never relinquishes its power over our lives easily. It has fought these reforms at every turn.   


Washington, D.C. Office
361A Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C., 20510
Phone: 202.224.5444
Fax: 202.228.1168
Salt Lake City
Wallace F. Bennett Federal Building
125 South State, Suite 4225
Salt Lake City, UT 84138
Phone: 801.524.5933
Fax: 801.524.5730
St. George
Office of Senator Michael S. Lee
285 West Tabernacle, Suite 200
St. George, UT 84770
Phone: 435.628.5514



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