Leahy's Senate Address Tues. Afternoon On Republicans Continuing To Hide Their TRUMPCARE BILL From The Public And From The Senate, A Week Before The Expected Vote

Senate Address of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.)
On the Devastating Impacts of Trumpcare
Senate Floor
Tuesday, June 20, 2017

For the last seven years, we have heard Republicans in Congress campaign on the pledge to repeal the Affordable Care Act.  State to state, district to district, like President Trump, they have pledged to repeal and replace the landmark health reform bill that made access to affordable healthcare a reality for millions of Americans.

You would think after seven years of campaigning on that promise, they would have a plan in place to do just that.  But instead, a dozen or so Republican lawmakers are meeting behind closed doors, shielded from public view, negotiating a grand plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act and make devastating cuts to the Medicaid program.  No hearings.  No debate.  No process.  No score.  No bill.  In keeping a tight lid on the decisions they are making for the rest of America, what are they so afraid of?  We are about to find out.  We hear they still intend to bring this yet-to-be-finalized bill to the Senate floor as early as next week under the expedited reconciliation process.

Without even the most basic vetting and transparency, not only is this latest Trumpcare plan that is about to be foisted on the American people and on the Senate not ready for prime time; it is not fit for prime time. This is nothing short of shameful.

Before the passage of the Affordable Care Act, the Senate alone held over 100 hearings and roundtables on health reform. Hundreds of amendments were considered by the Senate Finance and HELP Committees during an exhaustive markup process, with 160 amendments by Republican Senators adopted. The process itself stretched for so long – more than a year – in the vain hope that Republicans would come to the table and stay at the table. The final Senate bill included more than 145 Republican-authored amendments. The legislation was posted for nearly a week before the Finance Committee marked up the bill. The same can be said for the HELP Committee. More than 160 hours were spent on this Senate floor in considering the Affordable Care Act.

Contrast that with the action of today’s Senate. No hearings. No debate. No process. No score. And as of now, no bill. In the House, and now in the Senate, this charade boils down to bumper sticker politics. It certainly is not a solid, serious, vetted, workable, fair and equitable plan or policy.

Meanwhile, after celebrating the passage of the House-passed repeal bill – which the CBO estimated would cause 23 million Americans to lose coverage – the President has proposed a budget that assumes savings from the repeal of the Affordable Care Act and deep cuts to the Medicaid program. Under the House-passed Trumpcare bill, Vermont would spend hundreds of millions more on Medicaid to compensate for the loss of Federal funds targeted by the President and House Republicans for elimination. Under the House-passed Trumpcare bill, premiums are expected to rise by 20 percent. Seniors – many of whom live on fixed incomes – will be charged five times more than younger enrollees under the House-passed Trumpcare bill. In Vermont, that translates to north of $4,400 in increased health care costs for Vermonters between the ages of 55 and 64.

Of course, President Trump joined with Republicans at the White House to celebrate the House-passed bill. Yet just recently, President Trump described the House-passed bill as “mean.” I never thought I’d say it, but President Trump is right: The House-passed bill is mean. It would do so much harm to so many Americans.

It’s also untenable. It’s unrealistic. And if Senate Republicans think they can fix it behind closed doors, they are wrong. We should be working together, Republicans and Democrats – together – to improve the Affordable Care Act. Where it is flawed, let’s fix it. Where it can be improved, let’s strengthen it. Let’s not double down on Americans at a time when their President is turning his back on the very programs that support our social safety net, women and children, and low-income Americans and small businesses alike.

You know, as representatives of our constituents, we have a responsibility to give voice to their concerns. We 100 Senators are elected to represent 350 million Americans. Maybe it’s time for this chamber start listening to what they have to say about their health care.

A family physician from Manchester, Vermont, wrote to me saying, “I do not support efforts to roll back or eliminate the patient-centered insurance reforms established in recent years that prohibit discrimination against patients due to their race, gender, health status, or geographic location. These reforms matter to the everyday lives of our patients.”

Someone from Brattleboro wrote, “I am writing to ask what I can do to help stop Medicaid from being changed to the system being promoted by the Republican majority.”

From Jericho: “I had Hodgkin's lymphoma 3 years ago and was fortunate to have insurance to cover most of the roughly $100,000 bill. Having had cancer is stressful enough without constantly worrying about severe financial consequences if it strikes again.”

From Bennington: “Being patient-centered means we put the patient first. As a physician and advocate for my patients, I do not want any of them to be hurt by the actions Congress takes or fails to take.”

From Manchester Center: “I will be one of the [20 million] people to lose their health insurance when the Trump administration almost certainly repeals the ACA in a few months. Tax credits will not help me to regain it.”

From Sandgate: “My son as a chronic illness that, without our insurance, would cost $1000 per month in prescriptions alone. That doesn't even cover the regular checkups. Right now he is covered, but, as I'm sure you remember from when you first got out of college or high school, we know that he may not have as good coverage when he gets out on his own. The Republican plan is a death sentence for him.”

These are real people. These are real stories about their lives. This isn’t a political campaign. This is about life, and death, and access to health care. And for these Vermonters, and for millions of Americans across the country, the decisions we make here will have consequences. Every Senator should think about that before we hastily undo years of progress to increase affordable access to health care for millions of Americans.

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David Carle: 202-224-3693