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Sen. Schatz Opposes ‘Trumpcare’

Posted March 14, 2017, 01:14 PM HST
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Today, U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i) took to the Senate floor to oppose Trumpcare, legislation that would replace the Affordable Care Act with a plan that he says would offer less care, impose an age tax and cut Medicaid while giving tax breaks to the wealthy.

“Trumpcare is one of the worst pieces of legislation I’ve seen in decades,” said Sen. Schatz. “There’s no doubt that there’s plenty of room for improvement in existing law, but Trumpcare does not improve healthcare for Americans. It implodes it. And that is a threat to the progress we’ve made these past seven years. It’s a threat to one-sixth of the economy. And most of all, it’s a threat to at least 24 million people who stand to lose their health insurance.”

Full remarks as prepared for delivery follows:

What do we call it? What do we call this new bill Republicans are rushing through to take away health care from millions of people? Is it Trumpcare? Or is it Ryancare?

Both of these men are branding experts. The president put his name on a line of steaks.

He’s put his name on a magazine, on hotels. And here’s the speaker of the house, who has worked hard to be thought of as a policy wonk and serious thinker, who has branded everything he’s worked on, from the Ryan budget to “a better way.”

But neither leader of the Republican Party wants to own this thing. And that’s because Trumpcare is one of the worst pieces of legislation I’ve seen in decades.

The process has been a mess. And this is despite the fact that Republicans had 7 years to work on a plan. At first, they were thinking about doing it without a score from the Congressional Budget Office. Then they realized no one wanted to vote on something without knowing how much it would cost or how many people would lose health coverage.

Now, they’re saying the score either doesn’t matter, or is wrong—except for the areas where they look good.

They’ve spent the last 48 hours trashing the CBO when there’s ample evidence that for the last 8 years, they’ve referred to

CBO as an expert source when it fits their needs.

Look—the legislative process requires hearings. It requires expert testimony.

And that’s not a mere formality. That’s how you get a decent product. And for all the complaints about how the ACA was passed, they had hearings. They had discussions.

President Obama even went to the Republican retreat and engaged.

Moving this fast without hearings is the kind of thing you do to name a post office—because it’s non-controversial. Or it’s the kind of thing you do for something you don’t want people to look at very closely.

Because every moment that passes, the coalition frays—if it ever existed in the first place. Now, you have criticism from literally left, right, and center.

And that’s in part because no one saw this coming. No one expected a bill that would look like this. During the campaign, this administration promised not to cut Medicaid. They promised that everyone—every single American—would have health insurance.

But here we are. And if Trumpcare becomes law, 14 million people will lose their health insurance by next year.

Let me repeat that. In just one year, 14 million Americans will no longer have the health insurance they were promised.

I want to talk about what that means. What will it mean if people no longer have health care? This week, the Washington Post featured the stories of people in a single county whose lives have changed for the better—all because of Medicaid.

In McDowell County, Medicaid has helped thousands of people get access to physical therapy and immunizations.

It’s allowed them to see a counselor for mental health problems and opioid addiction. It’s helped them afford the medication they need, instead of relying on free samples from clinics.

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These services don’t just benefit individuals. They benefit society by making sure that people are healthy and can work and contribute to our economy.

They allow us to save money by focusing on prevention instead of treatment.

This is what’s at stake. These are the services that will go away, because Trumpcare is going to cut Medicaid—by $880 billion.

Trumpcare is also going to impose an age tax that will allow insurance companies to charge older people more money for health insurance—a lot more.

And I want to be clear. We’re not talking about the elderly here. We’re talking about people who are pre-Medicare, but not exactly young. For example, a 64-year old will be charged up to 5 times more than a 21-year-old.

The older you get, the more they charge you—starting at 25 years old.

That’s why the AARP has come out against this bill. Because every year you get older, they will charge you more. This is an age tax.

There’s an important point to be made here about process—and that is this: This is not a health care bill. If it were a health care bill, it wouldn’t be in reconciliation.

What does that mean? It means that Republicans, in order to enact a health care law, would need 60 votes. And they don’t have them. So essentially, they’re stuck dealing with taxes using the reconciliation process, because it only requires 51 votes.

That means this bill is a tax vehicle. And so then the question becomes, who gets money, and who loses money?

And on that count, this is one of the biggest wealth transfers in American history. It’s a transfer from working class Americans to rich Americans. That’s what this bill does – it takes money from the people who need the most help, and gives it to the very wealthy.

Here we are in 2017, just a few months out from an election where income inequality was one of the driving issues.

And the Republicans take from that experience that their mandate is to go in and reduce taxes for insurance executives and for the investor class… to cut Medicaid by $880 billion… to cut insurance subsidies by massive amounts.

It’s like they were asleep all last year. Or maybe they were never very serious about income inequality.

We don’t need another election to know that this is not what the American people expect from Congress. They expect bipartisan compromise. They expect results that will make their health care better.

We can work together on health care, but it requires 3 things. First, good faith. Second, bipartisanship. Third, legislative hearings. And frankly, we haven’t seen any of these, because this process is a mess.

We need to have a conversation in the light of day, and let the American people weigh in. What is the rush?

There’s no doubt that there’s plenty of room for improvement in existing law. But Trumpcare does not improve health care for Americans. It implodes it.

And that is a threat to the progress we’ve made these past 7 years. It’s a threat to one-sixth of the economy. And most of all, it’s a threat to at least 24 million people who stand to lose their health insurance

These threats are the reason that the Senate needs to come together and say: slow down. Let’s work together. Let’s work on forming a bipartisan foundation.

Let’s have hearings. And most importantly, let’s not impose this catastrophe on the American people.

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