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Yarmuth Leads Democratic Opposition to GOP’s ACA Repeal Bill on House Floor

Mar 24, 2017

Washington, D.C.—Kentucky Congressman John Yarmuth, Ranking Member of the House Budget Committee, delivered the following remarks on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives as he led the Democratic opposition to the Republicans’ health care repeal bill. Remarks as prepared for delivery:

Thank you Mr./Ms. Speaker.

After seven years of campaigning against the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Congressional Republicans have finally produced what they believe is a “replacement” plan.

However, this bill will unravel all of the progress we made under the ACA, including expanding access to health insurance to 22 million Americans and improving the quality of coverage and care for millions more. It nearly doubles the number of uninsured people in this country, guts Medicaid by more than $800 billion, and weakens the Medicare Trust Fund.

That was bad enough. But the last minute changes to this bill are astonishing and appalling. This legislation now allows insurers to end coverage for prescription drugs, mental health, maternity and newborn care, preventive care, emergency room visits, hospitalizations, outpatient care, rehab visits, lab services, and pediatric care.

That’s not progress. That’s not a fix – that’s a health crisis for every American with a pre-existing condition.

My Republican colleagues are well aware of this - why else would they have drafted this bill and these last-minute changes in secret?

Why else would complicated legislation  affecting the lives of millions be sent to the floor just two weeks after it was introduced? With no Congressional hearings, not a single one, on a bill that impacts the health care of nearly every American family.

And why else would they rush this bill to the floor without an updated Congressional Budget Office estimate of how much coverage and care will be lost by their backroom deal that ends consumer protections?

I get it. I wouldn’t want to, nor would I know how to, justify giving nearly $1 trillion in tax cuts to corporations and the wealthy, paid for by threatening the health and well-being of millions and millions of American families.

When the CBO released its report last week showing that 24 million hard-working Americans will be left without health coverage by 2026 if we pass this bill, that premiums will rise 15-20 percent next year, that people will pay thousands of dollars more in deductibles and out-of-pocket costs, and that older Americans will be priced out of the market by an age tax - I thought for sure it was dead on arrival. That there was no way my Republican colleagues would walk this plank. But here they are – and they are trying to take millions of American families with them.

14 million Americans will lose health coverage next year if this bill is approved. 21 million people will lose coverage in the next three years alone – wiping out all of the coverage gains from the ACA in just three years.

For pretty much everyone else in the individual market, deductibles and other costs will be higher. And for lower-income individuals, out-of-pocket costs will be much higher. 

Insurance companies will again be able to sell plans that offer much less financial protection. And we will return to the days where millions of people in this country will live in fear that they are always one serious illness or accident away from bankruptcy.

This bill will result in the largest transfer of wealth from struggling families to the well-off in our nation’s history -- giving $1 trillion in tax breaks to millionaires, billionaires, and corporations. It is Robin Hood in reverse, but this is far worse because access to life-saving care is being stolen.

I don’t say that casually. I have met people, constituents of mine, whose lives have been saved because of the Affordable Care Act.

This from one of my constituents:

My name is Kevin Schweitzer. I am 62 years old and I'm a lifelong resident of Louisville, Kentucky. I worked hard, took risks and built a successful small business that I sold at age 59. My wife and I were excited about our prospects as we headed into early retirement. As a retiree too young for Medicare, I purchased health insurance on the open market. Less than a year later I was diagnosed with Lymphoma. I have undergone multiple scans and 2 cycles of chemo. I am winning the battle so far, but since this disease is in my blood I will be fighting it for the rest of my life. A cancer diagnosis is a life changing event that not only attacks the body, but the mental stress is just as tough to deal with. Thanks to Obamacare, I've been able to rest easier knowing that my illness wouldn't bankrupt my family and that I'll be able to provide for my wife even after I'm gone.    

I also heard from a young woman named Sarah Adkins. She suffers from chronic kidney disease. Sarah was able to get health insurance because of the ACA. On Jan. 9, 2011, it saved her life. One of her kidneys shut down and almost went septic. If she didn’t have coverage, she would have waited or not gone to the hospital at all. The doctor told her if she had arrived at the ER an hour later, she likely would have died.

Mr. /Ms. Speaker: the health of my constituents Kevin Schweitzer and Sarah Adkins is at stake in this debate.

They, and the hundreds of others constituents I’ve heard from who have serious and chronic health conditions, will need high-quality, affordable health coverage for the rest of their lives. Under this bill, they will get less coverage, it will cost more, and eventually they will be priced out of the market – leaving them with nowhere to turn for the care they need. And that’s not all. Because of the last minute changes to this bill, insurers will be able to sell stripped-down coverage to weed-out people with pre-existing conditions. They will be able to refuse, for example, to offer coverage for chemotherapy drugs and cancer treatments, insulin pumps, hospital stays and prescription drugs that treat chronic conditions across the board. Basically, if you have a serious health problem, the care you need may not be available to you – at all.

When the American people were promised—by President Trump and the Republican congressional leadership—that their existing coverage would be preserved, and that everybody would have insurance and it would be less expensive and much better, they understandably believed they would be treated much better than this. None of those promises are in this bill. In fact, the opposite of every one of those promises is what’s in this bill.

Those were promises made to every family in our Congressional Districts. And this bill fails them at every turn. 

I, therefore, urge my colleagues oppose this legislation and I reserve the balance of my time.