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Yarmuth Opening Statement at Markup of GOP Health Care Bill

Mar 16, 2017

Washington, D.C.—Kentucky Congressman John Yarmuth, Ranking Member of the House Budget Committee, delivered opening remarks at today’s markup of the Republicans’ health care bill. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:  


Thank you Chairman Black. I have to admit that I was at a loss on how to begin this opening statement. I don’t know what else needs to be said when 24 million people will lose their health coverage if we pass this bill.
 
I know the Republican spin about CBO estimates being unreliable. My colleagues can claim whatever they want. The fact remains that this bill cuts hundreds of billions of dollars from Medicaid – that’s indisputable. The cuts grow larger every year, amounting to 25 percent of the entire Medicaid program in 2026 and get deeper and deeper every year after that. You can’t cut Medicaid that severely without dramatically cutting coverage and care.  And let’s be clear about who would lose that coverage and care - it’s parents struggling to get by on poverty-level wages, seniors in nursing homes, children, and people who are too disabled to work.
 
So let’s be honest. This is not a health care bill. It is an ideology document; a fantasy about freedom and choice existing in a market that doesn’t exist. But what is real about this bill is painfully real. It gives $600 billion in tax cuts to corporations and the wealthy, paid for in the worst way – by jeopardizing the health and well-being of American families. It takes life-saving health care from those in need to give tax cuts to the
rich, with devastating consequences for families all across the country. This is Robin Hood in reverse but far worse. 
 
Speaker Ryan loves to talk about giving people the “freedom” and “choice” to decide whether to have health insurance or not  -- and giving insurance companies the freedom and choice to cherry-pick young, healthy enrollees and sell them cheap, stripped-down health plans.  That would work if young people also had the freedom to choose whether to get cancer or not, or get in a serious accident or not – which they obviously can’t.  But that doesn’t stop Speaker Ryan from pretending that this bill will create some magical health care free-market that exists nowhere in the world. It’s a fantasy land where young people don’t get sick – and apparently they don’t grow old either, so they don’t have to worry about being priced out of the market. That’s nonsense. And that’s why CBO doesn’t project more people will be insured under this bill – CBO says the opposite, that the number of people without insurance will nearly double.
 
I think that’s all you need to know if you’re wondering why this bill is being rushed to the floor.  Remember, it was introduced last Monday, marked-up in the Energy and Commerce and Ways and Means Committees two days later. It’s now before our Committee, and will be on the House floor as fast as they can get it there. There have been no Congressional hearings on this legislation.  Not a single hearing on legislation that impacts the health care of nearly every American family.
 
If I were them I wouldn’t want to talk about this bill either. I certainly wouldn’t want to defend it. But the American people deserve to know what’s in it, so let’s run through the facts.
 
14 million Americans will lose coverage next year. That number rises to 24 million people by 2026.  These people will live in fear that they are always one serious illness or car accident away from bankruptcy.
 
The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimates premiums in the individual market will jump by 15 to 20 percent in 2018 and 2019.  Yes, by the end of the decade premiums will be 10 percent less than current law.  But a main reason for that drop is largely because older people will be priced out of the market, which I hope no one would want to brag about. For example, a 64 year-old making less than $27,000 a year currently pays $1,700 a year for coverage under the ACA. Under this bill, that same person’s premiums skyrocket to more than $14,000 a year, so he or she would have to spend more than half of their income to get coverage. That’s not progress, that’s a crisis.
 
But it gets worse. For pretty much everyone in the individual market other costs, including deductibles, will be higher. For lower-income individuals, out-of-pocket costs will be significantly higher. 
 
The bill increases financial risk for consumers.  It eliminates the requirement that insurers provide policies of certain actuarial values, which means these companies can sell plans that offer much less financial protection.
 
Plus, it takes $170 billion from the Medicare trust fund, shortening the life of the program by three years.
 
It does all that – cutting coverage for millions of Americans, increasing costs, and reducing care for millions more – to give millionaires a $50,000 tax cut every year, and a $144 billion tax cut to insurance companies, and a $25 billion tax cut to the pharmaceutical industry - and a special tax cut to subsidize the salaries of health insurance executives, who often make $10 million or more a year.
 
It’s a pretty remarkable document – particularly when you think about what was promised to the American people.
 
President Trump repeatedly said that the Republican replacement bill would preserve existing coverage - that everybody would have insurance and it would be less expensive and much better. He also pledged that Medicare and Medicaid would not be cut.  None of that is in this bill. In fact, the exact opposite of every one of those promises Trump made to the American people is what’s in this bill.
 
Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price stated that more people will be covered than are covered right now and nobody will be worse off financially. Not true.
 
Speaker Ryan promised that no would be left out in the cold, and no one would be worse off.  Wrong.
 
Republican Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers pledged “No one who has coverage because of Obamacare today will lose that coverage.”  Wrong again.
 
You won’t find any of those promises kept in this bill - promises made by the President of the United States, his Secretary of Health and Human Services, the Speaker of House and other members of the Republican House Leadership. 
 
And let’s remember, this bill is their first step. The Republican strategy, a strategy they have publicly stated, is to take away the Affordable Care Act’s guarantees that services like maternity care, mental health, substance abuse services, and others will be covered.  Ultimately, this bill, future legislation, and expected efforts to end consumer protections through regulation will put insurance companies back in charge, allowing them to once again decide who lives and who dies.
 
I strongly oppose this bill and I am not alone in that opposition.
It is opposed by America’s hospitals, doctors, nurses, the AARP, the American Cancer Society, the American Diabetes Association, the National Disability Rights Network, governors from both sides of the aisle, and more and more of our Republican colleagues.
 
This bill is not what the American people want.  They have made that clear by showing up in the thousands at town halls across our country.  We can improve the Affordable Care Act and we should. So I urge my Republican colleagues to vote no on this bill and work with us to ensure every family has access to quality, affordable health care. The American people deserve no less.
 
Thank you and I yield back.