U.S. Senate Committee on Finance

06/19/2017 | News release | Distributed by Public on 06/19/2017 16:50

Wyden Statement on Senate Floor on the Consequences of Trumpcare

June 19,2017

M. President, the American public has spent the last several weeks hearing that the Senate will vote on its new version of Trumpcare by the end of this month. Well, it's now June 19th, and the public is still in the dark about what's in the bill. They're in the dark about how much their costs will rise. They're in the dark about how many millions of people will lose insurance. They're in the dark about whether a pre-existing condition will once again be used against them by insurance companies.

If news reports are to be believed - and they're all there is to go on at this point - a vote on this massive proposal affecting the lives of just about everybody in the country is just days away. But nobody outside of a group of 13 men, all Republicans, knows what's in it. So my Democratic colleagues and I are going to spend a lot of time here on the floor today and in the days ahead. Because what's happening here is as stark an example of legislative malpractice I can remember in all my time in Congress.

It is time for Americans to get loud -- to do their part and make their voices heard. If and when this legislation hits the floor, the debate's going to be quick. By the standards of this body, it'll be over in a flash. So this afternoon I want to be very direct with a few key points for people to remember over the next two weeks.

First, the Republican health care plan is going to raise costs for typical Americans.

If you're an older Americans nearing retirement, 55 or 60 years old, you are going to get hit with an age tax. You're going to be forced to pay several times as much as a younger person for health insurance.

Under the House Trumpcare bill, 64 year old seniors of limited means were going to see their premiums shoot up by 800 percent. I'd like to hear somebody try to explain to a lifelong trucker or somebody who spent decades cleaning offices to put food on their family's table why that's an improvement in our health care system.

These are older people who are already struggling to make ends meet, and they've been told for the last seven years that 'repeal and replace' would lower their health care costs. Now they're facing the reality of Trumpcare, which says that they'll somehow have to spend the bulk of their income on health insurance - and in some cases it'll take up nearly all of it. But it's not just older people facing an age tax who will see their costs rise.

Trumpcare cuts middle class tax benefits for health care that were put in place under the Affordable Care Act. Particularly out in rural areas, that means premiums are going to be a much bigger burden on typical, middle-class families.

The Republican health plan ends the bedrock guarantee that nobody will face discrimination over pre-existing conditions.

Working adults - 30, 40, 50 years old -- who thought they were home free with employer-sponsored insurance could once again face some of the worst insurance company abuses - annual and lifetime limits on benefits. One new report says 27 million Americans could get hit by annual limits, and 20 million could face lifetime limits.

So if a 35 year old develops cancer and needs to go through expensive surgeries and chemotherapy, busting through those caps could mean they face decades digging out from a mountain of medical debts.

Second, Trumpcare is built around an $800 billion attack on Medicaid. Today Medicaid comes with a guarantee - if you're walking an economic tightrope and you're sick or injured, you'll get the care you need when you need it. You cannot be denied benefits. But slashing the program by hundreds of billions of dollars will end that guarantee because states will be forced to cut benefits. The best way to understand the consequences of that plan is to look at the seniors in nursing homes.

The Medicaid nursing home benefit helps pick up the tab for two out of three nursing home beds in America. Because the fact is, growing old in this country is expensive. You can do everything right through a lifetime of hard work, scrimping and saving, putting off vacations or big purchases to be financially prudent. But still, a lot of seniors spend down their savings. That's when Medicaid steps in to help cover the cost of nursing homes and other long-term care services.

One year in a nursing home costs more than $90,000 on average. That's two or three times as much as a year of college education. So if Trumpcare slashes Medicaid so deeply that seniors are in danger of losing the nursing home benefit, how are families supposed to take care of their older loved ones?

Of course Medicaid does a lot more than cover nursing home care. Thirty seven million kids are enrolled in Medicaid, and it's a vital source of care and support for kids and adults with disabilities.

Medicaid is the only lifeline that thousands and thousands of Americans fighting opioid addiction have in their struggle to put their lives back together. No community anywhere in the country has escaped this epidemic. Since Medicaid was expanded under the ACA, it has been leading the fight against the opioid epidemic by improving access for millions of people to treatment for mental health and substance abuse disorders. But with the Republican plan's enormous cuts, thousands of people could lose their best shot to recover from addiction and lead healthy lives.

Finally, Republicans are gambling with your health care by writing this bill behind closed doors. No input from across the aisle, from health experts, or from the public. And particularly important to me as the ranking member on the Senate Finance Committee, the Senate Trumpcare bill is being written without any hearings or committee markups. Our committee has jurisdiction over Medicare, Medicaid, the financing of our health care programs, and many aspects of the overall health care industry itself.

We're also the committee with the expertise on health care at a staff level and as lawmakers. But with the majority leader keeping this process locked behind closed doors, Chairman Hatch and I, along with all of the Democrats and most of the Republicans on our committee, have been cut out.

Back in the run-up to the Affordable Care Act in 2009, the Finance Committee held more than 50 hearings, roundtables and walkthroughs on health reform. When the legislation was introduced, it sat online for six full days before it was voted on by the committee. Five hundred and sixty four amendments were posted online. More than 130 amendments were considered during the markup, which lasted eight days. More than two dozen Republican amendments were adopted, and the bill passed on a bipartisan basis.

When the legislation went to the floor, the Senate spent 25 consecutive legislative days in session on health reform, the second-longest consecutive session in history. The debate lasted a total of nearly 220 hours.

That's how the legislative process is supposed to look from the beginning - the committees do the hard work out in the open, gathering input from experts and the public, and then the Senate gets to have a full debate.

That's not what's happening on Trumpcare. This bill is shrouded in secrecy, and the public is in the dark.

There will be no hearings on the impact it'll have on the millions of people who rely on Medicaid for health insurance. There will be no hearings on what it'll mean when pre-existing conditions are once again a scarlet letter. There will be no hearings asking how a 64 year old of limited means is supposed to deal with the age tax swallowing up their entire income.

When the Senate Republican health plan hits the floor, it'll get 20 hours of debate before time expires and the final votes are cast. That's it. Twenty hours to decide the future of health care in America.

So it's go time on health care. It's time for Americans to speak out. If you have a story about how Trumpcare will affect your family, you can share it on my website at www.wyden.senate.gov/ts. Or you can use the hashtag #AmericaSpeaksOut. We're going to keep at it here on the floor in the hours and days ahead, but right now, it's time for the grassroots to rise up because this debate is coming fast.

So with that, I yield the floor.