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WASHINGTON, DC - House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD) spoke on the House Floor today where he urged Republicans to not further undermine the Affordable Care Act. Below is a link to the video and a transcript of his remarks:
Click here to watch a video of his remarks.
“Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Last week was a historic week in many respects. My Republican colleagues have indicated for six years they wanted to repeal the Affordable Care Act. They introduced a bill, which really did not accomplish that objective, but it did undermine very severely the protections and the opportunities that the Affordable Care Act provided our citizens. That bill did not come to a vote. Had it come to a vote, it would have lost very substantially.
“Mr. Speaker, with the proclamations last week by Republican leaders that the Affordable Care Act will now remain in place, as Paul Ryan, our Speaker, said on Friday, and I quote, ‘Obamacare is the law of the land.’ The Affordable Care Act is indeed the law of the land.
“Mr. Speaker, I rise, however, in a deep concern that the Trump Administration and its allies in Congress will take steps to undermine the law and weaken it to the detriment of millions who will see their health care put at risk. In other words, in my view, they may well try to do indirectly what they could not do directly.
“Let it absolutely clear: Republicans control the White House, the Senate, and the House of Representatives. As a result, they are the governing party and will be responsible for anything that happens to our health care system on their watch. Even without the passage of a repeal bill, the Trump Administration’s actions could fundamentally undermine the law and the stability of our health care system.
“First and foremost, the Trump Administration must commit to continuing payments for cost-sharing subsidies. We met with insurance companies yesterday to see whether or not the environment that was being created by the Administration was undermining confidence that would undermine the ability to price the product that Americans need, health care insurance.
“Cost sharing payments paid for and in the bill are being put at risk by a suit that the Republicans in the House of Representatives have filed. They ought to withdraw that suit to give confidence to the system.
“We all know that confidence in markets is critically important. This is essential to preserving the affordability and accessibility of health care for millions of Americans and ensuring stability in health care markets. The instability perpetrated by the Administration's silence on this issue must come to an end.
“The Administration has said the system will implode. It will only implode if they are forced to do so by the Administration through executive action. Insurers are preparing to file rates as soon as next month in some states. Without a clear and public commitment from the Administration, we could very well see premiums spike and insurers flee.
“Americans have made their opinion very clear: do not do that, do not undermine the system. Already, President Trump has undermined that requirement through lax enforcement.
“The individual responsibility requirement – a Republican suggestion, a Heritage Foundation suggestion, a Romney-adopted policy in the state of Massachusetts, premise of personal responsibility – is being undermined by the Trump Administration. The individual responsibility requirement is vital to ensuring that those with pre-existing conditions can be guaranteed coverage.
“To my friends across the aisle who talk often about defending our Constitution, I would remind them that the Constitution charges the President with faithfully executing the laws we pass – not picking and choosing which ones he likes.
“Third, the Administration can – and I would suggest it should– encourage states that have not yet accepted expanded Medicaid to do so. It works. According to a 2016 report by the Department of Health and Human Services, in the expanded-Medicaid states, premiums were 7% lower on average.
“Just yesterday, Mr. Speaker, the Republican-controlled Kansas state legislature, just yesterday, Republican governor, Republican House, Republican Senate, sent a bill to the governor that would expand the state’s Medicaid program. Presumably they made a judgment that was in the best interest of their state and the best interest of their people.
“The Republican sponsor of the bill, State Senator Vicki Schmidt, said, ‘I don’t believe we can wait for D.C.… they had an opportunity … and they didn’t take it.’ So her response was and the legislature’s response has been, adopt Medicaid expansion.
“We’ve heard a lot from governors of both parties from states with expanded Medicaid, almost universally extolling the benefits and urging Congress not to roll it back. The Trump Administration must recognize the importance of Medicaid expansion and support ongoing efforts in states like Kansas and Virginia and Maine to do what’s right for their people and their state.
“Fourth, the Department of Health and Human Services under Secretary Price has a responsibility, a duty, an obligation, to focus at least as much on outreach and enrollment as did his predecessor, Secretary Burwell. Earlier this year, the Trump Administration instead intentionally sabotaged enrollment efforts in the final week, pulling media ads to let people know what they can sign up for and ending other outreach programs. This move resulted in half a million fewer people obtaining affordable coverage through the marketplaces – the first decline in the history of the law. Those people will be hurt, because some of them are going to get sick, some may have a catastrophic accident, they will need insurance, and they will not have it because they did not get the information they needed.
“Now that the Affordable Care Act will continue to be the ‘law of the land,’ to use words first spoken by former Speaker Boehner in 2012. The issue in 2012 was the Affordable Care Act, President Obama’s crowning achievement. Republicans called it ObamaCare, derisively. We call it the Affordable Care Act, supported by President Obama. After the 2012 election Speaker Boehner said, well we resolved that issue. The American people have voted to confirm a President whose principal law that was.
“But the Republicans kept trying to undermine it. They kept trying to say they want to repeal it. Now, they have all the power, they haven’t done that. Don't break it. If you couldn’t do directly something, don’t do it indirectly. Don't undermine the security of the American people indirectly, not through law.
“So, when Open Enrollment comes later this year, it would be a dereliction of duty – let me repeat that – it would be a dereliction of duty not to inform Americans to know how they can benefit under the law and what options they have for finding coverage at more affordable rates or through expanded Medicaid. Let there not be a dereliction of duty.
“The larger point here, Mr. Speaker, is – as I’ve said – that Republicans cannot now simply throw up their hands and say: ‘We have failed to offer a viable alternative and now by action and inaction, by negligence and malfeasance, conspire to undermine the options that are available to the American people.’
“More than two thirds of Americans have said ‘that is not a responsible policy.’ The Affordable Care Act has brought protections and benefits to millions – 20 million more people insured in America.
“But now my Republicans friends who have no workable alternative are in power, and it is now their duty to ensure that they faithfully execute existing laws to benefit the American people. If they fail to do so, or intentionally sabotage the current health care system, they will surely be held accountable by the American people.
“Democrats do not want to see that happen. We reject the premise of some kind of ‘death-spiral.’ And by the way, the Congressional Budget Office, an independent nonpartisan group but its director appointed by a Republican said it was not only not in a death spiral, but it was stable.
“But the yardstick by which we all ought to be judged is not whether the law succeeds just enough, but whether we can work together, work together, work together to make the law work as best it can to benefit as many Americans as it can.
“President Trump, speaking at that rostrum, looked directly into the TV camera of a hundred million plus Americans and said, I want every American to have health insurance that will be cheaper and higher quality than we have today.
“Mr. President, if you send such a bill to this House, I will vote for it. I haven't seen a bill like that, but if I see it, and if you send it down here, and that is your commitment, I will vote for it.
“Mr. Speaker, I hope my friends across the aisle will take a lesson from last week that – to paraphrase the President – health insurance is indeed complicated, and that it will truly take both parties, working together toward consensus, to meet the health care challenges we face.
“Our constituents, our country, is counting on us. Not to fight, not to throw bricks at one another, but to act in their best interest. And what I urge the Trump Administration to do, Mr. Speaker, do no harm. Until you have a bill that accomplishes what you said to the American people you want to accomplish, Mr. President, do no harm. Ensure that the American people continue to have access to affordable, quality health care.”