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WASHINGTON — As Congressional Republicans continue their dangerous crusade to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and strip health coverage from up to 30 million Americans, U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) joined Senate Democrats late Monday evening in holding the Senate floor to protest Republicans’ irresponsible plan to gut the health care law. Murphy told the stories of Connecticut residents Josh Scussell of Guilford, Isabelle and Rylan Endicott of Unionville, and Jonathan Miller of Meriden, who all rely on the life-saving protections of the Affordable Care Act. Murphy specifically emphasized the important role the law has played in making sure that individuals with preexisting conditions are not denied coverage and that health plans do not impose annual or lifetime dollar limits on benefits that can be received. Murphy also called on Congressional Republicans to work in bipartisan way to improve the health care law, instead of rushing to completely repeal it.
The full text of Murphy’s speech is below:
Thank you, Mr. President. Once again, congratulations on your election. I haven't gotten the chance to talk to the presiding officer in detail about his path to the United States Senate, but I have had the chance to talk to a lot of my colleagues about how they got here, and I think we can all agree that it's often not a real pleasant experience. You get your name dragged through the mud. You get called all sorts of names. You got to call lots of friends and strangers and ask them for money. It's -- it's -- you know, it's no walk in the park to run for political office or to put your name out there and be the subject of both praise and a lot of ridicule.
And so, you know, it's not surprising that the reason that people do this, the reason that the 100 of us have decided to run for office and to put ourselves out there in the public spotlight is because we deeply care about our neighbors, about the people who live in our states. We're doing this job to a man and woman because we want to make life better for people. You know, in particular, people who have been just thrown big curveballs by life.
I grew up in a pretty, you know, economically secure house. But I understand a lot of kids don't have that opportunity, and I feel like both Republicans and Democrats are here because we want to -- are here because we want to lift those kids up.
I had a pretty healthy life, a few bumps and bruises along the way. I feel like both Democrats and Republicans are here because we get that other people aren't as fortunate, that they got sick, that they got diagnosed with something terrible, that our role should be to help them get some cures or treatments, right?
And we're here not because we think it's fun to run elections. We're not here because we just like the look of our name on the door. We're here because we care desperately about people. And I think this is what Senator King was getting at in his remarks. All of the tabloids and the TV news shows, right, they spend 80% of their time focusing on politics. And we end up chasing our tail off in here because if the daily political rags and the cable news hosts are talking about politics, well then maybe we should be talking and thinking about politics as well.
But that's not why we decided to do this. We decided to run for the United States Senate because we care about people. And why we're here tonight is pretty simple.
Ultimately, the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, with no replacement, with no plan for what comes next, will hurt millions of real people in very real ways. And I just don't believe in the end that my Republican colleagues here want to cast a vote that will do that.
This tall guy right here is Josh Scussell. He lives in Connecticut. He is from Guilford. And he is standing next to his bone marrow donor and her boyfriend. This is Josh's wife. Josh was diagnosed with stage-4 non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. This is what Josh says. He will tell you the unvarnished truth: "The Affordable Care Act is entirely responsible for me still being alive."
The Affordable Care Act is entirely responsible for me still being alive. He relapsed after an additional diagnosis before he turned 26. And the only way he was able to get insurance was because of the Affordable Care Act, which allowed him to stay on his mother's insurance until he turned 26. During the course of his treatments, he underwent stem cell transplants which could be up to $200,000 each.
Because of those transplants, he needed on-going weekly treatments at a cost of $10,000 per treatment. He recalled how he was getting his first stem cell transplant and he was in the hospital during the Supreme Court deliberations on the Affordable Care Act and he said, "I was in the hospital bed watching the TV when the Supreme Court approved the Affordable Care Act, and I just remember the feeling I had in my body. It was feeling that I had never experienced before because I knew that I was going to be taken care of."
Now Josh is in remission, and a few more years of being cancer-free, the doctors tell him he might be out of the woods. But he says, “I am more fearful -- I am more fearful for others in my position. I would not have been able to afford those treatments if it wasn't for the Affordable Care Act.”
This little guy, his name is Rylan. This is his mother Isabelle. Rylan was born with a congenital heart defect and one day he had to be rushed to Connecticut Children's Medical Center for emergency open-heart surgery to keep him alive. Isabelle says that she never really thought about health insurance. She knew she had it but didn't think about it until Rylan went for the emergency surgery. She thought, oh, no, is our insurance going to cover it? Will they cover him? Will they cover all the treatments he needs going forward now that he will have a preexisting condition? And she found out that the Affordable Care Act protected her. Because it eliminated a common practice of insurance companies to cap the amount of coverage you get in any one given year or over the course of your lifetime.
Isabelle tells it plainly. She says, “Without the Affordable Care Act, we would have never been able to afford the care for Rylan. We would have had to make awful decisions, decisions about whether we kept our house, kept our car, whether we could still afford to work.” It was the Affordable Care Act that protected her and her family.
And finally, this is Jon. Jon's a hero in my book. Jon was born with cystic fibrosis, and Jon tells the story about how health care is the most important thing to him in the world. It's more important than salary, it’s more important than his job, it’s more important than friends. Right, he struggles every day to live, and the only way he lives is because he's able to take medications that allow him to continue to breathe, that allow his lungs to continue to function amid this crippling disease and diagnosis.
Jon's on the Affordable Care Act, and Jon will tell you just as plainly as Josh and Isabelle that without the Affordable Care Act, he would die - not two years from now, not three years from now. Jon would die within a matter of weeks because without his medications, he cannot live.
It's not hyperbole to suggest that the absence of the Affordable Care Act is a matter of life and death. Jon will tell you without the Affordable Care Act, he doesn't have insurance. Without insurance, he cannot afford the medications to keep him alive. Without the medications to keep him alive, Jon disappears from this earth.
These are real people, and I care about them because I know them and I’ve gotten the chance to meet Jon and Isabelle and Josh. You've got these people in your state as well. My Republican colleagues have just as many of them.
Some of the biggest numbers in enrollment in the Affordable Care Act aren't in states represented by Democrats. They're in states represented by Republicans. And this mythology that the Affordable Care Act hasn't worked or that it's in some death spiral, it's just political rhetoric. It's not true. This is an AP fact check story from today, I believe. Here is the beginning of it. It says President-elect Trump says the health care law will fall of its own weight. House Speaker Paul Ryan says the law is in what the actuaries call a death spiral. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says that by nearly any measure, Obamacare has failed. The AP says the problem with all these claims is that they are exaggerated, if not downright false.
The Affordable Care Act has not failed for the 20 million Americans who have insurance now because of it. The Affordable Care Act has not failed for the millions more who are paying less because insurance companies can no longer discriminate against you if you have a preexisting condition. The Affordable Care Act has not failed for seniors all across this country who are on Medicare and are paying less for prescription drugs.
There is no doubt that the Affordable Care Act isn't perfect. Medicare wasn't perfect when it was passed. We amended that sucker 18 different times. The Affordable Care Act needs to be amended and perfected as well. But if you really care about people instead of political headlines, then the prescription here is simple. Stop. Take a step back. Don't lurch the entire health care economy into chaos when you don't have to.
I'm pretty sure that Donald Trump is going to be president for the next two years. I'm pretty sure that Republicans are going to control the United States Senate and the House of Representatives for the next 24 months. You've got time. You don't need to prove some point to the political talk show hosts and the conservative radio commentators. You can step back and rescue these real people from the fate that you were about to subject them to, by instead of engaging in a partisan repeal with no replacement for what comes next, reaching out across the aisle to try to work with Democrats to try to fix this law.
I've been here for the last six years. I was part of the passage of this law when I was in the House of Representatives. And I have listened to my colleagues say literally tens of thousands of times in Washington and across the country that their priority was to repeal and replace this law. I watched on TV our President-elect say in response to a question about the process for health care repeal going forward, “No. We're going to do it simultaneously, repeal and replace the law. It will be just fine. We're not going to have like a two-day period, and we're not going to have a two-year period. Well, there's nothing. It will be repealed and replaced.”
There won't be a two-day period in between repeal and replace. And that's what I’ve heard from my Republican colleagues. So put your vote where your mouth has been because the alternative is a death spiral. The Associated Press calls and says that no, the Affordable Care Act is not in a death spiral. But those same health care economists that are quoted in that story will tell you that if you repeal this bill without any replacement for what happens next, that's what creates the death spiral. Why? Because when you put a clock ticking on the life of the Affordable Care Act, then a couple things happen.
First, people who need some procedure done, they rush into those exchanges and they drive up the actuarial costs. Insurers look at themselves and say why would I hang around for that, and they bolt. So if the Affordable Care Act falls apart, you telegraph to people that you've only got a year or two years left.
You don't have to do this. You don't have to visit that kind of harm on real people. And I know that's not why Republicans ran for office. I know that we have philosophical differences on how to get health care to people, about how to insure more people. But let's sit down and figure out a middle ground so that we can save the lives of all these people who are relying on us.
This is extraordinary what we are doing right now. This is absolutely extraordinary. We got sworn in less than a week ago, the new President has not even been inaugurated. There isn't even a, there isn't even a conceptual plan for what will replace the Affordable Care Act. And we are rushing forward with repeal. There is an enthusiasm to this cruelty that's hard to understand.
And so I hope that some of the Republicans who just in the last 24 hours have called for a delay in this debate are heard by Republican leadership. I know that Democrats will continue to be on this floor to make this case. And I guess I still am optimistic enough about what is still a pretty broken town, that in the end my Republican friends aren't so cold hearted, aren't so barbaric as to take away insurance from people like those that we've been talking about here today when there is an alternative, when there is another way, when there is no political imperative to do this kind of damage to people right now.
I yield the floor.