WASHINGTON —Ahead of the U.S. Senate vote on the first amendment to block the Republican plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and strip health coverage from up to 30 million Americans, U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) highlighted the life-saving protections the law has provided to Connecticut residents. Murphy emphasized the important role the law has played in making sure that individuals with preexisting conditions are not denied coverage, that health plans do not impose annual or lifetime dollar limits on benefits that can be received, and that all Connecticut residents receive high-quality, affordable health insurance. Specifically, Murphy told the story of Meriden resident Jonathan Miller who relies on the Affordable Care Act. Murphy also called on Congressional Republicans to work in bipartisan way to improve the health care law, instead of rushing to simply repeal it.
As a member of the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, Murphy joined U.S. Senator Tim Kaine (D-Va.) in introducing the Senate Democrats’ amendment, called ‘Don’t Make America Sick Again’, being voted on today. Their amendment would prohibit legislation that would increase the number of people who are uninsured, raise out-of-pocket costs for those with private insurance, or reduce the benefits that are now required to be covered.
The full text of Murphy’s speech is below:
Thank you, Mr. President.
What is happening on the floor right now, Mr. President, is absolutely extraordinary. it is absolutely extraordinary that Republicans are using the budget process, the reconciliation process, in between the swearing in of the new Congress and the swearing in of the new President, to rip away from 20 million Americans’ health care insurance – to drive up rates for one-third of consumers in this country who have some form of preexisting condition, a sickness that without this law would make their rates go higher. And to throw the entire health care marketplace into chaos.
This is absolutely exceptional what is happening right now, and no one in this body should normalize it. No one outside of this body should perceive this to be ‘just politics as usual’.
I was here when the Affordable Care Act passed. I was in the House of Representatives, and I have heard since then my Republican friends say over and over and over again that they want to repeal the Affordable Care Act and replace it. I can't tell you the hundreds of times that I have heard that phrase -- repeal it and replace it.
President-elect Trump talked about that throughout the campaign and then two days after he won the election on Thursday night, he went on national television to double down on the promise that there would be an immediate replacement. He said there won't be two hours between the Affordable Care Act being repealed and it being replaced with something better, and that's the second part of the argument the Republicans have made.
The Affordable Care Act in their mind was deficient, despite the fact that there are 20 million people who have insurance today who wouldn't have it otherwise. Despite the fact that there are hundreds of millions of Americans across the country who don't have to worry about them and their loved ones having their insurance rates jacked up because they are sick, despite the fact that seniors are paying thousands of dollars less in prescription drugs than they were.
Listen, the Affordable Care Act isn't perfect. It never was, but the enthusiasm of Republicans to take away from Americans their health insurance, to drive rates up for millions more, is really unthinkable. We heard over and over again that the priority was to repeal it and replace it, and now we are repealing the Affordable Care Act with no plan for what comes next. We are driving forward with a repeal vote with no plan for how we keep the health care system together, how we prevent it from falling into chaos, how we continue to insure the millions of Americans that rely on it.
There is a cruelty to this enthusiasm for immediate repeal that is a little bit hard to understand. It's really hard to understand.
I think about somebody like Jonathan Miller. He lives in my state. He lives in Connecticut. He was born with cystic fibrosis. He is insured today through the Affordable Care Act. Here's what he says. He says,
“For me, I was able to live a relatively normal life growing up. Wonderful family and friends. But health has always been the most important thing in my life. I spend even in a good health year, probably one or two hospitalizations each year that require antibiotics. I'm on a whole suite of medications. Each day, I take about 15-20 medications. Some of those are pills, some are breathing treatments, and then there are the shots.
“Health care is the number-one priority in my life. It’s more important than income, more important than anything else, being able to maintain my health.”
He's on the Affordable Care Act today, but he also receives the benefit of the insurance protections because Jonathan without the Affordable Care Act, even if he had insurance, would lose it probably a couple months into the year because of a practice prior to the Affordable Care Act that caps the amount of money that you would be covered for in a given year or in a lifetime. Jonathan would have blown through that in a heartbeat.
So it's not hyperbole when he says, “without the Affordable Care Act, I'd probably be dead within months”. That is the reality for millions of people across this country. Without health insurance, they cannot survive. They can't afford their medications.
So this isn't just about politics. This isn't just about the words on the page. This is about people's life. This is about life or death, and the casualness of throwing out a law, without any concept of what comes next. I've heard so many quotes in the paper over the last few days. Republicans admitting that they don't know yet what they're going to do in its place, but they still feel the need right now in the lame-duck session, to begin the process of repealing this law without any concept of what comes next.
Why do it now? Why not take one step back? Why not reach across the aisle to Democrats and say ‘you know what, let's try to work to make this better’. Let's try to answer the concerns that Republicans have, that President-elect Trump has. Let's take some time to work through this and reform it in a bipartisan way.
No, instead we're rushing forward, stealing health from millions of Americans, plunging the health care system into chaos, with no guarantee that there's anything that is going to emerge in its place.
And so Senator Kaine and I have a very simple budget point of order. Senator Kaine has talked about it – that it would prohibit the consideration of any legislation as part of budget reconciliation that would: one, reduce the number of Americans that are enrolled in health insurance; two, increase premiums or total out-of-pocket costs for those people with private insurance; or three, reduce the scope and scale of benefits that people have.
I've heard my Republican friends say we're going to repeal the Affordable Care Act and we're going to replace it with something better. We're not even committing you to replacing it with something better. We're just saying if you're going to replace it, let's just guarantee now that that legislation is not going to take anybody's health care insurance away that has it now and that wants it, that it’s not going to raise costs, and it's not going to reduce benefits.
I'm just going to be honest with you. The replacement isn't coming. It's not coming. And even if it comes, it can't meet those three tests. There is no way that there is a replacement coming that is going to maintain the 20 million people who have insurance now that is going to maintain cost controls and maintain benefits. It's not happening.
News flash to the American public. This law is being repealed under a budget reconciliation process that shuts out Democrats, and it is not going to be replaced by something that is equal in quality or better. But at the very least, Mr. President, we can all put our names and our votes to a budget point of order that commits Republicans to the promise that they have made for six years: that if they repeal this, they will not put a piece of legislation before this Congress that doesn't guarantee that everybody keeps their health insurance, costs don't go up, and benefits don't come down.
I would urge when this comes up for a vote, a positive vote from my colleagues, I would urge my Republican friends to honor the promise that they have made, and I thank Senator Kaine and others for joining with me in offering it.
I yield back.