WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), a member of the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, laid out the facts of Congressional Republicans’ health care bill after the nonpartisan CBO released an updated analysis of the bill yesterday. Murphy emphasized that the American Health Care Act will raise costs and worsen care to pay for huge tax cuts for the wealthy. Click here to view video of Murphy’s remarks.
“Here's what Trumpcare does: higher costs, less care, tax cuts for the rich. Premiums are projected to rise 20 percent in 2018. And if you're an older American, then you are targeted by the American Health Care Act. For some people, premiums will go up 700 percent to 800 percent,” said Murphy. “We have an opioid epidemic raging throughout this country and th[is] bill will increase costs for people suffering from substance abuse by thousands of dollars. The bill takes insurance from 23 million people in order to pass along a $173 billion tax break for the pharmaceutical industry and the insurance industry, and a $230 billion tax break for very rich people.”
Murphy continued, “Republicans should come out from behind closed doors, and work with Democrats. CBO tells you a humanitarian catastrophe is coming if you don't.”
The CBO report released yesterday made clear that under the American Health Care Act, 14 million fewer people would be insured next year, 23 million fewer people would be insured in 2026, and average premiums for single policyholders would increase by 20 percent next year.
Murphy has continuously called on Congressional Republicans to stop their dangerous crusade to repeal the ACA and to work in a bipartisan way to improve the law. Earlier this month, Murphy spoke on the Senate floor to highlight broken promises by President Trump and Congressional Republicans to improve America’s health care system.
The full text of Murphy’s remarks is below:
Thank you, Madam President. I rise to speak on the same subject as my friend from Texas.
Listen, Democrats are ready to talk to Republicans about improving our health care system, but we aren't going to engage in a debate that presupposes that the end result is going to be millions of people losing care, rates going up for everybody in order to fund a tax cut for the wealthy. That's the plan that Donald Trump and Republicans are pushing.
And so my Republican friend is right, Democrats are not interested in having a discussion about how many people are going to lose coverage. We're not interested in having a discussion about how high the rate increases are going to be. We're not interested in having a discussion about big tax breaks for millionaires, billionaires, insurance companies, and drug companies. And let's be honest: if Republicans were serious about working with Democrats, you wouldn’t be using an arcane Senate rule that allows you to push through a bill with 50 votes.
If Republicans really wanted to work with Democrats on health care reform, then you would do it through normal business. If Republicans were really serious about working with Democrats on health care reform, you would be going through regular order and going through the committee process. Whatever you want to think about the Affordable Care Act, it went through the committee process. One-hundred and sixty, I think, Republican amendments were accepted in the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee in 2009. The Finance Committee held multiple meetings. The bill was on the floor of the United States Senate for a month.
Republicans are jamming this bill through. No committee process. No committee meetings. No committee markups. No open floor process. Even Senator Corker called out his own party and said this is no way to rewrite one-sixth of the American economy – with 13 male Republican senators behind closed doors, in secret.
Democrats are desperate to work with Republicans on fixing what's wrong with our health care system. Not every problem has been fixed, but we are not going to start with 14 million people losing health care, or rates going up by 20%. And we want to do it in a way that is transparent to the American public where everybody can see.
And on a second point that my friend from Texas raised: this idea that the CBO got the numbers wrong when they estimated how many people would be insured by the Affordable Care Act in 2009. Well, as he mentioned, they weren't off by that much, but to the extent they were off, there's a pretty simple reason for it. CBO did not take into account that Republican states would seek to undermine the Affordable Care Act in every conceivable way possible. CBO gave Republican governors and state legislators the benefit of the doubt: they thought that once this law was passed, once it was presenting an avenue to insurance for millions of people across the country, that both parties would seek to implement it. That's not what happened.
Republican states refused to set up state-based exchanges. Republicans brought lawsuit after lawsuit to try to stop the Affordable Care Act from going forward. Republicans in control of the House and the Senate jammed through legislation that reduced the risk insurance provided to insurance companies. CBO did not estimate that Republicans would wage a six-yearlong campaign to undermine and undo the Affordable Care act.
In states that implemented the act like Connecticut, numbers met or beat expectations. In states that didn't implement the Affordable Care Act, sought to undermine it, numbers didn't meet the expectations.
And then comes President Trump, who openly telegraphs his desire to undermine the Affordable Care Act, cuts off all of the advertising, tells the IRS to stop enforcing the law, bleeds out payments to insurance companies one month at a time, teasing that this will be the last month that you get your money.
And finally on this question of a gun to the head of consumers – I guess that's a reference to the provision of the Affordable Care Act that says if you don't buy insurance, then you'll pay a tax penalty. That's absolutely part of the Affordable Care Act. Why? Because if you want protection for people with preexisting conditions, then you have to have a mandate that people buy insurance or else people just won't buy insurance until they're really sick knowing they can't be charged more. Actuarially, the protection for people with preexisting conditions only works with the individual mandate.
And I remember Senator Cruz during his marathon filibuster admitting that. Republicans know that as well as Democrats know that. That's why the American Health Care Act that just came out of the House of Representatives includes an individual mandate. So let's not pretend like this is a partisan issue. The right wing American Health Care Act that came out of the House of Representatives two weeks ago includes an individual mandate. It's in there because they know the same thing.
If they want to preserve any modicum of protection for people with preexisting conditions, you have to require people to buy insurance. They just put the mandate in a different place. In the Affordable Care Act, the penalty kicks in if you don't buy insurance. In the House bill, the penalty kicks in after you've lost insurance and you try to sign up again. Same mandate, same penalty, just slightly different timetable for payment.
Here's what Trumpcare does: higher costs, less care, tax cuts for the rich.
I want to talk about the CBO score that came out last night. Not major adjustments from the first CBO score, but there are some important amendments that they make. But the bottom line is that if you care about costs, you're going to get higher costs. That's what CBO says. Twenty percent increase in costs the first year, 5 percent in the next year for good measure. Less care. I mean, just significantly less care. Twenty-three million people – big improvement, 24 million people lost care in the first House bill – 23 million people lose care in the second bill. And all this is done in order to pass along tax cuts for the wealthy. We’re talking about $663 billion of tax cuts for the wealthy.
Here's what CBO says: premiums are projected to rise 20 percent in 2018. So our Republican friends who came down to this floor for six years and said we need to repeal the Affordable Care Act because costs are too high just passed a bill in the House of Representatives that CBO guarantees you will raise premiums by 20 percent in 2018.
And it gets a lot worse. The CBO says that if you are an individual with a preexisting condition and you live in a state that takes advantage of one of these waivers, the premiums, frankly, don't even matter to you because you won't be able to afford the catastrophic high costs associated with your illness. And if you're an older American, then you are targeted by the American Health Care Act.
A 64-year-old making $26,000 – and I’ve got a lot of 64-year-olds in Connecticut making $26,000, and I bet a lot of my colleagues here who live in lower cost and lower income states have even more of this population – today you're paying about $1,700 a year for health care. That's what your premium is after tax credits. Under the American Health Care Act, your premium would go up to $21,000 a year. You're making $26,000 and your premium goes up to $21,000. Now, you'd receive about $5,000 in tax credits, but in the end you would be paying $16,000 in health care premiums. Now, obviously you wouldn't be paying $16,000 in insurance premiums because you couldn't afford health care if you still wanted to pay your rent and you still wanted to pay your gas bill and you still wanted a few groceries.
So the reason why massive numbers of people lose insurance is because 20 percent is just the average. For some people, premiums will go up 700 percent to 800 percent, especially if you are older or if you are lower income.
Here's what CBO says will happen if the Affordable Care Act stays. The number of uninsured will go up a little bit – it will tick up to about 28 million. But for all my colleagues on the Republican side who have been claiming that the Affordable Care Act is in a, quote, unquote, “death spiral”, CBO tells you that you are wrong. You are wrong. They state clearly that the marketplaces will remain stable. Now, again, they may not be counting on the kind of sabotage that President Trump is engaged in. If President Trump continues to destabilize the markets, maybe this number will be wrong, but if you have an administration that was attempting to enforce and implement the Affordable Care Act, you get about the same number of people who are uninsured.
Here's what happens if you pass the American Health Care Act – the number goes immediately up to over 40 million uninsured and peaks after ten years at 51 million people. So Senator Cornyn said hey, listen, we still have 30 million people who don't have insurance. Let's try and solve that problem. But CBO says that the House bill doesn't solve the problem. It turns a problem of 28 million Americans without health insurance into a humanitarian catastrophe. More people uninsured at the end of this than were uninsured before the Affordable Care Act passed.
I guess what Senator Cornyn is saying, he's saying whatever product emerges from these secret meetings will insure more people and that CBO will verify that. Well, that's something we can work together on. Let me guarantee you that won't be the case. Just to give you a sense of how many people 23 million is – because I know that's kind of a hard number to get your head wrapped around – this is the number of people who will lose insurance under the House bill, according to CBO. This is CBO's new number, just came out last night. That's the equivalent population of Alaska, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Maine, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota and West Virginia.
Now, when we put up it chart a couple months ago, I think there was one additional state. So by moving from 24 million people losing insurance to 23 million people, one state came off this list. But that's the equivalent population of how many folks lose health care in this country. That's why I call this a humanitarian catastrophe.
And then let's just think about what CBO says about who benefits. Here's your 23 million people who lose insurance and it's a pretty simple formula here. The bill takes insurance from 23 million people in order to pass along a $173 billion tax break for the pharmaceutical industry and the insurance industry, and a $230 billion tax break for very rich people. Some of that will go to people making above $200,000 a year, but most of that will go to people making over a million dollars or a billion dollars a year. And the numbers actually work out pretty squarely. The cuts to health care in the bill roughly work out to be about the same amount in tax cuts for the wealthy.
By the way, there's another chart here. It's a great one. There's another chart here that shows you who benefits when you look at the tax breaks. If you make under $200,000 a year, you get zero benefit from the American Health Care Act. Every single dime of the tax cut for individuals and families goes to those making over $200,000 a year. How about that? A $230 billion tax break and not a dime of it goes to people making under $200,000 a year. So this bill was a nightmare before the CBO score and it's even more of a nightmare today.
Let me just point out one more important thing that CBO says about this bill. Inside this bill in a new amendment that passed out of House of Representatives is a provision that allows for states to get waivers from the Essential Healthcare Benefits requirement – that insurance actually provide you coverage for health care – and the Community Rating requirement – that you spread out the costs of health care across the entire population of people that are insured. What CBO says is that about one-sixth of the population – that's equivalent to about 25 states and Washington, D.C. – who might obtain waivers, including both the Essential Benefits requirement and the Community Rating benefit, would result in insurance markets coming apart at the beginning of 2020.
CBO states less healthy people would face extremely high premiums despite the additional funding that would be available under the bill to reduce premiums. CBO says specifically, in particular, out-of-pocket spending on maternity care and mental health and substance abuse services could increase by thousands of dollars in a given year for the nongroup enrollees who would use those services.
So let me put a finer point on this. The legislative jiu jitsu that Republicans did in the House to get this thing passed involved eliminating the requirement that people with preexisting conditions be protected from premium increases, combined with a high risk pool that would have a bunch of money in it to help reduce premiums for those people. CBO tells you, essentially, that those high-risk pools are a fraud. CBO says there is not enough money in the high-risk pools to provide any meaningful benefit for people with preexisting conditions. In particular, they say, women going through pregnancy, families going through pregnancy, and individuals with mental health and substance abuse will face thousands of dollars in additional costs because the money in the risk pools cannot cover the cost of that care.
So we have an opioid epidemic raging throughout this country and the House just passed a bill that will increase costs for people suffering from substance abuse by thousands of dollars. We can do better. Republicans can emerge from these secret meetings, set aside their plan to ram through this vote with no committee process, through reconciliation, and we can start to talk about what we can preserve in the Affordable Care Act and what we need to change.
That's what Americans want us to do. The majority of Americans do not want this bill repealed. The majority of Americans today support the Affordable Care Act, and, yeah, that number is different than what it was a few years ago. And maybe that’s because faced with this benefit, faced with these insurance protections being eliminated, Americans are rallying to the defense of the Affordable Care Act. Now that doesn't mean that Democrats don't believe that we can make commonsense amendments, but it does mean that we are not willing to participate in a process that presupposes that the outcome will be fewer people being insured, costs getting higher in order to finance tax breaks for the very wealthy and for insurance companies and drug companies.
Republicans should come out from behind closed doors, and work with Democrats. CBO tells you a humanitarian catastrophe is coming if you don't.
Thank you, Mr. President. I yield the floor.