WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), a member of the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, on Wednesday led Senate Democrats on the floor of the U.S. Senate to highlight what’s at stake with the U.S. Supreme Court vacancy, and specifically what it means for the Affordable Care Act and the future of Americans’ health care.
On the Republican plan after repealing the Affordable Care Act, Murphy said: “[T]here is no replacement. There is nothing coming from the Republican majority in the Senate or from this administration to replace the Affordable Care Act. And you know why I know that? Because I've been waiting for the replacement for a decade. And it has never shown up because it never will.”
On the relentless, decade long attack on the American health care system by the Republican party, Murphy said: “Republicans said, ‘let's find another way. If we can't use the most democratic process, legislation, in order to repeal the Affordable Care Act, then let's go to the courts.’ And so Republican attorneys general filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn the entirety of the Affordable Care Act on a legal premise that most mainstream scholars thought had no shot. But they weren't counting on this president being able to pack the courts with enough extreme right wing jurists to accept the flawed argument.”
He continued: “Take Republicans at their word, they want the Affordable Care Act gone. Take Republicans at their word, they don't have a replacement. It will be a humanitarian catastrophe in this country in the middle of a pandemic, a pandemic that is killing 1,000 people a day, 44,000 new infections that we know of on a daily basis, for 23 million Americans to lose access to insurance,”
Last week, Murphy joined Politico’s Pulse Check to discuss the stakes of the Supreme Court vacancy fight and the Republican lawsuit to repeal the Affordable Care Act in the middle of a global pandemic. Murphy also took to the Senate floor last week to call on Senate Republicans to honor Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s dying wish that she not be replaced until a new president is installed instead of rushing through a justice who will undermine her legacy. An estimated 133 million Americans live with pre-existing conditions, including a potential new group diagnosed with COVID-19, and 23 million more people would lose their health insurance in the middle of a pandemic if the Affordable Care Act was struck down.
A full transcript of Murphy’s remarks can be found below:
“Thank you, Mr. President.
“Wendy is a constituent of mine from Stamford, Connecticut, and she tells a story that is going to sound incredibly familiar to folks who have been part of this health care debate over the last 10 years in this chamber.
“She says ‘When my daughter was 15, she was diagnosed with a type of bone cancer and underwent a year of treatment. We were hopeful that she was cured. But exactly one year ago, it was two months after she graduated from college and about to move across the country to begin her career when she underwent a routine checkup and found out that the cancer had returned. The past year has included more chemo, surgery, and immunotherapy. My daughter is now 23 years old, and she is the definition of a pre-existing condition. She's still on our health plan, but we're already looking at the time in about two years when that will no longer be possible. Although she is at least feeling well enough to begin the job search again, there's no security for any of us without the existence of the Affordable Care Act as an option should she not have employer based health care. She's a young woman who has already gone through so much in these short years. There are enough unknowns, please continue’ this is her writing to me, ‘to protect the Affordable Care Act, so she knows she has health care.’
“President Trump last night contested the idea that 100 million Americans have pre-existing conditions. Well, maybe he is right, because most data suggests the number is 130 million Americans have some form of pre-existing condition that if insurance companies were allowed to, would either result in rate hikes for them because of their diagnosis, or insurance would be made unavailable to them entirely.
“Now, it's been almost 10 years since we lived in a world where insurance companies could deny you health care because of a pre-existing condition, could raise your rates simply because you're a woman. And so for many Americans, it's even hard to remember those days in which you could be discriminated against just because of a childhood cancer. But those days are about to come back.
“We are literally months away, if President Trump is successful in ramming through the Supreme Court nominee, from insurance companies once again being able to deny coverage to anybody they want based upon their gender, based upon their medical history, based upon their prior diagnosis.
“And this isn't hyperbole. Because I've been in the Congress long enough to know two things: One, Republicans will stop at nothing in order to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and we'll talk this afternoon about what that means beyond the 130 million Americans who will have their rates increased.
“But I know something else as well, which is that there is no replacement. There is nothing coming from the Republican majority in the Senate or from this administration to replace the Affordable Care Act. And you know why I know that? Because I've been waiting for the replacement for a decade. And it has never showed up because it never will.
“Republicans tried to repeal the Affordable Care Act here the first year of the president's term. A lot of people said it was a foregone conclusion. Of course, after having pledged to repeal the Affordable Care Act for five years, Republicans now with control of the Senate and the House, and the White House will, of course, make good on their promise. Of course, we know how that turned out. They couldn't, because the American people rose up. Phone lines lit up, town hall meetings exploded, and Republicans, in the end, could not find the votes, even with majorities in both houses and control of the White House to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
“‘Well then, Republicans said, ‘let's find another way. If we can't use the most democratic process, legislation, in order to repeal the Affordable Care Act, then let's go to the courts.’ And so Republican attorneys general filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn the entirety of the Affordable Care Act on a legal premise that most mainstream scholars thought had no shot. But they weren't counting on this president being able to pack the courts with enough extreme right wing jurists to accept the flawed argument.
“So the President started by putting Neil Gorsuch on the court, continued with Brett Kavanaugh, and now, one vote away from being able to overturn the Affordable Care Act, he now has a chance with the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett, to finally get what he couldn't get done in the elected branch of American government: The full repeal and elimination of the Affordable Care Act with nothing to replace it.
“It's not hyperbole because there is literally that case that I described getting ready for argument before the Supreme Court a week after Election Day. And so guess why it is so important that we confirm a Justice before Election Day. Because they need the votes to invalidate the Affordable Care Act shortly after the election occurs. And it becomes a little bit harder if that Justice is not there to hear the arguments in mid-November.
“Take Republicans at their word, they want the Affordable Care Act gone. Take Republicans at their word, they don't have a replacement. It will be a humanitarian catastrophe in this country in the middle of a pandemic, a pandemic that is killing 1,000 people a day, 44,000 new infections that we know of on a daily basis, for 23 million Americans to lose access to insurance.
“Remember, this lawsuit doesn't ask for the Affordable Care Act to be eliminated in pieces, or over time. The remedy it seeks is the Affordable Care Act gone, all of it overnight. 23 million Americans who rely on that, 260,000 in my state, the equivalent of 62 different towns, in my state alone, losing their health insurance.
“And don't think that states are going to be able to pick up the pieces here. A lot of these folks are on Medicaid and theoretically states could decide to pick up the bill themselves, but they can't, because the president has forced states to foot the lion's share of the bill for fighting COVID because of the failure to stand up a national response. And so states have no money lying around in order to make up for all the people who are going to lose Medicaid access. 23 million people can lose their insurance, potentially by the end of the year or early next year if this Justice gets confirmed to the court.
“But then all those people with pre-existing conditions. And remember, we now have a new pre-existing condition. That is COVID. What we're learning about COVID-19 is very, very worrying. Researchers have observed changes to the heart, to the vascular system, the lungs, the brain, the kidneys, in those who have gotten sick and even in many people that are asymptomatic.
“In fact, there's a study out there right now that Dr. Fauci noted before the HELP Committee recently that shows 70% to 80% of people who have had COVID have some lasting damage to their heart. COVID is a pre-existing condition.
“Now you may think I haven't had COVID so I'm not at risk of that pre-existing condition, causing my rates to go up if Amy Coney Barrett gets confirmed to the court. Well, you don't know if you've had COVID or not. And let me tell you that insurance companies are not going to play dumb if they are allowed to discriminate against you because you have COVID, then they are going to require you to prove that you haven't had it before you get a policy.
“Millions and millions of Americans are going to have their rates increased or be denied health care at all. Because they had COVID, whether they were asymptomatic, or symptomatic. That, in and of itself, is a health care crisis in this country.
“And so Mr. President, the stakes of this debate over the nomination of this new Supreme Court Justice couldn't be higher. Senator Klobuchar talked about the fact that the Supreme Court may decide the outcome of this election, and that's a subject that we should explore at a different time, but one week after the election, the court will hear a case asking for the invalidation of the entire Affordable Care Act.
“Republicans in the Senate and the White House have no plan to replace it. And if that case is successful, 23 million people are at risk of losing their health insurance, 11 million who are on the exchanges, 12 million who are covered by Medicaid, 133 million Americans, roughly half of America's population under the age of 65 could have their rates increased because of pre-existing conditions, 2 million young people under the age of 26 could be kicked off their parents health insurance, 9 million people who receive federal subsidies, tax credits to buy private insurance would lose that coverage, in the midst of a global pandemic. COVID diagnoses will possibly render you ineligible for insurance. That is a nightmare. A nightmare on top of the pandemic nightmare that we are living through currently.
“And so we are on the floor today to make sure that our Senate Republican colleagues don't distract the American public. Don't try to create controversies around this nomination that don't exist. Don't try to put words in Democrats’ mouth.
“Listen to what we're saying. What we're saying is that this nomination is about the future of the American health care system. And every single senator who votes to confirm Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, I believe, is voting to take insurance away from over 20 million Americans, voting to render COVID a pre-existing condition that requires you to pay more for health care for the rest of your life, and going back to the days in which any pre-existing condition could cause you to lose your health insurance and then lose everything that you have saved up over decades and decades.
“Betty Berger is one of those people and I'll finish with her story. Betty Berger, had good insurance through her husband her entire life. He changed jobs and he had about a week period of time in which he didn't have a job in between those two jobs and he didn't have health care. And during that week one of their kids was diagnosed with cancer. And it became a pre-existing condition such that the husband's employer’s new health care plan wouldn't cover it and the Bergers lost everything. Everything. They went bankrupt, they went through their savings. They went through the college fund, they lost their house, they lost everything.
“It's been a decade since any American had to face that kind of financial ruin because of a diagnosis to them or their child. It was hard for us to remember those days but they are coming back. They are coming back. I tell you this now. If this Supreme Court Justice is rammed through over the course of the next month.
“I yield back.”