Click here to view video of Murphy’s remarks.
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), a member of the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, on Wednesday laid out the facts of how the Trump administration is systematically sabotaging the American health care system. Murphy emphasized that health care premiums have already risen as much as 91 percent, and that the Trump administration’s efforts will force people in Connecticut and across the country to pay more for fewer health care benefits, while insurance companies and drug companies receive massive tax breaks.
“You have this very coordinated, very deliberate attack on the American health care system. The Executive Order in January of 2017 directing all federal agencies to start undermining the American health care system, the cut in the open enrollment period in April of 2017. In May, the votes start happening on the floor of the [House] to take insurance away from 23 million. …In December, the repeal of the individual mandate resulting in premiums going up by double digits. And now this junk plan rule taking away protections from millions of Americans,” said Murphy. “And so this is insult to injury for the people in my state and people all across the country because they are watching their health care insurance premiums skyrocket while the windfall of the tax bill accrues to the owners of the insurance companies and the drug companies.”
Murphy continued, “If you want to know why premiums are going up at the rate that they are, you don't have to look any further than this campaign of health care sabotage that has been waged by the Trump administration and Republicans here in Congress.”
The full text of Murphy’s speech is available below:
Thank you very much, Mr. President.
This week, people in Virginia and Maryland are waking up to the first rate filings by private insurance companies in 2018, and the numbers are simply stunning. I'm coming to the floor today to talk about what is going to be a very unhappy spring and summer for health care consumers all across the country as health insurance companies, having now dealt with a full year and a half of President Trump's sabotage of the American health care system, are going to be looking at gigantic, unaffordable premium hikes for private health care insurance. And so I wanted to come down today as we are starting to get into these rate filings, as our constituents are starting to ask why are they facing premium increases in some cases of up to 90 percent.
Think about that. Think about getting a notice from your insurance company telling you that in one year, your premium is going to double – the cost of getting health insurance is going to double. I feel like it's time to come down and talk about why this is happening, why you're seeing these radical rate hikes being proposed from insurance companies.
So, Mr. President, I want to walk through for my colleagues this very deliberate campaign of sabotage that this administration and congressional Republicans have waged against the Affordable Care Act and the American health care system at-large.
It starts on January 20th. Within hours of being inaugurated, President Trump issues an Executive Order in which he directs all of his federal agencies to use their administrative powers to begin dismantling the Affordable Care Act, “to the maximum extent permitted by the law.” This is before there is any proposal for what should substitute for a piece of legislation that insured 20 million people that didn't have insurance before the Affordable Care Act. It was before we knew that that replacement would, in fact, uninsure not 20 million people, but 30 million people and drive up rates by double digits. On the first day, President Trump tells his agencies to start dismantling and attacking the Affordable Care Act. The Affordable Care Act at that point is so wrapped into the health care system of this country that when attacking the Affordable Care Act, you're attacking the entirety of the health care system.
On January 26th, 2017, the administration announces that it will stop advertising the open enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act. The administration says that we are no longer going to tell Americans that they have an option to become insured or to get less expensive coverage through the health care exchanges set up around the country or through the national exchange, leaving millions of Americans in the dark.
Next, the President starts to threaten insurance companies, threatening them to pull the subsidies that Congress approved, allowing for premiums to be reduced for lower income beneficiaries. The Trump administration starts threatening to pull those cost-sharing reduction payments in April of 2017, and eventually in October of last year, the administration follows through on that threat and ends payments to insurance companies to help reduce cost-sharing for beneficiaries, driving up the cost of insurance all across the country. And if you listen to health insurance executives talk to you about why they have to pass on these big premiums, one of the reasons is the end of this program to help defray the costs for lower-income individuals.
Also in 2017, about the same time he starts threatening to reduce these payments, the President cuts in half the open enrollment period. There's no reason to cut in half the open enrollment period other than you just don't want people to get insurance. It's a deliberate sabotage. Cutting in half the enrollment period is simply a mechanism to try to deny people the ability to get health care. There is no practical or logistical benefit to reducing the amount of time that people have to buy health care, just as there's no practical benefit to cutting off all the advertising for the health care exchanges other than you don't want people to sign up.
In July of 2017, the Department of Health and Human Services starts to unveil videos, 23 of them in all, featuring individuals explaining how the Affordable Care Act has hurt the American health care system. They use their Twitter account to amplify these anti-ACA messages, and they remove any content promoting the exchanges from the website. So once again, just a spiteful attack on Americans who want to get health insurance who now won't know about it because of these attacks and the removal of that content.
Open enrollment outreach funding is reduced in August of 2017 by as much as 90 percent, so the helpful people that you used to have trying to figure out whether you qualified for Medicaid or whether you qualified for a subsidy, a tax credit, are no longer available because that money is taken away.
Then the big legislative intervention, the repeal of the individual mandate. The individual mandate is repealed as part of the tax bill, even though CBO (Congressional Budget Office) tells Congress that if you do that, 13 million people will lose insurance. With full knowledge that the repeal of the mandate would result in 13 million Americans losing their health insurance, Congress goes forward with it. CBO also says that it will result in double-digit premium increases. Congress is told if you take this step, 13 million people lose coverage. Premiums go up. Congress still moves forward with its passage as part of the tax bill with no Democratic votes.
And finally, the President most recently unveiled what he calls the short-term health insurance plan rule. These are more commonly referred to as junk plans – plans that last up to a year but don't need to comply with federal regulations. For instance, regulations that require insurance companies to actually give you coverage for things like mental illness or maternity care. Or regulations that require insurance companies to protect people with preexisting conditions. All of those super popular benefits in the Affordable Care Act – the ones Republicans are so nervous to remove – now are no longer available to many Americans because this short-term plan rule, these junk plans, are going to be much more widely available.
And so you have this very coordinated, very deliberate attack on the American health care system. The Executive Order in January of 2017 directing all federal agencies to start undermining the American health care system, the cut in the open enrollment period in April of 2017. In May, the votes start happening on the floor of the [House] to take insurance away from 23 million. One of the bills took insurance away from 30 million. In December, the repeal of the individual mandate resulting in premiums going up by double digits. And now this junk plan rule taking away protections from millions of Americans. The effect of that junk plan rule is also to move healthier patients out of the exchange pools into the junk plans because the junk plans don't have to cover anything so healthy people will go to those plans, which drives up rates for the plans that people with any kind of preexisting condition would be able to access. So you have this very deliberate plan to try to undermine the American health care system. And we are now seeing the consequences.
As I mentioned, the period of rate filings is beginning across the country where insurance companies have to announce what their rate increases are going to be. Now, health care inflation on an annual basis has been holding steady over the years. It certainly never gets above 10 percent. And for a number of years during the early roll out of the Affordable Care Act, that number was at or lower than 5 percent. And so if you're just looking at the amount that we're spending on an annual basis above last year on health care, that number has not recently been more than 5 percent. And yet one insurer in Virginia, a subsidiary of the big health insurance company CareFirst, is proposing a 64 percent increase in Virginia. Other rate increase requests in Virginia: 26 percent, 15 percent.
Nobody can afford a 64 percent increase in health insurance premiums in Virginia. But it is a consequence of this deliberate campaign of sabotage. Let's take a look at Maryland. There's one insurance company in Maryland that is asking for a 91 percent increase in premiums. This is, again, a CareFirst plan for its broad network P.P.O. plans that currently has about 13,000 people in it in Maryland. 13,000 people in Maryland are potentially going to get a 91 percent increase in their health insurance premiums because of this deliberate campaign of sabotage.
If you're in other CareFirst plans in Maryland, you're getting a 19 percent increase. Your premiums are going up by one-fifth in one single year, in large part because of this deliberate campaign to undermine the Affordable Care Act. Because of actions that this Congress has taken that would knowingly increase rates for health care consumers.
So, Mr. President and my colleagues, I and others are going to come down to the floor of the Senate over the course of the spring and summer to make sure that everyone here and everyone out there in America understands what the consequences of this Republican health care sabotage campaign is. It starts here in Maryland with rate increases that get as big as 91 percent, and Virginia, where health insurance increases get as big as 64 percent. These numbers will continue to roll out all across the country, and Americans are going to be stunned – stunned at how much this Republican campaign of sabotage is costing them.
I will just add one last note, which to many of my constituents in Connecticut feels like insult to injury. The tax bill did drive up rates by 10 percent at least in the first year. Ten percent of these increases are a big – or a big chunk of these increases, more than 10 percent – is a result of the repeal of the individual mandate. But the tax bill also gave a windfall to insurance companies and to drug companies, some of the biggest players in the health care space.
I just totaled up the projected 2018 tax savings to eight of the biggest insurance companies in the country, and it's over $4 billion. So at the same time that these companies are passing along rate increases of 64 percent or 90 percent, they're getting billions of dollars in tax savings from this Congress. It appears that none of these tax breaks that this Congress bestowed on the insurance industry are going to consumers.
And when you look at the drug industry where we have a little bit more mature information, you know why. The drug industry by one report released by – I believe – the Finance Committee, showed that already, pharmaceutical companies have announced $50 billion in stock buybacks, in share buybacks as a result of the tax bill. These drug companies aren't announcing price cuts to insurance companies. These drug companies are not announcing price cuts for consumers. These drug companies are announcing massive share and stock buybacks that will largely benefit the millionaire and billionaire investors in those drug companies.
And so this is insult to injury for the people in my state and people all across the country because they are watching their health care insurance premiums skyrocket while the windfall of the tax bill accrues to the owners of the insurance companies and the drug companies. What a great time to be in the health care business today. You get a giant tax break and you get to pass along gigantic premium increases to people all across this country. Think about somebody in Maryland making $30,000, $40,000 a year and being told that the insurance company that he does business with is going to get a billion dollars in new tax relief from this Congress, and he's going to get a 91 percent increase in his premium.
That's outrageous. That's outrageous. And yet it's just going to get worse.
So as this spring and summer plays out, I think every single week there's a new state or set of states unveiling rate filings. I'll come down and update this chart just so everybody knows what the numbers are. It starts with rate increases as high, and I'm not saying every single increase is this high, but in Virginia, 64 percent, Maryland, 91 percent.
I have a feeling there are going to be a lot of very big numbers on this board. And I want to make sure that everybody understands that if you want to know why premiums are going up at the rate that they are, you don't have to look any further than this campaign of health care sabotage that has been waged by the Trump administration and Republicans here in Congress.
I yield the floor.