WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), a member of the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, on Wednesday led a group of Democrats in speaking on the floor of the U.S. Senate to lay out the facts of how the Trump administration is systematically sabotaging the American health care system. The Trump administration’s efforts are driving up health care costs and putting Americans’ access to health care at risk. Murphy has been on a campaign to lay out the dire consequences of President Trump’s actions on Americans’ health care.
“Believe me, insurance companies are paying attention to this unending withering assault on the Affordable Care Act and the American health care system. That's why you are seeing these big premium increases. And so we want to make sure that our colleagues understand what's happening here. That the American public understands what's happening here. These increases in health care costs are unprecedented, but they are not surprising, given what this administration and what this Congress has been doing,” said Murphy.
Last week, the Trump administration announced it would not defend the law against a conservative-backed lawsuit to overturn the Affordable Care Act’s guarantee of health coverage for Americans with preexisting conditions.
The full text of Murphy’s remarks is below:
Mr. President, we have begun the period of time in the year when insurance companies start to declare what their intention is with regard to rate increases, and the news is not good for American health care consumers. I'm going to be joined on the floor today by a few of my colleagues to talk about what the impact of these radical increases in premiums are going to be for our constituents.
The news is not good. But it's frankly no surprise because now for a year and a half the Trump administration has been waging a very deliberate assault on the American health care system, trying to sabotage it as retribution for the country not agreeing to overturn the Affordable Care Act, which now enjoys widespread popularity across the country. And this deliberate campaign of sabotage, beginning on the first day that Trump got in office with an executive order leading up to these last two weeks in which the Trump Justice Department is trying to rule that protecting people with preexisting conditions is unconstitutional, has had an impact. It has had an impact.
And so I want to just quickly run through for you what we have seen thus far with respect to premium increases all across this country as a result of the Trump administration and Republicans' campaign of sabotage. First is in Maryland. The highest increase we saw in Maryland – these were announced about a month ago – was one plan announcing a 91% increase, a one-year, one-time 91% increase in premiums, almost a doubling of premiums for a P.P.O. Plan in Maryland that was primarily being used by people with preexisting conditions, people who were sick. The reason that this plan is going up by 91% is because as the Trump administration and this Congress take steps to move healthy people off of insurance plans, either to no insurance at all or to junk plans, only the sick people or people with preexisting conditions are left on plans like the Carefirst P.P.O. Plan. A 91% increase. Who can afford of any kind of middle income in Maryland a 91% increase?
Virginia is not much better. They filed at about the same. One plan asked for a 64% increase in Virginia. Again, I don't know many families who are making $30,000 a year who can afford a one-year 64% increase in premiums. And, remember, overall medical inflation in this country, meaning the amount of increase on a percentage basis in medical costs from year to year, is about 6%. So if you were just passing along the costs to your consumers, the rate should be somewhere in the neighborhood of 5%, 6%, or 7%. Instead, in Virginia, it's 64%.
Senator Merkley is going to speak about Oregon. But premiums in Oregon going up by double digits, 14%. Washington state is looking at a premium increase of 30%. The Kaiser plan in Washington is asking for a 30% increase. The statewide average is right around 20%. Kaiser in Washington says, “The rate changes in our plan are primarily driven by claims experienced in the single risk pool, medical inflation and projected risks in the risk profile in membership due to the elimination of the individual mandate.” That is the change that the Republicans made to the Affordable Care Act.
Maine, well, you're actually in decent shape in Maine. So I’ll give you the good news too. In Maine you’re only seeing a 10% increase in Maine, just slightly above the rate of medical inflation.
But in one of the most populous states in the country, New York, the news is catastrophic, a 39 increase in premiums in the largest health insurance plan in New York. This is Fidelis, which is on the state health care exchanges, asking for a 39% increase. And let me just read to you what the New York Department of Financial Services said about this requested 39% increase. With respect to the individual market, the single biggest justification offered by insurers for requested increases is the Trump administration's repeal of the individual mandate penalty. The mandate, a key component of the ACA., helped mitigate against dramatic price increases by ensuring healthier insurance pools. Insurers have attributed about half of their requested increases to the risks they're seeing because of this partial ACA repeal.
Now, it is not as if the Republicans in this body didn't know what was going to happen. The CBO said that rates will go up by at least 10% in the first year, if you repeal that part of the Affordable Care Act. And that 13 million people will lose insurance. That's what happens when rates go up by 40%. Some people just cannot afford to pay it. And so whether the number is 39% or 91% or 64%, these rate increases that are happening because of this campaign of sabotage by the Trump administration are simply unaffordable.
Before I turn this over to Senator Merkley, let me just quickly run through what I am talking about. January 2017, President Trump signs an executive order telling all his agencies to dismantle the ACA, despite the fact that Congress didn't repeal the Affordable Care Act and never would repeal the Affordable Care Act. In April of 2017, he cuts open enrollment in half for the Affordable Care Act, just to try to make sure that fewer people can sign up for health insurance. Republicans in May start voting to try to take insurance away from 23 million people—actually one of the proposals would have taken insurance away from 30 million people. They finally settle on legislation in December of 2017 that takes insurance away from 13 million people and drives costs up by at least 10%.
The Trump administration in February of this year starts to allow insurance companies to expand the use of junk plans. These are plans that cover very little. They might not cover prescription drugs or mental health or addiction care, but they're cheaper, so healthy people tend to move to these plans, leaving the sick people on the plans that are now going up by 39%.
And the final cherry on top is that the administration right now as we speak is making an argument before the Supreme Court that the remaining scraps of the Affordable Care Act the Republicans left are unconstitutional. The protection for people with preexisting conditions, which Trump promised over and over and over again to keep. Lesley Stahl pinned him down in a "60 minutes" interview and said, you're going to keep the protections for preexisting conditions, right? You're going to keep the part of the Affordable Care Act that is wildly popular, aren't you? And he said, yes, I am going to keep that part. And in fact he has now instructed his Department of Justice to break precedent and argue the unconstitutionality of a statute of the United States, that statute being the portion of the Affordable Care Act that protects people with preexisting conditions.
Believe me, insurance companies are paying attention to this unending withering assault on the Affordable Care Act and the American health care system. That's why you are seeing these big premium increases. And so we want to make sure that our colleagues understand what's happening here. That the American public understands what's happening here. These increases in health care costs are unprecedented, but they are not surprising, given what this administration and what this Congress has been doing. So with that, I will yield the floor.