WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), a member of the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, this week joined Politico Pulse Check podcast with host Dan Diamond to discuss the Supreme Court vacancy and what that means for Americans’ health care, and the administration’s gross mishandling of COVID-19.
On the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing this week with National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Robert Redfield, Murphy said: “[I]t's a mess out there, and I just think many of these public health leaders are in a bubble. You know, they do not understand how this ever-changing guidance, this constant political interference from the White House into public health decisions, is creating an absolute nightmare for the people on the ground. In Connecticut, every time I'm back, I'm spending time with public health leaders, and they don't know who should be tested and who shouldn't, they aren't getting enough funding to set up tracing programs, they don't have clear guidance on how to get ready for a vaccination. They hear one thing from President Trump, they hear another thing from Redfield, then what Redfield says changes, and then it changes again. This is why the pandemic is advanced, and this is why the virus is winning.”
Murphy also discussed how COVID-19 will be a pre-existing condition, and what that means for health care coverage moving forward should Republicans fill the SCOTUS vacancy and repeal the Affordable Care Act: “[W]e know enough about coronavirus to know that it very likely becomes a pre-existing condition, that there is enough evidence that it can create inflammation around the heart such that insurance companies are going to label it as such, a pre-existing condition. And what we know is that the Republicans are attempting to stack the Supreme Court with an anti-ACA majority such that by the end of the year, the Affordable Care Act could be gone, and all the protections that come with it. Insurance companies are going to take advantage of that. And they are certainly going to raise rates on anyone who has had a COVID diagnosis, and they're going to be very interested in getting everybody tested so that they can find out whether folks who are asymptomatic also need to have their rates increased as well. So I understand that it's 45 days until the election so everything sort of gets colored by politics, but this is just what's going to happen. If the ACA gets struck down, COVID is going to be a pre-existing condition and everybody who has it is going to see their rates increase if they can even get insurance in the first place.”
Murphy continued: “…President Trump and Senate Republicans are trying to ram through a nominee before the election because there is a case pending, right after the election, that will allow them to finally invalidate the Affordable Care Act. So it doesn't take a lot of strategic nuance to understand what's happening here. They couldn't repeal the Affordable Care Act through the legislative process, now they have the chance to do it, and they've got to move fast, because the case is about to be heard right after the election.”
On his early concerns that the Trump administration was failing to take COVID-19 seriously, Murphy said: “…[W]e requested emergency funds from the administration, and they told us they didn't need any money, that they could handle coronavirus with the money they had. We specifically requested the money in early February for supplies and for training, because we knew that our public health professionals weren't ready, we knew that there was going to be a problem with medical equipment like PPE. And it stood to reason that having watched this virus move so incredibly rapidly and so lethally through China, knowing the inability to stop that virus and the people who carry it from coming to the United States, that it was going to be a pandemic, that it was going to be an epidemic in the United States. And it was just frightening, bone-chilling, on February 5 to listen to Republican administration members tell us that they had it taken care of. They believed that the flight restrictions were going to stop coronavirus from coming to the United States and thus, they didn't need to do anything to get ready.”
“Republicans and Democrats in that room knew that wasn't true. We pressed them to get serious, and they wouldn't. And I'm going to be honest, a lot of the people in that room were Dr. Fauci and Alex Azar. I mean the same people who are in charge today were in that room in February, not taking this seriously enough,” Murphy continued.
Click here to listen to the interview in full.