PROVIDENCE, RI – As Senate Republicans work behind closed doors on a plan to take health care from millions of Americans in order to give a tax cut to the wealthy, U.S. Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse today joined with Rhode Islanders to send a simple message: it is unacceptable to try to write and pass Trumpcare in secret without appropriate hearings, amendments, or meaningful debate.
In addition to raising health costs for working families and decreasing their coverage, the Trumpcare bill would also eliminate hundreds of billions from state Medicaid programs, while diminishing consumer protections for those with pre-existing conditions, women, and more.
Reed and Whitehouse are urging Republicans to start holding public hearings and to declare that Americans have a right to know what is in the bill and how it will impact them and their loved ones. They have cosponsored the No Hearing, No Vote Act to require that any legislation going through the fast-tracked budget reconciliation process have at least one committee hearing and be reported out by at least one of the instructed Senate Committees before the full Senate may consider it.
“Health care touches the lives of every American and makes up almost 18 percent of our economy. So it makes no sense that one party is going behind closed doors and hatching a plan to take health care from millions of Americans in order to give a tax cut to the wealthy. That is unacceptable. We saw what happened in the House: Republicans took a bad bill behind closed doors and made it worse. They rushed it through without a CBO score and broke all kinds of promises. And after the bill was already passed, they found out just how bad it was: CBO confirmed that the Trumpcare bill would result in higher health costs, reduced coverage, and 23 million fewer Americans insured,” said Senator Reed. “And coupled with President Trump’s call to cut $800 billion from Medicaid, slash over $64 billion from Social Security disability benefits for vulnerable Americans, and reduce the Children’s Health Insurance Program by at least 20 percent -- the Republican’s Trumpcare bill would be an unmitigated disaster for Rhode Island, the American people, and our health care system.”
“The Affordable Care Act has brought peace of mind and economic stability to millions of Americans. Rather than taking that away, we ought to work together in a bipartisan way to keep making the system better,” said Senator Whitehouse. “The health care of tens of thousands of Rhode Islanders and one-sixth of our nation's economy are too important for Republicans to repeal the Affordable Care Act in secret.”
Senator Whitehouse currently serves on the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, which, along with the Senate Finance Committee, should have jurisdiction over health insurance legislation. But so far in 2017, the HELP Committee has devoted zero hours of public hearings or debate to the proposed Trumpcare bill that is currently being put together in secret.
In 2009, when the Senate was considering the Affordable Care Act, both Senator Reed and Senator Whitehouse served on the HELP Committee. According to the New York Times: “In June and July 2009, with Democrats in charge, the Senate health committee spent nearly 60 hours over 13 days marking up the bill that became the Affordable Care Act. That September and October, the Senate Finance Committee worked on the legislation for eight days — its longest markup in two decades. It considered more than 130 amendments and held 79 roll-call votes. The full Senate debated the health care bill for 25 straight days before passing it on Dec. 24, 2009.”
The senators say that it is vital for a bill that will affect almost 18% of our national economy and potentially cost 23 million people their health insurance to get a thorough, open, and rigorous public review before it is voted on. They also noted that before the Affordable Care Act was passed, the bill’s text had been public for weeks, along with a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) score.
House Republicans, on the other hand, jammed their version of Trumpcare through the House last month without proper vetting and before the CBO could study its costs and impacts. This was in direct violation of their pre-election “Pledge to America,” in which Republicans stated: “We will ensure that bills are debated and discussed in the public square by publishing the text online for at least three days before coming up for a vote in the House of Representatives.” Realizing their Trumpcare bill was unpopular and unworkable and that they would lose votes if citizens knew what was in the bill, Republican leaders forced a vote less than 24 hours after finalizing the language.
The House-passed bill also violates Donald Trump’s pledge to protect Medicare. The CBO found that under the House-passed bill that President Trump endorses, insurance costs would rise for seniors and that over $600 billion would be transferred from Medicare’s trust fund to tax giveaways to those making over $250,000. Further, the House Trumpcare bill would also eliminate $880 billion from state Medicaid programs and important patient and consumer protections – especially for women and all those with pre-existing conditions.
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