WASHINGTON, DC  – In a newly released letter, U.S. Senators Jack Reed (D-RI) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and all 46 of their Senate Democratic colleagues today sent a letter urging Senate Republican leaders to drop current repeal efforts and work in a bipartisan way to reform America’s health care system.  The Democrats said that the bill recently passed along party lines by the U.S. House of Representatives was not only rushed through without a CBO score, but the underlying bill could still result in millions of Americans losing health coverage altogether.  In addition to raising costs and decreasing care, the bill also eliminates hundreds of billions from state Medicaid programs, while diminishing consumer protections for those with pre-existing conditions, women, and more.  On top of this, the current administration has been working to de-stabilize the current health care market so it can point to this as evidence that the system needs replacing; Senate Democrats urged the GOP to discourage these efforts that only hurt Americans and set reform efforts back. Instead, Senate Democrats are urging Republicans and their leadership to drop repeal efforts and come to the table.  All 48 members said they stand ready to reform the current system and work in a bipartisan way to come up with solutions that reduce costs and increase care for millions of Americans.  The letter emphasizes that the Republicans must drop their partisan effort to use procedural legerdemain, known as reconciliation, to avoid a full and open debate on health care.

Senator Reed issued the following statement: “Congress must ensure that health care is accessible and affordable.  The House-passed Trumpcare does the opposite: it would increase costs, create huge new expenses for states, and cause millions to lose their health insurance.  That is irresponsible and unacceptable.  Instead of passing a harmful bill, Congress should take commonsense steps -- like allowing Medicare to negotiate the best price for prescription drugs on behalf of our seniors -- that will make a real difference.  I will work on a bipartisan basis to improve transparency and accountability, spur innovation, and increase choice and competition in the current system.  And I will strenuously oppose any partisan attempts like the cynical House plan to cut benefits while raising health costs.”

“The Affordable Care Act is working in Rhode Island,” said Senator Whitehouse.  “Gone are the days of lifetime limits on coverage or denying coverage for pre-existing conditions.  And thousands of Rhode Islanders who couldn’t get insurance before now have peace of mind knowing their families are covered.  The Republicans in the House applauded and high-fived as they voted to take all that away.  I hope my Republican colleagues in the Senate will work with Democrats to develop policies that will improve quality, lower costs, expand coverage, and hold fast to the protections Obamacare provides all Americans.”

The text of the letter appears below:

Dear Leader McConnell, Chairman Alexander and Chairman Hatch:

We write to request that the Senate work in a bipartisan, open and transparent way to improve and reform the health care system. Democrats stand ready – as we always have -- to develop legislation with Republicans that will improve quality, lower costs, and expand coverage for all Americans. But Republicans need to set aside their current partisan efforts and work with us to get this done.

Last week, the House passed a partisan bill that will dramatically increase the cost of health insurance for those who need it most and lower the quality of coverage. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office found that the underlying bill would result in 24 million Americans losing health insurance, while facing increased costs. The House passed bill also eliminates $880 billion from state Medicaid programs and important patient and consumer protections – especially for women and all those with pre-existing conditions.  Finally, the House bill was passed without a final official cost or coverage estimate from CBO and may contain provisions that violate the Senate’s rules regarding the privileged reconciliation process.

We urge you to drop the current partisan effort to repeal and replace health care reform through reconciliation.  We also urge you to discourage the ongoing effort by the Administration to de-stabilize the health care marketplace, which could lead to rising insurance premiums for all and make it harder for families to access health care. If repeal is abandoned, we stand ready to work with you to help all Americans get the affordable health care they need.  Instead of trying to change the House’s “repeal and replace” legislation, which has an uncertain path to the President’s desk, you could instead choose to work with us on a bipartisan health reform package that can garner 60 votes in the Senate and pass the House with Republican and Democratic votes.

Working together to improve health care requires an open and transparent process that includes public hearings, an open amendment process, and ample time for debate in the full Senate. There are a number of issue areas we want to work on with you, including:

  • Reducing the cost of prescription drugs
  • Decreasing the cost of premiums without cutting the quality of benefits
  • Making the cost of care more affordable by reducing out-of-pocket costs
  • Stabilizing and strengthening the insurance market
  • Helping more struggling families get covered
  • Making it easier and less expensive for small businesses to provide health care

We look forward to your response and working with you in a bipartisan process to improve the health care system for all Americans.