September 19, 2017

Van Hollen Speaks Out Against Disastrous Republican Health Care Legislation

U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen spoke on the Senate floor yesterday to oppose the Republicans' last-ditch efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act and strip Americans of their health coverage. His remarks are available below, and video is availablehere.

"Thank you, Madam President. I first want to thank the Democratic Leader for his efforts to work and reach out to the Republican Leader, Senator McConnell, as we move forward to try to take some sensible steps to improve our health care system, not try to blow up the entire health care system.

"Madam President, just last month the overwhelming majority of the American people sighed a great sigh of relief when this Senate voted down the earlier Trumpcare proposal that would have destroyed the Affordable Care Act and which would have had a devastating impact on the entireAmerican healthcare system. Madam President, we'll all recall at that point in time that Senator McCain gave a powerful and impassioned speech on this floor about the importance of the Senate going through the regular order, about working in a transparent way, in a bipartisan way, to improve and strengthen our health care system - not another cynical, partisan effort to ram through a piece of legislation that impacts hundreds of millions of our fellow Americans.

"And it seemed for a time that we were making headway on that front. Senator Lamar Alexander and Senator Patty Murray in the HELP Committee were working together, holding hearings, bringing people from all points of view in front of that Committee to testify about how we can improve and strengthen our current system.

"But now instead of heading down that bipartisan path, we're seeing another last-ditch effort to destroy the Affordable Care Act, and in the process wreak incredible damage to our entire health care system. The latest incarnation of Trumpcare is the Graham-Cassidy legislation. And make no mistake, in many ways this is far worse than the earlier proposals that we've seen. It would end the Medicaid expansion program, which in my state of Maryland actually has provided more affordable care to more Marylanders than the exchanges that were established under the Affordable Care Act. It will dramatically cut the funds under the Medicaid program through a block grant proposal that gives very little, given the huge responsibilities that the state has. It will give a green light to states throughout the country to eliminate the really important patient protections, protections against discrimination based on preexisting conditions like diabetes or asthma or whatever it may be. It will give a blank check to those who want to eliminate the important essential benefit provisions that provide important coverage guarantees for women's health and so many other important areas like mental health and substance abuse.

"Madam President, doctors in this country, take a very simple oath, the Hippocratic Oath, which says: first, do no harm. This piece of legislation -- this latest incarnation of Trumpcare -- will do devastating harm to our health care system. And you don't have to take my word for it. As more and more groups learn about this piece of legislation and are just looking at the details, they are beginning to phone into our offices, sending us e-mails and texts. And I can assure you, Members will see the same outpouring of opposition to this bill that they saw to the earlier ones.

"Already we have seen strong statements of opposition from the American Cancer Society, from the American Diabetes Association, from the American Heart Association, the American Lung Association, and the list goes on and on. And it just started. It's important for us to remember that these are not Republican groups, they are not Democratic groups. They have no partisan affiliation at all. Their only interest is to protect patients in this country, and we should have the same interest in protecting the health of our constituents.

"It's not just the patient advocacy groups who are already strongly opposed to this. Those who provide health care in our system -- to our loved ones, to our parents, to our children -- are coming out strongly opposed to this already. Here's what the Children's Hospital Association has to say about the Graham-Cassidy provision, "Their legislation would slash funding for Medicaid, the largest health care program for children by one-third, reducing access in coverage for more than 30 million children in the program. Furthermore, the legislation weakens important consumer safeguards, and as a result, millions of children in working families would no longer be assured that their private insurance covers the most basic of services without annual and lifetime limits."And they go on. That is the Children's Hospital Association. Those are the hospitals that every day are caring for kids throughout this country.

"They are not alone in already opposing this legislation -- the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Physicians, the Nurses Association -- in short, all of those organization representing all those people out there who are providing health care to our fellow Americans, to our constituents, they are opposed to this bill.

"AARP, which, of course, represents millions -- in fact tens of millions -- of older Americans is strongly opposed to this bill, because once again it opens the door towards age discrimination in the amount of the premiums that are charged. Older Americans, elderly Americans will see their premiums go through the roof under this proposal, and that's why AARP is also strongly opposed.

"So Madam President, just when we thought we were at a point where we were going to focus on a bipartisan basis on improving the health care system -- which has a whole lot of room for improvement, just when we began to see bipartisan hearings and legislation possibly emerge from the HELP Committee, we now see this last-ditch effort on the floor of the Senate to do what other bills had tried to do but in an even worse fashion. And we're hearing already from Americans -- not with political hats on, not with Republican hats on, or Democratic hats on, or Independent hats on, not with political hats on at all -- just people who care about the health care of the people of this country, and they are resoundingly opposed to this.

"So let's not try and ram something through here in the next two weeks to try to meet an artificial clock that has been set by the rules of the Senate. There's been ample time to debate this, and we've debated the earlier versions. Let's not allow this final sneak attack on the American health care system to get through this body. It would be a very sad day for the United States Senate."