ICYMI: Senator Stabenow Joins Senate Democrats to Hold the Floor, Calls on Republicans to Make Health Care Bill Public (VIDEO)

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Last night, U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) joined other Senate Democrats to hold the Senate floor and call on Republicans to make the text of their health care bill public.  Video of Senator Stabenow’s speech is available here and a transcript is included below.  To watch the full coverage of the Senate floor, click here


“Republicans are hiding their bill because they know it is a bad deal for American families,” said Senator Stabenow. “Costs go up, care goes down, all to cut taxes for millionaires and billionaires. It's time for Republicans to show us the bill so we can move beyond partisanship to get something done for the American people.”



Full text of Senator Stabenow’s Remarks:


“Mr. President, I’m rising this evening to talk about an issue that affects every single person, every single family in Michigan and all across the nation and that’s health care.


“And I feel very confident that I can say that each one of the 48 members of the Democratic Caucus, each and every one of us, would love to be on this floor working with Republican colleagues across the aisle to lower the cost of prescription drugs, to lower the out-of-pocket costs of health care, to create more competition, more insurance choices for people in the insurance pools that are there now, to basically fix the problems.


“But we’re here, and I’m proud to be with colleagues tonight, because we are not willing to support anything that unravels the health care system, raises costs and takes away health care for people -- that on top of that gives a tax cut to the wealthiest Americans, insurance executives, pharmaceutical companies with the dollars that are cut.


“The House has passed a bill that in fact raises costs, takes away health care, gives the tax cut I talked about. Now, we’re in the Senate. Now, the Republicans have a health care bill but they won’t let us see it.


“I’m the ranking Democrat on the Health Subcommittee of the Finance Committee. You would think that someone would have reached out to have conversations with me and the members of our subcommittee and the members of our whole committee. But that has not happened.


“So they’re letting the Trump Administration see it. But not the American public. They’re letting K Street lobbyists see it. In fact, that’s probably where I’ll get a copy first -- through lobbyists. But not the American public who will lose their health care and pay more.


“If you have cancer and you’re not going to be able to get coverage, if you’re going to potentially be dropped or now a have a preexisting condition or get a cap put on the number of cancer treatments that you can receive, I believe you have a right to receive this bill.


“If you have epilepsy and will lose your insurance, you have a right to see this bill.


“If you’re a woman who will be charged more for insurance and be considered to have a preexisting condition just because you are a woman, you have a right to see this bill.


“And if you’re a senior whose rates are going to go skyrocketing upwards, you have a right to see this bill. But the sad fact is Republicans don’t think the American people have a right to know or to see this bill or to review it, or to comment on it, to have a chance to give their opinion on it.


“The difference in process couldn’t be more clear between the way the Affordable Care Act was originally worked on for about 18 months and then passed, and what’s happening right now.


“In 2009, Republicans called for a fair, collaborative and deliberative legislative process. And I agree. In fact, we all agreed. From 2009 to 2010, the Senate Finance Committee held more than 53 hearings on health reform. Hearings, open committee meetings, work sessions.


“As a new member of Finance at that time, I was involved in every single one of those. Hours and hours and hours of listening, deliberating and people sharing their opinions, debating. Counting the health committee deliberations, there were 100 hearings and committee meetings before the bill was finalized and debated to be reported out of committee. 100.


“The Republicans have had no hearings – zero hearings – no public meetings, zero public meetings. During the Finance Committee markup, when we were working through and voting out the bill, we considered 135 amendments often late into the night. The final Senate bill included 147 Republican amendments.


“Until the end, we were trying to do everything we could to get bipartisan support when it was clear that politically there was not a desire even with 147 Republican amendments in the bill to have a bipartisan health care bill.  But Republicans won’t even allow us to see the bill, let alone amend it.


“Now, our position is very clear.  If there is no hearing, there is no vote. They need to show us the bill. But there's, I think, a really good reason that they won't show us the bill. They won't let us see it because it's a disaster for the American people. It’s a disaster for people in Michigan that I represent.


“From the House bill, we know that 14 million fewer people will be insured after the first year. 23 million fewer people will be insured after ten years. Now this may change somewhat back and forth. We have no idea. But we know the general framework that the Senate is working in is the same general framework as the House.


We know that in 2026, according to the budget office, 51 million people -- 51 million people -- under the age of 65 will be uninsured. No insurance. We’re told that premiums would go up 20% next year and states would be allowed to opt out of key insurance laws that protect consumers.


“To really understand what that means, that means all of the decisions about your care go back to the insurance companies. Not your doctor.


“You know, laws that protect people with preexisting conditions, gone. Rules that prevent women from being charged more, gone. Laws that prevent seniors from being charged more, gone.


“And the way it used to be is if you got sick, the insurance company could decide to drop you. It was the insurance company that said how many cancer treatments that you were able to receive or mental health visits, if any, you would receive. And you always paid more than for physical health. The same with addiction. This all goes away with what's being talked about here.


“In other words, costs are going to go up and care is going to go down. And to add insult to injury, all of this is going to go to tax cuts for multimillionaires and billionaires and drug companies and insurance company execs. While somebody is losing their nursing home care, their cancer treatments, maternity care, children unable to go to the doctor and parents forced to go back to using the emergency room.


“Mr. President, I want to share what these changes would mean for people in Michigan. There are so many people I’ve talked to, so many stories that I’ve heard. I received a letter from a woman in Michigan named Amy who owns a small retail business, has health insurance through her husband's job. Small business owner. Amy has chronic myeloid leukemia. It is managed with a medication that costs $20,000 a month. Not a year. A month.


“After her deductible and 10% copay, she said she quickly reaches the maximum out-of-pocket expense on her insurance each year. Amy wrote, ‘Preexisting conditions, maximum out-of-pocket costs, lifetime caps are important to me. Without them, I could never afford my health care. Without the Affordable Care Act, I could quickly bankrupt my family and still die. Please consider my situation when deciding your vote on any changes to health care. I need your help. I want and need to stay alive and raise my children.’


Health reform allows Amy to stay on her husband's insurance plan and pay for the cancer treatments that are keeping her alive. The Republican plan would put people with preexisting conditions, like cancer, at the mercy, again, of health insurance companies.


“Here’s another way the Republican plan would hurt Michigan families. Thanks to the Medicaid expansion, 650,000 people are newly covered under what we call Healthy Michigan, the Healthy Michigan Plan. And the good news is 97% of Michigan children can now go to the doctor. They don't have to wait and go to the emergency room. If they have a cold, their mom or dad can take them to a doctor. They can get preventive care rather than waiting until something awful happens and go into the emergency room.


“And what's the good news for the state of Michigan out of that? Michigan will end up this year going into next year with $432 million more in the Treasury. Taxpayer dollars that aren't going to have to be used on health care, because the right thing was done, creating a way for children to see a doctor. And what has happened? We have a 50% reduction on folks going into the emergency room that don't have insurance, and it saves money when you do that. The number of people treated has gone down 50%. The number of people treated without insurance.


“You know, the great thing about health care to understand is that if we ignore it, it doesn't mean people don't get sick, that they don't get cancer, they don't need to have a nursing home or that their child doesn't get sick.


“If you just ignore it, the costs go up because people ultimately use the most expensive ways to get treated. If you actually plan it out and do the right thing on the front end and people can see a doctor and they can get the checkups and the care that they need and the treatments they need, you actually save money. That’s the example of the state of Michigan. But the Republican plan would end the Medicaid expansion. Healthy Michigan would go away.


“One young man in Michigan, only 19 years old, shared a story of living with his single mom when he was diagnosed with testicular cancer. He was working but his employer didn’t offer health insurance. He didn't have transportation to get to his appointments or treatments. Thanks to Healthy Michigan, he got insurance and treatment at Munson Healthcare in Traverse City. He is now free from cancer, has a job with benefits, and is engaged to be married and we wish him well. Healthy Michigan and the Medicaid expansion saved this young man's life.


“The Republican plan would end the Healthy Michigan plan, ripping coverage away from 650,000 people in Michigan, including cancer patients. And for what? For what? To pay for tax breaks for drug companies and the ultra-wealthy one more time. This means Michigan families will be unable to care for their loved ones when they need it most.


“In January, I led a forum on Secretary Price’s health care policies and a woman told her story. Ann was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis when she was 40 years old. She has very limited use of her arms and legs. We are so grateful that she made the trip to D.C. to share her story. Medicare and secondary insurance cover most of the costs of her medication, which costs an astonishing $75,000 a year. That’s nearly her entire household income, including social security benefits. Ann had been caring for her aging mom when her mom's dementia worsened and didn't know where she would find the $6,000 a month to pay for nursing home care. How many families are in that situation?


“Fortunately, Ann’s mom qualified for Medicaid -- which by the way three out of five seniors in Michigan are able to get their health care, their nursing home care, through Medicaid. Three out of five are getting nursing home care because of Medicaid, including Ann’s mom. And this nursing home care paid for the final three years of her life. Here’s what Ann said, ‘It was only because of Medicaid that she was able to get the help that she needed at the end of her life. I don't know how I could have cared for my mom on top of managing my own care. My family would have lost our home and all of our savings trying to keep up with their bills.’


“Medicaid helped Ann care for her mom at the end of her life. This is a good thing. But again, the Republican plan would cut Medicaid by $834 billion. That’s the House plan coming over. We don't know how much will be cut here, but we know whatever will be cut will be used for tax breaks for drug companies, insurance CEOs, millionaires and billionaires. How does that reflect American values?


“In conclusion, Republicans are hiding their bill because they know it is a bad deal for American families. It is a bad deal. The President of the United States called it mean. I agree with him. It is mean, and it's definitely a bad deal for the people I represent in Michigan.


“Costs go up, care goes down, all to cut taxes for millionaires and billionaires. We are better than this as a country. Our nation is better than this. It's time for Republicans to show us the bill so we can work on it together give us a chance -- give the American people a chance to have input, to say what they think before it's forced on them in a secret process that's rammed through this floor. And it's time to move beyond partisanship to get something done for the American people.


“Again, I know that the 48 Democratic senators in this chamber want to work on lowering the costs of prescription drugs and reducing out-of-pocket costs and helping small businesses that want to provide coverage for their employees and making the health care system better. Let’s stop this bad bill and work together on behalf of the American people.”