The health care fight is not over
Last week, Republican leaders in the Senate abandoned their plans to force a vote on the latest partisan proposal to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act—a new and unthinkably dangerous version of Trumpcare. While this delay is welcome news, the bill’s sponsors have already indicated they plan to continue pushing for a vote on Trumpcare in the weeks and months to come. Their intention, combined with the administration’s continued efforts to sabotage health insurance markets and undermine the Affordable Care Act—including their action today to limit the ACA’s contraceptive coverage mandate, making it more difficult for millions of women to access reproductive healthcare across the country—reminds us that the health care fight is not over.
The latest version of Trumpcare continuing to be advocated for by my Republican colleagues would cut $1 trillion from Medicaid, which pays for the lion’s share of funding for our loved ones in nursing homes, for our neighbors suffering with addiction and substance abuse and for people with disabilities. Non-partisan analyses show that it would leave millions of additional Americans uninsured and make health insurance completely unaffordable for millions more. Delawareans would see an annual premium increase of over $5,000 while more than 80,000 Delawareans would lose coverage by 2027.
Some of my Republican friends in Congress have said that this proposal gives states greater flexibility, but many of our Republican governors say otherwise. Under this proposal, state legislatures would have two years to design, establish and implement new health care systems. As a former governor, I understand the near-impossible nature of this challenge. For some perspective, it took Massachusetts four years to get Romneycare up and running. All the while, states will still need to balance budgets—and because of deep cuts in federal funding, states would also need to choose between keeping health care affordable and funding for other areas, like education.
Fortunately, my friend and fellow Navy veteran, Senator John McCain (R-Arizona), and my friend Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) voiced their opposition to this bill loud and clear. They agree with me that this latest partisan bill stands in direct opposition to the good work and real progress being made on bipartisan health care legislation in the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee. Led by Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee) and Senator Patty Murray (D-Washington), senators are working together to find a bipartisan solution to immediately stabilizing the health care exchanges and lowering health care costs for millions of people.
Over the past few weeks, the HELP Committee has held bipartisan hearings, roundtables and coffees with Republican and Democratic senators, governors, insurance commissioners and health care providers to talk about what we need to do to stabilize the exchanges. We’ve heard what will work to provide immediate cost relief to the people experiencing higher premiums and health care costs in the individual insurance marketplace: maintaining cost-sharing reduction payments that keep health care costs low, providing a reinsurance program and keeping the individual mandate or something similar that’s effective in getting healthy, young individuals into risk pools.
There are parts of the Affordable Care Act that need to be fixed, and there are provisions in the Affordable Care Act that need to be preserved.
We don’t need a Republican victory on health care, and we don’t need a Democratic victory on health care. We need an American victory on health care. In order to do that, we need to keep up bipartisan talks and work toward real solutions that deliver immediate cost relief to millions of people. We need regular order. To quote my friend Senator McCain:
As I have repeatedly stressed, health care reform legislation ought to be the product of regular order in the Senate. Committees of jurisdiction should mark up legislation with input from all committee members, and send their bill to the floor for debate and amendment. That is the only way we might achieve bipartisan consensus on lasting reform, without which a policy that affects one-fifth of our economy and every single American family will be subject to reversal with every change of administration and congressional majority… The issue is too important, and too many lives are at risk, for us to leave the American people guessing from one election to the next whether and how they will acquire health insurance. A bill of this impact requires a bipartisan approach.
As I continue to work in earnest on bipartisan fixes to our health care system, I encourage you to share your comments on health care with me at www.carper.senate.gov/healthcarestories or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I want to hear your thoughts on how we can improve our health care system and why health insurance coverage matters to you.