Cantwell Takes Senate Floor to Defend Vulnerable Americans from Trumpcare Bill

Senator: We “are very willing to talk about how we improve our system, but we are not going to make poor Americans the scapegoat of our health care challenges.”

New C.B.O. report: 22 million more Americans would be uninsured by 2026 under Trumpcare

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) delivered a speech on the Senate floor to oppose Republicans’ Trumpcare legislation. Cantwell highlighted the staggering human impact the bill would have, citing figures from the Congressional Budget Office report released today.

A transcript of the Senator’s floor remarks is below.

Sen. Cantwell: Mr. President, I come to the floor to join my colleagues -- you can see there's numerous colleagues on this side of the aisle who are speaking – just as my colleague from Vermont just did with great passion, or my colleague from Massachusetts with great passion. I'm sure my colleague from Minnesota.

We've all been home for the weekends talking to our constituents. We've all been back here now with the CBO news. And we're here because we are very concerned about the next steps the Senate might take in this health care debate. When I was at home, I heard some unbelievably positive stories about health care. I was at a hospital in our state, Virginia Mason, which has probably been one of the leaders in reducing health care costs by new efficiencies. They've improved lab work and return time of getting lab results for patients 85%. They've increased productivity 90%. They've reduced the liability insurance charges by 76%. So they've innovated. They've innovated. They've innovated. They've innovated and they have talked about the direction that health care should go, and not once did they mention cutting or capitating health care as a solution.

I talked to an official where they literally cut in half the uninsured in a community and they are delivering great adult dental access to a population of 46,000 people in that county that don't have access to dental care. So they're making great progress.

I talked to a veteran who had served our country, who literally got out and is now going to school, but without the help of Medicaid will not be able to cover her health care expenses. I met a woman just on the street and told me her husband had lost his job. She never thought they would be on Medicaid. But when he lost his job, they were on Medicaid, and they depended on that to provide health care for them and their children. And I met a gentleman who also said he too lost his job, and then after that came down with a serious life-threatening illness. And it was only Medicaid that saved him.

So what do we know today that's different than last Friday? Now we have some CBO numbers. We know the numbers -- we know the numbers that 22 million Americans – after the result of this if it was passed – would be uninsured. Fifteen million on Medicaid would lose insurance. $772 billion in Medicaid cuts. We know that we thought it was heartless, and now we see the numbers that say cutting that many people off of Medicaid is, in my opinion, as my colleagues have also said, not something that we should be pursuing as a nation.

And it leaves us to ask about not just the impact of this on individuals, as I just mentioned, because I believe there's a much better way to go with innovation. But what it also does for the individual market, a lot of this debate started because people thought the individual market hadn't seen some of the benefits. Why not talk about the individual market? Why if 7% of health care delivery, the individual market was having a problem, why not talk about ideas to improve the individual market? Instead we have a bill from the House and Senate that beats up on the Medicaid population as if they are the culprit.

If you want to improve Medicaid and delivery services and help decrease costs, let's do that. There are so many innovative ideas. But just cutting people off of Medicaid to solve the individual market problem just doesn't even make sense to me. We now have, after last Friday too, the Center on Budget Policy and Priorities, an assessment talking about how this would raise annual premiums in the individual market. And they gave some various examples. For example, in West Virginia and Nevada, a sixty-year-old with an income of $36,000 would pay respectively $5,000 and $4,000 more than what they were paying now. Or in Alaska, a 60-year-old making $45,000 would pay $5,777 more than what they're paying now for premiums. So the notion that this is driving down costs is just a fallacy.

We've heard from Republican governors and Democratic governors together talking about this. They sent us a letter saying the first thing we should do is focus on improving our nation's private health insurance system. Where did the governors ask that you come and beat up on Medicaid?  They didn't say that. They didn't say please beat up on Medicaid. Have a big party in covering people on Medicaid as a partner for us for 65 years and then leave us stuck with half the bill. They didn't say that. They basically say quote, ‘Medicaid provisions included in this bill are problematic. Instead we recommend Congress focus on addressing factors we can all agree need fixing.’ That's a pretty clear message, I believe, from Republican governors who are saying this is not the way to fix health care.

Also last week, a nonpartisan study by the George Washington University found that the House-passed bill basically would have a huge economic impact on our country. States' economies would shrink by $93 billion compared to where we are today. Business output would be cut $148 billion. The study notes that it would combine with normal economic cycles and, quote, ‘could contribute to a period of economic and medical hardship in the United States.’

That report also talks about job loss throughout the country, saying that we could lose more than $1 billion in gross products in individual states just because of the number of people who wouldn't be covered, the number of health care providers that would no longer be there, the infrastructure, and then the impact on the health care system overall of uncompensated care. These are costs we can't afford. And as my colleague, Senator Sanders mentioned, there are all these health care institutions that have now come out saying they don't support this Senate-drafted bill. The Academy of Family Physicians, they know more -- they're seeing so many patients. They know what this challenge is. The American Psychological Association doesn't support this bill. Other health care associations, the Catholic Health Association doesn't support this bill. Mr. President, I have a list so long, I think I will just enter it into the record of all the health care-related organizations and others that don't support this legislation.

Sen. Lankford: Without objection.

Sen. Cantwell: Mr. President, I hope my colleagues understand that there are those here that are very willing to talk about how we improve our system, but we are not going to make poor Americans the scapegoat of our health care challenges. A gentleman named Joe Baker, President of the Medicare Rights Center, I think said it best. He said, quote, ‘you are or someone you love is going to need Medicaid. You may not need the nursing home care, but you may rely on community-based services like home care. That will allow you to stay in your home and stay out of a nursing facility. Medicaid is the lifeline that covers many of the benefits that Medicare does not provide.’ Now why did I read that? Why did I pick that, a guy who is the head of the Medicare organization? Because he knows what his individual organization participants need in a health care delivery system.

Everybody knows -- everybody knows America is living longer and as they age, need more health care. And to our colleagues who want to reduce those costs, we're ready. We're ready to call them and talk about how we reduce those costs. I have talked about how I've authored community-based health care that has helped our state save $2 billion. And if we did that in every state, we'd be saving billions of dollars. But the notion that we are going to proceed in the next 24 hours or so on a motion after we have a C.B.O. report that says this is a devastating impact on millions of people with Medicaid, is not the right way to go.

Taking this out on the poor people of America who need Medicaid will make it worse for us as well. It will raise our rates, return the costs to where they are, and not help us solve this problem for the future. So I hope our colleagues will understand that so many people raising so many concerns about this, yes, they're about economics. But they are also about personal stories of people, just like our colleague from Hawaii who said you never know; you never know when an individual situation is going to affect you, and you want to make sure that there's health care to help you get through that crisis. I thank the president and I yield the floor.