Leaders Respond: Governor Brown, Oregon’s Senators, Congressional Delegates Share Their Takes on Republican Healthcare Proposal

Responses break down along party lines, with Democrats criticizing the so-called “American Health Care Act,” as Republican Rep. Walden says he sees bill as a first step

Top leaders from across Oregon have reacted to the release of a Republican healthcare reform proposal along party lines, with democrats slamming the proposal as harmful and shortsighted, while the state’s only Republican representative in Washington, D.C., Greg Walden, called it a good first step.

Here’s a round-up of statements made by major political leaders on the proposed bill.

Oregon Governor Kate Brown, a Democrat, in a press release:

The Republicans' proposed health care bill represents a radical change that is shortsighted and moves health care backward, not forward. It would reduce Oregonians' access to care and increase costs for women and seniors. I am especially concerned about how this bill would negatively jeopardize our state’s budget and economy, especially in rural Oregon.

I urge Congress and the President to not turn their backs on struggling working families, and instead learn from Oregon’s patient-centered, coordinated care model that has improved health outcomes while holding down costs.

Click here to view the full press release issued by the governor’s office. 

U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, in a statement to the media:

This bill sends a loud and clear message: tax cuts for special interests and the wealthy matter more than your health care.  The American people will pay more and get less or no coverage at all – it ends Medicaid as we know it, it decimates state and family budgets while putting America’s most vulnerable at risk, it puts the government between women and their doctors, and it steals money from Medicare to give a massive tax break to the wealthy.

Congressional Republicans are leading a desperate forced march to pass a dangerous bill written in secret which few members of Congress have seen, let alone read.  This unprecedented process is being used to jam the bill through Congress – without any numbers on cost or consequences from the Congressional Budget Office – before the American people can learn what they’re about to lose.  I will fight this effort every step of the way.  America cannot afford to go back to the days when health care was reserved for the healthy and the wealthy.

Wyden also sent a press release containing the following statement:

This bill breaks a clear Trump promise not to harm Medicare.

In addition to the bill’s many other harmful provisions, it gives a tax break to the wealthy and steals directly from Medicare’s coffers. Raiding Medicare like this will create an unnecessary crisis that threatens the health care of tens of millions of seniors who count on the program. Americans deserve better when it comes to Medicare’s guarantee of health benefits. 

 

U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, R-Hood River, in a press release

At town halls and meetings I’ve held throughout my district, Oregonians have asked for the same things when it comes to their care: greater choice, lower cost, and flexibility to choose the plan that best suits their needs. Our plan provides Oregonians with just that. It maintains important protections for consumers -- including for those with pre-existing conditions and for young adults on their parents’ plans -- and it doesn’t pull the rug out from anyone currently on Medicaid.

I’m proud that the plan we’ve put forth today reflects eight years’ worth of conversations with families, patients, and doctors. Simply put, we have a Better Way to deliver solutions that put patients -- not bureaucrats -- first, and we are moving forward united in our efforts to rescue the American people from the mess Obamacare has created. Today is the first step in helping families across this country obtain truly affordable health care, and we’re eager to get this rescue mission started.

Click here for the full press release by Walden. 

U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenhauer, D-Portland, in a press release:

Trump lied to the American people. Sadly, it’s no surprise. This is what he does. Trump is a salesman first.

The GOP kept their plan secret, making it public just two days ago, and still have refused to release any official cost estimates. Trump must be held accountable for his words, and so should the Republicans.

Click here for full the press release by Blumenhauer. 

Rep. Kurt Schrader, D-Canby, in remarks before the House Energy & Commerce Committee

The Affordable Care Act is responsible for 20 million Americans getting health care, and hundreds of thousands of Oregonians. It’s begun to bend the cost curve in health care spending, putting us on a path to sustainability and reducing our deficit, making sure the Medicare trust fund is solvent for many years to come. I’m disappointed to be here today, as the Republicans try to repeal this great act

We’re marking the bill up without any input from the Congressional Budget Office, risk falling back on the progress we’ve made to reduce the deficit and insure seniors, children and the disabled have access to health care.

The bill we’re considering also rolls back a lot of the progress we’ve made in my home state of Oregon to bring down costs and improve outcomes without cutting reimbursement.

Perhaps worst of all, the bill in front of us today rolls back a lot of the successes we’ve had while failing to fix the problems that need help. Rather than reduce premiums, it has the potential to increase them as much as 30 percent.

We need to do better.

 

U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Springfield, from comments on the House floor:

Republicans seem to have taken and painted a big target on the back of low- and middle-income seniors, in two ways:

They’re going to repeal some very small taxes on people who earn over a quarter million dollars a year. You know they really need another 4 percent, because they’re just hurting. Those people who earn a million bucks a year, two million a year, they’re hurting. We’ve got to repeal that tax. So that’s one of the highest priorities in this bill: repeal that tax. Unfortunately, that means the Medicare trust fund will be exhausted four years earlier. ….

Don’t worry. Seniors can go into the competitive – well, not so competitive – insurance market and buy a plan. But then they add another little twist, another arrow in the heart of seniors. Seniors now, under their plan, Instead of a cap of three times the cost of a policy to other younger subscribers, n­ow they’re going to jack it up to five times.…

Then, for some other bizarre reason, they’ve got it in for Planned Parenthood. They say it’s about abortion. Well guess what, it’s not. Federal law has prohibited federal money from going to abortions for 40 years. It’s not about abortion.

It’s about something different. It’s about breast exams, pap smears, physical exams, STD testing and treatment, information and counseling about sexual reproductive health, cancer screenings, pregnancy tests, prenatal services and access to affordable birth control.  Why do they want to kill that for a million people, many of whom live in rural areas that are already under served. They don’t have an alternative for those services. …

We have no idea what it’s going to cost the American taxpayer, this new Rube Goldberg (bill). And, they don’t have any analysis of how many people are going to lose coverage.

Granted, they put off the huge loss of coverage until 2020, because they delayed the big changes in Medicaid until 2020. That’s when millions of people, tens of millions of people, will lose their health insurance. But There’s still going to be a lot of people losing their health insurance a lot sooner.

It would be useful for people to know about that before they vote on it. How much it’s going to cost the taxpayer, how many people are going to lose coverage

Under the ruse of fixing something that’s broken, that has given 23 million people the opportunity to have health insurance and brought us the lowest rate of uninsured in recent history in this country, under the ruse of doing that they’re cutting taxes for wealthy people, oh, yes, by the way, there’s a little gift in there for health insurance companies – they can fully deduct their CEOs $20 million salary. Today it’s limited to $500,000. So, Another tax break for the health insurance industry

Did they take on big pharma? Did they do anything about the unbelievable price gouging that’s going on today through the pharmaceutical companies? Somebody buys up a generic drug that’s been around for 50 years and jacks up the price a thousand percent. No, they’re not going to do anything about that. We’re not going to have more affordable prescription drugs. …

If they really wanted to do something, they would say, “Let’s have a national not-for-profit plan offered in a national exchange so every American can afford health care at a reasonable cost.”

Click here to view full comments by DeFazio.

 

U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, D-Washington County, on Facebook:

The proposal from Republican leadership to gut the Affordable Care Act is unacceptable. It will result in less coverage and higher costs for working families, it makes it harder for low-income individuals to access health care, and it defunds Planned Parenthood. I oppose this and any health care bill that will not improve health care for Oregonians.

From Oregon's Legislature, Democratic leaders sent a joint statement attributed to state Senate Majority Leader Ginny Burdick, D-Portland, and House Majority Leader Jennifer Williamson, D-Portland:

The plans by Congressional Republicans and the Trump Administration to repeal the Affordable Care Act are inhumane, unjust and will harm families in Oregon and across the country. Our most vulnerable community members – the sick, elderly, children and low-income families – will be robbed of the life-saving care they need.

Under this plan, average Oregon families will shoulder a much higher burden, or go without coverage. Taxpayers will carry far more of the costs of caring for those who need it. People who need health insurance the most, and finally have it under the ACA, will be put at risk again. This will have devastating impacts throughout Oregon, particularly in rural areas, where there is a higher percentage of Medicaid patients. This will make our state less healthy and less prosperous. Trump’s plan is a losing proposition for Oregon families.

 

Washington state Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler, a Democrat, in a press release:

The Congressional Republicans’ plan to replace the Affordable Care Act is a step backward for the millions of people who have gained coverage. It’s being rushed to a vote with little or no public review or fiscal analysis by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. This is an unprecedented way of doing the public’s business.

As a former member of Congress and our state’s insurance regulator, I am troubled by the lack of transparency.

Republicans who devised this scheme are silent about how this bill guarantees or improves upon the coverage people have today.

My office will have a more detailed analysis of the Republican plan in the coming days. Our initial review highlights ways the proposal threatens consumers:

  • Eliminates the individual mandate. Dropping the individual mandate for coverage could prompt insurers to flee the market if not enough healthy people buy insurance. Washington state tried a similar measure in the 1990s and saw the individual health insurance market collapse.
  • Surcharge no substitute for mandate. A 30 percent surcharge for a gap in coverage of more than two months – billed as “continuous coverage” – is a weak attempt to replace the individual mandate.
  • Inequitable tax credits. Tax credits replace income-based subsidies, meaning the poorest residents are at risk of eventually losing or foregoing coverage.
  • Tax shelter for higher incomes. Expanded use of health savings accounts – or tax shelters – fail to help low-income people who have no money to put into this type of account.
  • Older people pay more. Older people will pay significantly more for coverage in a couple of ways. The Republicans’ plan allows insurers to charge older consumers up to five times more than younger consumers. It replaces income-based subsidies with age-based tax credits, which possibly may not offset increased premiums.
  • No coverage for abortion. The proposal forbids tax credits for any health care plan that covers abortions. This is a direct attack on women’s rights and would lead to higher costs overall.

Despite keeping some of the most popular protections of the Affordable Care Act, the Republican plan is almost certain to increase the rate of uninsured in Washington and throughout the nation. Many people literally will be faced with life-and-death choices because of the inequities that make up the Republican proposal.

President Trump and the Republican Party promised better health care for all at a lower cost to consumers. Now they are touting “access” to coverage.

Guaranteeing “access” does not guarantee that people have affordable coverage. It’s just another way of saying that if you don’t have enough money to pay for health coverage, you’re out of luck.

That’s unacceptable. I will not allow our state to move backward. I intend to fight vigorously to maintain the progress we’ve made in Washington state. Sound insurance principles require that we have a system that offers affordable and meaningful health care.

We should be in no rush to turn back the clock on Washington’s progress over the last four years.

 

Reach Courtney Sherwood at sherwood@thelundreport.org