Wyden Statement on Senate Floor on Trumpcare Medicaid Cuts

As Prepared for Delivery

I have some remarks pertaining to health care that I’ll get to in a moment. But first, I want to briefly address the events of this morning. The shooting that took place in Alexandria today was a despicable, horrifying act of violence. The victims, including Congressman Scalise, two Capitol Police officers and two others are still undergoing treatment. There’s a lot we still don’t know about this incident.

But here are a few things we do know. First, it is thanks to the extraordinary heroics of the Capitol Police and first responders on the scene that this shooting did not become a massacre. Each and every one of us who comes to work in these buildings every day is profoundly grateful for their service and protection.

Second, we know that this violence has visited too many of our communities, and it has cost and ruined too many lives.

And finally, we know that the game our colleagues were practicing for – a charity game between rival parties that’s held to benefit disadvantaged kids – will go on as planned. This game is a show of friendship and bipartisan spirit every year, but never more than it will be tomorrow.

Again, my thoughts will be with those who were injured, and everyone here is hoping and praying they make full and speedy recoveries.

There are dramatic headlines in the news pertaining to Trump ties with Russia. But I want to be sure that what’s happening here in the Senate with respect to health care doesn’t get drowned out. Behind closed doors, 13 Senators, all of them from the same party, all of them men, are updating the Republican health care plan.

The House passed its Trumpcare bill by the slimmest of margins several weeks ago. The public has seen it, and it’s gone over about as well as root canal surgery. I’ve certainly heard almost every imaginable concern about that House bill from Oregonians at my 46 town halls so far this year, including four this past weekend.

So when the bill came here to the Senate, my colleagues on the other side got out in the press, tamped down expectations, and claimed they’d be starting from scratch. But now the public knows -- because it’s what members of the majority are saying -- that the Senate version won’t be all that different from what barely made it out of the House this spring.

When the bill is finalized it’ll be rushed straight to the floor, and it won’t be long before debate is cut off, and the final votes are cast. It’s a plan that relies on speed -- forcing a massive, devastating blow to our health care system through the Senate before the American people catch on.

This is a political process on Trumpcare that makes the House look positively transparent. And the basic framework of the Republican health care plan is not going to change -- millions and millions of Americans will lose health insurance, costs will go up, especially for older and sicker people, and the wealthiest people out there will get an enormous tax break. And of course, if the basic framework isn’t changing, that means Medicaid will be under attack.

The public health care system in America has stood on twin pillars since 1965 -- Medicare and Medicaid -- and Republicans have a plan to knock one of them out beginning this year. Today Medicaid comes with a guarantee that if you’re sick, if you’re injured, or if you spend each and every day walking an economic tightrope, you’ll get care when you need it. You will not be denied benefits. But Trumpcare ends that guarantee.

The plan Republicans have on offer would dismantle Medicaid as we know it today, enacting hard dollar limits that put caps on care. In effect, it’s a scheme that puts Medicaid in a vice, squeezing its funding year after year. This plan makes budget targets a bigger priority than the real-world health care needs of some of the most vulnerable people out there.

Seventy-four million Americans have health coverage through Medicaid, including thirty-seven million children. It provides comprehensive care to millions of pregnant women and it’s leading the fight against the opioid epidemic with treatment for mental health and substance abuse disorders. Medicaid is vital when it comes to helping kids and adults with disabilities. And then there’s the nursing home benefit -- the bedrock protection built into Medicaid that helps pick up the tab for two out of three nursing home beds in America.

Colleagues, if you squeeze the Medicaid program tighter and tighter and states are forced to cut benefits and access to care -- as they inevitably will be under Trumpcare -- how can you protect seniors in nursing homes?

The Republican health plan is one of the greatest threats seniors have ever faced. These are people who’ve done everything right. They’re our mothers and fathers, our grandparents and friends. They found fought our wars, started families and built careers. They raised kids, scrimping and saving as much as they could. They set aside what they could for school and retirement.

But the fact is, growing old in America is expensive. The bills don’t stop coming when you retire, and most older people are living on limited, fixed incomes. I know that from my time as the co-director of the Oregon Gray Panthers. I worked with a lot of older people who had to stretch every last penny, and even then, it was a struggle to cover the basics.

So a lot of American seniors will eventually spend down their savings. And when it comes time to pay for long term care, like nursing home and home-based care, Medicaid steps up. It is the guaranteed backstop that protects people in old age. And colleagues, I don’t want to undersell how much that means to people in Oregon and across the country. Medicaid is the barrier that keeps millions of seniors from falling into isolation and utter destitution.

There was a time in this country when seniors were cast aside, relegated to poor farms and almshouses. The wealthiest nation on earth said goodbye to that era with the creation of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

But under the Republican health care plan, Medicaid would be slashed so deeply, states will be forced into cutting benefits. Seniors could be nickel and dimed for basic, everyday services. Nursing homes could be shuttered, home-based care that allows seniors to live independently could be no more. Seniors could be out on the street.

So in my view, Americans are owed answers to key questions about this Republican plan. First, how are families supposed to support their loved ones if they lose the guarantee of Medicaid? One year in a nursing home costs more than $90,000 on average. That’s two or three times the cost of a year of college tuition.

Are families going to be forced into choosing between educating their kids and supporting their elderly parents? Is it going to become a fact of life for working Americans that they have to cram two, three, or four generations of one family into the same house, simply because they can’t afford nursing home care?

Second, what’s the backup plan for vulnerable, isolated seniors, particularly those who live in rural areas? I recently held a series of eight health care roundtables in rural communities across Oregon, most recently in Pendleton and Condon. And the message I heard from health care providers throughout rural Oregon was that the Trumpcare cuts could hit seniors in those areas especially hard.

Seniors in rural communities have higher rates of chronic illness like heart disease and diabetes. The health care they need requires more attention and more service. They count on getting top-notch care in nursing homes and from home-based providers. Losing these benefits could mean being alone in a home that’s unsafe, cut off from the care and connection they need.

Colleagues, in the last few weeks of this debate, I’ve heard members flatly deny that gutting Medicaid by more than $800 billion will mean anybody loses access to health care services. That is simply untrue. Anybody who says they can slash our health care programs by close to a trillion dollars without having any negative impact on health care is dead wrong.

And furthermore, let’s recognize what the end goal of this debate appears to be. My Republican colleagues haven’t put forward a proposal to protect seniors who can’t get the Medicaid nursing home care they need or kids with disabilities who lose the services they depend on. What Republicans have on offer is not a plan that swaps one vision of health care for another. These massive cuts to Medicaid and other health programs are going to pay for equally massive tax cuts for the wealthy.

Members of this body will have to decide whether it’s worth gutting Medicaid and endangering the essential care like the nursing home care and important home-based services to pay for these tax cuts. In my view it’s an easy choice. My colleagues on the other side ought to drop this partisan approach that’s heading toward reconciliation.

At a minimum, the majority party ought to bring this process out from behind closed doors. There should be hearings convened in the Finance Committee and the other committees of jurisdiction as there were again and again in 2008 and 2009.

This debate should be held out in the open, the legislation should be written in the light of day, and the public ought to have ample time to review it before it goes up for a single vote, either in committee or here on the floor.

The Senate should be tackling this country’s health care challenges on a bipartisan basis. My Democratic colleagues and I want to work across the aisle to inject more competition into the insurance markets. We want to work together on bringing down prescription drug prices. But reconciliation is the partisan path, and these devastating cuts to Medicaid are a non-starter. I urge my colleagues to abandon this approach and work on a bipartisan basis instead. And I urge the public to make their voices heard.

News source: 


I just want to say that I have moved from Modesto California due to the passing of my father from cancer. My mother passed in 2005 also from cancer. They have a modular home on a very good sized property in Klamath Falls, California in the pine grove area. This is where my sister and I live now. I came here on July 8th this year 2017. I have become sick with fibromyalgia 20 years ago. My quality of life has greatly been greatly been reduced from about 95% to I would say about 20%. I am single and suffer from severe depression because of the chronic pain that is there 24/7 and with flare ups on top the aready chronic pain. The pain is in every part of my body including my eyes, face, head. it took a little over a year before I was diagnosed. Before that, dr's could find nothing wrong with me so they were making me beleive that it was in my head. A pain specialist diagnosed me and put me on a long term treatment plan. With 20 mg oxycontin 4 x per day and norco 10s in between doses to keep the pain level in check at all times. I don't think all I went through in the 20 years that I have to explain how when i could not keep that dr due to insurance changes, how I was treated by other dr's. I became exstreamly low income at that time and got on medical in Cal. I became an experiment. The phyc meds. I have been on it all, and suffered horrible side affects. opiate meds were the only releif for me. I never abused them, or sold them on the streets. Anyway the bottem line I ended up on oxicodone 15mg 3x per day. I  have become so depressed that I begged our Lord to come and take me to the place where there is no pain or suffering. But you know I was greatful that I got that. But I cried to my dr. that she was setting me up to eventualy fail because I was on a roller coaster. After 4-5 hours the meds would begin to wwear off. I could make it to 6 hrs. But two was always agony. And I knew sooner or later I would'nt be able to do it anymore, it was wearing me down, especialy when I had a flare ups and when I woke in the mornings. the dr finaly was able to refere me to an outside pain med specialist with chronic pain. But when it became available, I had moved here to Klamath Falls, Oregon. And oh my, I relized that trouble was comming!!! oh God, what am I going to do? I did get the same medication but from another company and experianced bad side affects. A high pitch ringing in my head and several really bad headaches since taking them, Plus the Cascade Health plan would not pay for it and told me they dont cover any opiates for chronic pain. I had to pay $55 with the GOODRX savings card, I sent out a long letter with an appeal. Since then I received one out of 4 other prescribededications. Due to problems with the Health plan. One of them happen to be a life and death med. I could have a stroke, or anureism with out them. its not narcodic. My triglicerine was over 400 which was a dangerous positition to be. I am also hpothyroidism, diabetic 2, severe achalasia- hich I did have surgery for but only last up to 10 years but I have begun to have diffaculties with. Its where you cant eat or drink Annything because my asophigus would not open. I am scared to death what lays in front of me. I have tried all kinds of alternatives as far superfoods, herbs, special fibro meds, all VERY costly. I am on a $695.00 per month income and feel I am a burden to my sister that I live with.So it has been2 days with no results for the 3 rx's. And I have yet to see if any of my other meds will be a problem. What is the point of living when you can't live? And there is a wonder drug for me that gave back to me a 65% quality of life and that is SUBUTEX. it took my deppression away and other problems I have besides the chronic pain. I was on that for 7 months and lost that plan. No one will give me  that. You have to be an addict. And another thing, I bet all the overdoses were from people who bought them in the streets, are addicts. Not the patiants who really needed it and never abused them. I would rather live a shorter life because of pain medication than a longer life in pain with no quality of life. Thank you very much for reading my story.