WASHINGTON, D.C. –U.S. Senator Bob Menendez spoke from the Senate Floor to condemn the efforts by the Trump Administration to sabotage the Affordable Care Act, which is raising the health care costs for hardworking families in New Jersey and across the country.
His speech, as prepared for delivery, is below:
Today I join my Democratic colleagues to condemn the Trump Administration’s efforts to sabotage the Affordable Care Act. Not so long ago, Donald Trump ran for President promising better, cheaper health care for everyone. But instead of making anything better, President Trump is making everything worse.
Big corporations are raking in trillion-dollar tax cuts, while the forgotten Americans the President promised to protect are drowning in higher premiums, higher deductibles, and higher prescription drug costs.
It’s time to call out who’s responsible for these soaring health care costs. Make no mistake – while the media covers the President’s every tweet and the Russia investigation’s every turn.
The Trump Administration is doing everything it can to make health care less affordable and less accessible to the American people. When you turn on the news, you don’t hear about the millions of Americans who’ve lost their coverage under President Trump’s watch. You don’t hear about how prices for the top 10 diabetes drugs have spiked by over 25 percent – despite the President’s wild claims that drug companies will voluntarily lower their price. You won’t hear about the Administration’s cynical efforts to destabilize our insurance markets and send premiums skyrocketing. Like the Health and Human Services Department’s recent freezing of the risk adjustment program.
Look, health care policy may be complicated. But there’s nothing complicated about the idea that health care is a human right. There’s nothing controversial about the idea that cancer patients shouldn’t be price gouged as they battle the worst illness of their lives. And there’s nothing radical about the idea that in the most prosperous country on earth, every American deserves quality affordable health care.
I know my Republican colleagues have no desire to remind voters how they spent the past year. But the American people aren’t going to forget it. They aren’t going to forget how Republicans spent a year pushing policies that would have left 32 million people uninsured. They aren’t going to forget how Republicans tried to defund Planned Parenthood and deny millions of lower income women access to basic care.
They aren’t going to forget how Trumpcare would have slapped older consumers with a punishing age tax and eliminated the Affordable Care Act’s essential health benefits provision, which requires all health plans cover basic things like prescription drugs, maternity care and visits to specialists. They aren’t going to forget how Trumpcare slashed tax credits that help middle class families purchase coverage. Or how it would have ended Medicaid as we know it, abandoning seniors in nursing homes, pregnant women, disabled Americans and the most vulnerable.
Nor will Americans forget how President Trump turned his back on patients with pre-existing conditions. As a candidate and as President, Trump promised again and again he’d uphold protections for pre-existing conditions. He even went as far to say that Trumpcare would be “every bit as good on pre-existing conditions as Obamacare.”
So much for that. The Trump Administration is now arguing in a federal court that these protections are unconstitutional. And you can guess what Republicans in Congress are doing about it. Absolutely nothing. Instead of working to make health care more affordable, Republicans are cheerleading efforts by the Trump Administration to push junk insurance plans on consumers. Ignoring the attacks on our health insurance markets that have sent premiums skyrocketing.
And standing in silence as the Trump Administration makes the case that the ACA’s pre-existing conditions are unconstitutional.
Republicans’ reckless abandonment of families with pre-existing conditions is even more concerning given President Trump’s nomination of Judge Brent Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. This a judge with a long history of ruling against consumers, siding with corporate interests, and assailing the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act.
If Republicans were really concerned about protecting patients with pre-existing conditions, they would put the brakes on this nomination. Instead, they’ve left the health and financial security of millions of patients with pre-existing conditions in Trump’s hands.
There are nearly 3.8 million people in New Jersey with pre-existing conditions. I’ve had the opportunity to meet with some of them in recent months.
They’re outraged we are even having this debate. And they’re afraid this President could take us back to a time when having a history of asthma or diabetes meant being denied coverage or dropped from your plan at any moment. Let me tell you about the folks I recently met with in Belleville.
I heard from Ann - a survivor of sexual assault who today suffers from PTSD. If President Trump gets his way, insurers could once again charge her more for coverage. I can’t think of a clearer instance of “victim blaming” than charging victims of sexual assault higher premiums because of the trauma they’ve endured.
Then there’s Mirnaly, who was seven months pregnant when she suffered her first stroke. Years later, she suffered another stroke while caring for her autistic son. Without the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies could deny coverage to moms like her who’ve had complicated pregnancies.
And of course, there’s four-year old Ethan, who is more concerned about which dinosaur to play with than the pacemaker that’s keeping him alive. Before the Affordable Care Act, children like Ethan were blacklisted from insurance companies for life. How do you tell a four-year old that his President no longer believes in protecting children like him?
I wish my Republican colleagues would answer that question - for Anne, Mirnaly and Ethan. For all of us.
Fortunately, the American people smarter than the Majority gives them credit for.
They know what’s at stake. They know who is responsible for soaring prescription drug costs. Sky-high deductibles. Shrinking paychecks and soaring insurance premiums.
It’s the people in charge! The Republican Congress has had ample time to deliver better, cheaper health coverage to all Americans. Instead, they’ve used every moment to try and force consumers to pay more for less care. They’ve refused to protect patients with pre-existing conditions. They’ve shown zero interest in helping struggling families pay their bills.
And they’ve handed trillion-dollar tax cuts to big corporations and wealthy CEOs. But big corporations aren’t using this windfall to raise wages. Health insurance companies aren’t using this money to reduce premiums. And drug companies aren’t using this money to lower prices. Republicans said the Trump tax cuts would grow paychecks and solve all of our economic problems. But thus far, corporations have spent $650 billion buying back their own stock. While workers’ wages shrink in the face of soaring costs. Republicans promised the sun and the moon with these tax cuts. But here on planet earth we know that trickle-down economics do not work! In all my years serving the people of New Jersey, I’ve never seen a corporate tax cut pay for a colonoscopy or cover a cancer patient’s prescription drugs.
Americans deserve real solutions that will protect their families from rising premiums, deductibles, and prescription drug bills.
And Democrats are committed to delivering those solutions. We’ve always been crystal clear about what motivates our work on health care. We believe that all Americans deserve affordable health care. No matter where they live, how much money they make, or what health care conditions they face. That’s what I’ve spent my life fighting for – and I won’t stop until we achieve universal coverage for every man, woman, and child across this great nation. And in 2018, voters are going to remember who fought to protect affordable health care – and who worked relentlessly to take it away. I yield back.
September 16, 2021
September 15, 2021