A Healthy Blog

Massachusetts health care — wonky, with a healthy dose of reality

Congressman Jim McGovern: “It’s tragic because what Republicans are trying to do is take health care protections away from millions and millions of families."

Congressman Jim McGovern: “It’s tragic because what Republicans are trying to do is take health care protections away from millions and millions of families."

January 13, 2017

Congressman Jim McGovern of Worcester spoke this morning as the U.S. House opened debate on the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. He spoke eloquently in defense of health care as a right:

“It is a cruel thing to do to take away people’s health care. We believe that health care ought to be a right, I know you don’t. We believe health care protections ought to be in law, you believe they ought to be up to the insurance companies. But this is a lousy thing to do. We’re gonna fight you on this. This is a fight worth having. Protecting people’s health care is something we should all be dedicated to and we’re going to fight you on this.”

Watch his speech, and the full text is below:

Full Text of Congressman McGovern’s Floor Speech:

“For nearly seven years my Republican friends have railed against the Affordable Care Act. Their well-funded allies have spent billions of dollars distorting the ACA and lying to the American people about what it actually does. And for nearly seven years, there has not been a single comprehensive health care bill brought to the floor by Republicans as a replacement for the Affordable Care Act. Not one!

“We have voted over 60 times to repeal the ACA on the House Floor! I’d be the first to admit the ACA is not perfect. But rather than work together to tweak it, to make it better, all we get from them are repeal bills, repeal bills, repeal bills. And let me again point out – not once, not once was a replacement bill offered.

“Not only do Republicans not have a plan to replace the Affordable Care Act and protect access to health care for more than 20 million Americans who gained coverage, they can’t even agree on a timeline for when they’ll pass their replacement.

  •          President-elect Trump says repeal and replace will be done on the same day and he wants it to happen now.
  •          Rep. Steve Scalise said Republicans will replace the ACA over the course of the next few months.
  •          Sen. John Thune said it could take two or three years for the replacement to be implemented.
  •          Rep. Chris Collins said Republicans have six months to work out the replacement plan. 
  •          Sen. Mitch McConnell refused to even give a timeline, just saying it would happen.

“While Republicans fight for each other over timelines, I think it’s appropriate to ask: If they did have a replacement, what would that replacement be?

“And what, specifically, would they replace the ACA with?

“Well, President-elect Donald Trump has the answer! When asked what we should replace Obamacare with he said, and I quote, “Something terrific.” When pressed for details and more specificity, he said “Something that people will really, really, really like.”

“You can’t make this stuff up! It would be laughable if it weren’t so tragic.

“It’s tragic because what Republicans are trying to do is take health care protections away from millions and millions of families.

“No one in Congress has to worry about health care if the Affordable Care Act is repealed. And the Donald Trumps of the world certainly don’t have to worry about health care if the Affordable Care Act is repealed. If someone in their family gets really sick – they’ll just sell some stocks or close down another American factory, or not pay their workers – as our President-elect has been known to do on many, many occasions.

“But for millions of Americans it will be a different story. Repealing the ACA would mean over 30 million Americans would lose coverage, including nearly 4 million children; more than 52 million individuals with pre-existing conditions could have coverage rescinded or see their premiums dramatically increased; millions of young adults would be unable to stay on their parents’ plans until they are 26; over 14 million individuals enrolled in Medicaid under the expansion would lose coverage; and nearly 140 million individuals with private insurance would lose access to preventive services without co-pays or deductibles.

“And millions of seniors would see their prescription drug prices increase because it would re-open the so-called doughnut hole that the ACA has begun to close.

“Republicans want to slash Medicaid, a health care program that does a lot of good and enables mothers to work their way out of poverty by providing affordable coverage for their children.

“And as someone who represents Massachusetts, this is especially personal because Medicaid is one of the best tools we have in the fight against opioid addiction, providing real care for the addiction and the underlying conditions that drive the opioid epidemic in our communities. Repealing Medicaid expansion under the ACA would rip coverage away from an estimated 1.6 million newly insured individuals with substance use disorders.

“That’s what’s at stake – and that’s what my Republican colleagues are so happy, so giddy, and so excited to do. It is sad. It is pathetic.

“But – they’re moving forward anyway – with no replacement in sight. I suppose they can roll out their oldies but goodies – like health savings accounts or their other healthcare prescription – take two tax breaks and call me in the morning.

“But that doesn’t do it.

“We have a complicated health care system, no doubt. I wish it were simpler. That’s why I’ve always favored a single-payer system and that is why I favor a public option.

“But the problem with our system before Obamacare was that it left all the decisions up to the insurance companies. Do you remember the days when insurance companies could charge women more for health insurance because they said “being a woman was a pre-existing condition?”

“They can’t do that anymore. Why? Not because of my Republican friends. They can’t do it anymore because we passed the ACA.

“It is a cruel thing to do to take away people’s health care. I will say to my Republican colleagues that they need to know that we will fight you every step of the way on this. There are some battles on behalf of the American people that are worth having and worth fighting and this is one of them, making sure that their health care protections remain intact. I came to Congress to help people, not make their lives more miserable.”

“This is a sad day because what we are doing here by voting for this budget is setting in motion a process to deny millions of people health care protections.  I can’t imagine why anyone would want to do that.

Is the Affordable Care Act perfect? No. We’re the first to admit that and we want to work in a bipartisan way to strengthen it, to make it better. But my colleagues don’t want to do that. They are determined to just vote for an outright repeal and that is going to hurt countless people in this country. People who have benefitted from no pre-existing conditions. People who have benefitted by being able to keep their kids on their insurance until they are 26. Senior citizens who have benefitted from closing the doughnut hole. I could go on and on and on. All of that is about to be eliminated.

We’re told that there will be a replacement. Someday. Somehow. For six years, over six years, you have been talking about the repeal of the Affordable Care Act and replacement and you haven’t brought one bill to the floor. Not one.

“Now, we believe that health care ought to be a right, I know you don’t. We believe health care protections ought to be in law, you believe they ought to be up to the insurance companies. But this is a lousy thing to do. And as I said in my opening statement, we’re gonna fight you on this. This is a fight worth having. Protecting people’s health care is something we should all be dedicated to and we’re going to fight you on this.”