The Need to Achieve Universal Health Coverage in America
Statement for the Congressional Record to the Senate Finance Committee on the Importance of Health Care Coverage
Mr. Chairman, I want to thank you for holding this hearing.
I am glad we are here to talk about the importance of health coverage and the need to achieve universal coverage, which should be a priority for every single one of us on this committee.
It has been over four years, September 12, 2017 to be exact, since we’ve had a dedicated hearing on coverage. Unfortunately, at that moment we were in the middle of combatting an unsuccessful threat to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and millions of Coloradans who would have been affected are deeply grateful it failed. One Urban Institute study found that under just partial repeal of the ACA, similar to legislation vetoed by President Obama in January 2016, 588,000 Coloradans would have tragically lost their insurance.
This hearing is essential to remind the American people of how the ACA led to increased health insurance coverage for millions of Americans while reducing the cost and improving the quality of plans available on the individual market. The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), signed into law earlier this year, expanded the Advance Premium Tax Credits (APTCs) identical to provisions in my Medicare-X Choice Act, which reduced the cost of health insurance for individuals and families purchasing non-group health insurance. Although I believe there are still steps we should take to achieve universal health coverage, like establishing a public option to finish the work of the ACA, I want to make it abundantly clear that it has been Democrats that have taken major legislative steps to improve coverage for Americans.
Under the leadership of Senator Mitch McConnell and President Donald Trump, there were only efforts to reduce coverage, increase the availability of subpar health insurance, and remove patient protections like allowing insurance plans to deny coverage for pre-existing conditions. In fact, Mitch McConnell has forced the Republican caucus to vote countless times to undermine the ACA and the needs of constituents across the country.
Notably, five times proposals were brought to the floor and five times those bills failed to becoming law:
1 — In February 2011, Senator McConnell proposed an amendment to S.223 — FAA Air Transportation Modernization and Safety Improvement Act. This amendment would have prevented the ACA from being implemented in its entirety. It failed by a vote of 47 to 51.
2 — In December 2015, Senator McConnell led the effort to pass the Restoring Americans’ Healthcare Freedom Reconciliation Act of 2015. This legislation would have repealed premium support, Medicaid expansion, and the individual and employer mandate penalties among other provisions. The bill passed by a vote of 52 to 47. President Barack Obama rightfully vetoed this legislation.
3 — In July 2017, Senator McConnell, with the full support of President Donald Trump. brought to the floor a series of proposals to undermine the ACA. The first Senate proposal, the Better Care Reconciliation Act, repealed and replaced the ACA with a proposal that would increase the uninsured by 22 million. The proposal failed by a vote of 43 to 57.
4 — Just a day later, Senator McConnell and President Trump continued their efforts to repeal the ACA by putting forward and budget resolution amendment titled the Obamacare Repeal Reconciliation Act of 2017. This would have repealed Medicaid expansion and premium support in 2020, right as the Coronavirus Disease 2019 unexpectedly created a public health and economic crisis. This amendment failed by a vote of 45 to 55.
5 — Finally, after a few days of further discussion on a wide range of careless proposals, Senator McConnell put forward his final proposal, the Health Care Freedom Act of 2017, a “skinny” repeal of the ACA, without a replacement, that would have reduced coverage for 15 million Americans. This failed by a vote of 49 to 51.
Over and over, Senator McConnell took actions that communicated that the party he leads will not work to increase coverage, often burdening the very individuals that they represent.
Time and time again, Democrats have worked to improve and increase coverage for all Americans, regardless of income, geography, race/ethnicity, or any other background.
I will continue work with my colleagues and fight to protect the ACA, the improvements made under the ARPA, and take further actions, like creating a public option, to achieve a shared goal of universal coverage.
This hearing is just the next step to accomplish this and I thank my colleagues and the witnesses for their efforts in realizing this goal.
I yield back.