May 23, 2017

VIDEO: Udall Outlines TrumpCare's Devastating Consequences for New Mexico

In speech on Senate floor, says rural communities, working families, and people with pre-existing conditions would be hit the hardest by TrumpCare

VIDEO: https://youtu.be/k2uX-gCc5uk

WASHINGTON — Today, U.S. Senator Tom Udall spoke on the Senate floor outlining his opposition to TrumpCare, the Republican bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act. In his speech, Udall said TrumpCare would be devastating for New Mexicans and rural communities, and he shared stories of New Mexicans who rely on the the historic protections of the ACA and could lose health and economic security under TrumpCare.

"When he was elected, President Trump promised he would provide health care for everyone. But President Trump and our Republican friends have turned their backs on that promise. The Republican health care proposal would put insurance companies back in the driver’s seat, and that means less quality — and more cost — for all of us," Udall said in his speech. "Rural communities, working families, and people with medical conditions would be hit the hardest."

About 300,000 New Mexicans have health insurance thanks to the ACA, but under TrumpCare, the vast majority would lose that coverage. The massive cuts to Medicaid included in the bill alone would take away health care from at least 265,000 New Mexicans and potentially force rural hospitals to close, restricting access to local doctors for thousands of rural New Mexicans and cutting jobs.

Udall said that rural hospital administrators in New Mexico have urged him to fight to protect Medicaid and access to care. For example, Christina Campos, the administrator of Guadalupe County Hospital, says she fears that TrumpCare's Medicaid provisions would dramatically increase the uninsured rate, putting tremendous financial pressure back on the already strained hospital. The hospital in Guadalupe County — a rural county and one of the smallest by population in New Mexico — saw the uninsured payer rate decline to 4 percent from 14 percent, and its uncompensated care decrease 23 percent from 2014 to 2016 under Obamacare. "Not only would closed hospitals mean less access to health care, it also would hurt the economy. In rural areas, hospitals are a big employer. If they close, the rural economy takes a hit too," Udall added, promising to "fight tooth and nail to keep residents in our rural areas insured, and to keep rural hospitals in New Mexico open."

Udall also highlighted the stories of two New Mexicans, Alexis and Rafe, who have health care thanks to the ACA. Before the ACA, Alexis was denied insurance in the private market and had to get insurance in New Mexico's high risk pool, which she said "broke us financially." Rafe is a 1-year-old with intensive medical needs whose coverage would be at risk with cuts to Medicaid, his parents told Udall.

"Approximately 300,000 more New Mexicans now have health care, and each one of these 300,000 people has a story about how having health care has made a difference – even saved their lives," Udall said in his speech.

Udall quoted former Senator Hubert Humphrey, who said, "The moral test of government is how it treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the aged; and those in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped." Udall argued that TrumpCare fails this moral test. Instead of passing TrumpCare and repealing the ACA, Udall urged lawmakers to come together to build on the strengths of the ACA to ensure 100 percent of Americans can afford health insurance. "I strongly and unequivocally support the right for all people to have health care. Let’s get to that goal. And let’s get to that goal now,” Udall concluded.

Earlier in the day, Udall also participated in a press conference with Senator Martin Heinrich about the devastating impacts that TrumpCare would have on rural communities in New Mexico. Video of the press conference can be found here.

The full text of Udall’s remarks is available below.

Today, many of my colleagues will come to the floor to speak about the devastating impact that TrumpCare will have on rural communities.

I rise to join them in speaking on this topic, and on the many other serious flaws in the Republicans’ bill to replace Obamacare.

When he was elected, President Trump promised he would provide health care for everyone. But President Trump and our Republican friends have turned their backs on that promise. The Republican health care proposal would put insurance companies back in the driver’s seat, and that means less quality – and more cost -- for all of us.

Rural communities, working families, and people with medical conditions would be hit the hardest.

Today, we got a taste of how devastating TrumpCare would be. The president’s budget proposal slashes billions of dollars for Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. President Trump takes direct aim at bipartisan programs that have made historic progress -- for kids, the disabled, and the elderly.

Mr. President: former Senator Hubert Humphrey once said: "The moral test of government is how it treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the aged; and those in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped."

When Senator Humphrey spoke those words, he had been diagnosed with terminal cancer. He died a few months later and his words are just as meaningful today.

Mr. President, TrumpCare fails Senator Humphrey’s moral test. It doesn’t cover more people or more services or improve health care. It raises costs and reduces quality.

Compared to the ACA, or Obamacare, TrumpCare would be a disaster for families in my home state. In New Mexico, tens of thousands of people have health care thanks to Obamacare and Medicaid expansion.

Before the ACA, New Mexico had one of the highest rates of uninsured in the country. It was almost 20 percent at 19.6 percent. That rate has been cut in half to 8.9 percent.

Approximately 300,000 more New Mexicans now have health care and each one of these 300,000 people has a story about how having health care has made a difference – even saved their lives.

Thanks to the ACA, hundreds of thousands of New Mexicans now have essential health benefits, including doctor visits, hospital care, prescription drugs, pregnancy and child birth, and mental health services.

And a range of preventative services -- like mammograms and other cancer screenings – are available at no cost.

I’m not saying that the ACA is perfect. Premiums are still too high, deductibles are increasing too much, and we still must bring down the cost of prescription drugs. We absolutely need to work to bring down costs.

But, on balance, the ACA passes all tests. Many with flying colors.

TrumpCare does not – does not come close. TrumpCare gets an “F”.

Test number one; does TrumpCare increase the number of Americans who will have health care?

No. It decreases coverage. And decreases it dramatically.

According to the most recent figures from the CBO, 24 million Americans will lose health care coverage under TrumpCare over the next decade.

TrumpCare would dismantle the Medicaid expansion provisions that help so many working Americans, including 265,000 people in New Mexico.

And TrumpCare would hit rural communities the hardest.

The National Rural Health Association has said that TrumpCare “does nothing to improve the health care crisis in rural America, and will lead to poorer rural health outcomes, more uninsured and an increase in the rural hospital closure crisis.”

Rural areas – like we have in New Mexico -- have more elderly and disabled people, and fewer people have insurance through their jobs. TrumpCare is the hardest on these groups.

Rural hospitals are already struggling. They will have an even harder time keeping their doors open.

Many New Mexicans would have to drive an hour or more if their local hospital closed.

And not only would closed hospitals mean less access to health care. It also would hurt the economy. In rural areas, hospitals are a big employer. If they close, the rural economy takes a hit too.

The administrator of Guadalupe County Hospital in New Mexico, a fine woman by the name of Christina Campos, fears what might happen if TrumpCare becomes law. She is urging me to protect access to care in rural areas.

Guadalupe County is one of our smallest counties by population. The hospital’s uninsured payer rate declined from 14 percent to 4 percent from 2014 to 2016 thanks to the Affordable Care Act. And its uncompensated care decreased 23 percent in that same period.

I will fight tooth and nail to keep residents in our rural areas insured, and to keep rural hospitals in New Mexico open.

Test two; Does TrumpCare increase coverage of health care services?

No. It fails this test too.

Under the ACA, insurance companies must cover essential health services. Period.

But, under TrumpCare, starting in 2020, states can get a waiver and define their own essential benefits for individual and small group plans. So, states would be able to cut benefits that people count on – and that are making patients healthier.

Test three; Does TrumpCare make health care more affordable? It doesn’t – it takes aim at the most vulnerable: working and low-income families and seniors, the people most in need of care. And it cuts access to health care out from under them.

If you are older and poorer, you lose big under TrumpCare. If you are young and wealthy, you win.

What is wrong with this picture? What’s wrong is that it’s unjust. And it’s bad for health care costs over the long run.

Trump and the Republicans are proposing drastic changes to our health care system – and they're changes for the worse. They want to go backward to a time when insurance companies could decide who gets health care and who doesn’t.

And, finally, TrumpCare would hurt anyone with a pre-existing condition.

One of the most popular provisions of Obamacare is that it prohibits insurance companies from dropping you if you get sick and from refusing to cover you because of a pre-existing condition.

A pre-existing condition could be something serious -- like cancer. But insurance companies have considered everything from child birth to hand warts a pre-existing condition.

Under TrumpCare, states would be able to decide whether to get a waiver from those patient protections. And then we would go back to that time when insurance companies decided who could get health care and who couldn’t.

States would have to set up high risk pools to provide people with the option of insurance in catastrophic situations.

But, in the best cases, high risk pools wouldn’t protect many people from going bankrupt just to get health care and TrumpCare wouldn’t provide nearly enough funding for states to run them successfully.

Take Alexis, from Albuquerque. Here she is with her husband.

Alexis had a stroke and brain surgeries when she was 28. Even though she had no lingering effects, she was denied insurance in the private market and had to get insurance in New Mexico’s high risk pool. According to Alexis, “It broke us financially.” Alexis now has affordable health insurance with the help of the Affordable Care Act subsidies. Like most people, she doesn’t want to risk going broke just to get health care. She shouldn’t have to.

Finally, I want to tell you about 1-year-old Rafe from Albuquerque. Rafe was born with cortical visual impairment — a kind of legal blindness — and significant developmental delays. His parents Jessica and Sam, a veteran, have been able to access the intensive medical care, early intervention services, medical equipment, and therapies he needs through a combination of the military’s insurance and Medicaid.

But TrumpCare jeopardizes Medicaid by turning it into a block grant for states – that will most certainly result in deep cuts to Medicaid. It threatens Rafe’s chances for a better life.

The president promised he would keep protections for people with pre-existing conditions – people who are sick. His broken promise can hurt tens of millions of Americans.

In the end, TrumpCare is not a real health care bill. It’s a tax relief bill for the richest one percent. The CBO estimates that Trumpcare would cut taxes by $346 billion dollars over 10 years — at the expense of the health care of working families and seniors.

Mr. President, our priorities for health care reform should be increasing coverage, increasing the services covered, and making people healthier and providing affordable health care.

I strongly and unequivocally support the right for all people to have health care. Let’s get to that goal. And let’s get to that goal now.

91 percent of the American people are insured thanks to the steps taken under the Affordable Care Act. Rather than repealing it, let’s build on its strengths so 100 percent of people can afford to see a doctor when they’re sick.

We can do this. We can do better.

Let us ensure that Americans in the “dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the aged; and those in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the [disabled]” have the right to health care.

So that America meets the moral test of good government.

I yield the floor.