VIDEO: Udall Shares Stories from New Mexicans Threatened by Washington Republicans’ Obamacare Repeal Plan
WASHINGTON - Today, U.S. Senator Tom Udall shared stories on the Senate floor from New Mexicans who rely on the historic protections of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and who stand to lose health and economic security under President-elect Donald Trump and Washington Republicans' efforts to repeal health care reform without any plan to replace it.
In his speech, Udall said that if Republicans were successful in repealing the Affordable Care Act - with no plan to replace it - they would rip away health care from tens of thousands of New Mexicans, and millions of Americans. Udall highlighted the facts of the Affordable Care Act's success in New Mexico: for example, over 360,000 New Mexicans have gained health insurance through the ACA or Medicaid since the law was passed in 2010. Udall joined with fellow Senate Democrats as they held the Senate floor until late into the night to protest the reckless repeal efforts of Washington Republicans.
"Countless people have written me, called my office, and stopped me on the street to tell me how relieved they are to have health care. Others tell me that we can't afford to go back to having insurance companies in charge. We can't go back to caps on coverage, back to allowing corporations to deny care because of a pre-existing condition," Udall said.
"‘Save my daughter.' That was the heartbreaking plea that came to me from one of my constituents, Kevin, from Albuquerque," Udall continued. "Kevin's 33-year-old daughter, Amber, has multiple sclerosis - a tough disease, as we all know. To treat her MS, Amber must follow an exact and rigorous drug regimen, coupled with regular visits to her neurologist and annual MRIs. The retail cost of her drugs is $60,000 per year. Her doctor visits and MRIs would run into the thousands of dollars."
"Amber works. In fact, she has a good paying job. But her employer does not provide health insurance. Amber purchases health insurance through the individual open market, without ACA subsidies. Amber is able to work because she gets the medical care she needs through insurance," Udall said. "But Kevin fears his daughter will lose the right to health insurance if the ACA is repealed. The ACA makes it illegal for an insurance company to deny you coverage if you have a pre-existing condition, like MS. The ACA provides assurance that Amber will get the coverage she needs to remain healthy, to lead a normal life, to work, to contribute to society, to stay off public assistance - to survive."
The full text of Udall's remarks as prepared for delivery is below.
"M. President, I rise in strong opposition to this attempt by President-elect Trump and congressional Republicans to take health care away from tens of thousands of New Mexicans.
"Let me be loud and clear: what President-elect Trump and Republicans are doing now will throw health care into chaos. It is reckless. It will hurt thousands of New Mexicans and millions of Americans. And the worst part is that the Republicans have no plan to replace the care they will take away.
"The Affordable Care Act is not a perfect law. I have always said that we should work to improve it. But, M. President, it has helped thousands of people in my home state of New Mexico.
"Before we passed the ACA, New Mexico had a high rate of people without health insurance. Since 2010, that number has gone down 44 percent. Countless people have written me, called my office, and stopped me on the street to tell me how relieved they are to have health care.
"Others tell me that we can't afford to go back to having insurance companies in charge. We can't go back to caps on coverage, back to allowing corporations to deny care because of a pre-existing condition. Tonight, I want to share what just a few of my constituents have told me.
"‘Save my daughter.' That was the heartbreaking plea that came to me from one of my constituents, Kevin, from Albuquerque. Kevin's 33-year-old daughter, Amber, has multiple sclerosis - a tough disease, as we all know. To treat her MS, Amber must follow an exact and rigorous drug regimen, coupled with regular visits to her neurologist and annual MRIs. The retail cost of her drugs is $60,000 per year. Her doctor visits and MRIs would run into the thousands of dollars.
"Amber works. In fact, she has a good-paying job. But her employer does not provide health insurance. Amber purchases health insurance through the individual open market, without ACA subsidies. Amber is able to work because she gets the medical care she needs through insurance.
"But Kevin fears his daughter will lose the right to health insurance if the ACA is repealed. The ACA makes it illegal for an insurance company to deny you coverage if you have a pre-existing condition, like MS. The ACA provides assurance that Amber will get the coverage she needs to remain healthy, to lead a normal life, to work, to contribute to society, to stay off public assistance - to survive.
"This one provision protects an estimated 861,000 New Mexicans, and an estimated 134 million Americans. It's a safe bet that all of us here know at least one person like Amber. So it isn't surprising that the vast majority of Americans - close to 70% - want to keep this protection.
"The Kaiser Family Foundation estimates more than one-quarter of all adults under age 65 have health problems that could make them uninsurable without the ACA. If President-elect Trump and Republicans get their way, all of them will be at risk.
"Kevin is also scared because the cost of treating Amber's disease is so high. Without the ACA, any insurance company could cut off her health coverage if her medical expenses exceeded the company's lifetime limit. This provision protects an estimated 555,000 New Mexicans, and an estimated 105 million Americans!
"People who need medical care the most - people with serious medical problems - have some of the highest medical costs. If President-elect Trump and Republicans have their way, care for people like Amber would be wiped away.
"I am the father of a daughter. And I am angry that this father has to worry about whether his daughter will get the medical care she needs to live a healthy and productive life.
"M. President, let me tell you about Pam and Mike. They are a husband and wife from Placitas. They own a small business. They signed up for an insurance plan under the ACA as soon as they could, because premiums before the ACA were too expensive,and Pam had a pre-existing condition.
"Using their new preventive care, they found out that Mike had an aggressive form of cancer. But thankfully, doctors caught the cancer at an early stage. Mike was treated at the University of New Mexico Cancer Center, and is now cured. Pam says there is ‘no question' that the ACA saved her husband's life.
"Because of the ACA, private health plans must cover a range of free, preventive services, everything from cancer screening to flu shots. Over 730,000 New Mexicans now benefit. Catching a disease early saves lives, and reduces health care costs. But, preventive care is expensive if you're uninsured or poor. An overwhelming majority of Americans - 83% - support making preventive care free.
"But what will President-elect Trump and Republicans do to make sure Pam and Mike and millions of others can keep getting cancer screenings? Nothing. They have no plan.
"M. President, next I want to tell you about Karen, from Albuquerque, the mother of two college-age children. Karen's son graduates next May, and turns 23. And she's worried he won't get health insurance from an entry-level job. Her concern is well founded, since young adults have the lowest rate of access to employer-based insurance. And young adults do get sick. One in six has a chronic illness like cancer, diabetes or asthma.
"Like lots of moms like her, Karen wants her son to have medical care if he needs it. Today, the ACA allows him to stay on her insurance policy until he turns 26. This is one of the ACA's most popular provisions. he vast majority of Americans - 85% - want young adults to be able to get insurance.
"But President-elect Trump and congressional Republicans would leave an estimated 15,000 New Mexicans - like Karen's kids - and an estimated 2.3 million Americans without coverage. Because they have no plan to replace the ACA.
"M. President, New Mexico is not a wealthy state. A lot of working people qualify for Medicaid. New Mexico wisely adopted the Medicaid expansion under the ACA, allowing 82,000 more people to get health care. Before the ACA, the only place many New Mexicans could get health care was in the emergency room.
"Now, many are scared that President-elect Trump and Republicans will take their health care away. Take Amy, her husband, and her four boys, ages 13 to 19. Amy and her husband own a family business in Santa Fe. Before the ACA, they went without health insurance because they couldn't afford it. They just hoped nothing catastrophic happened to them.
"As soon as she could, Amy applied for health insurance under the Medicaid expansion. It covers herself, her husband, and her oldest son. Amy says she is grateful that, because of the ACA, medical bills will not ‘drain us financially.'
"There are 8.4 million people across the country just like Amy. Like Amy, many are low-income workers. They have jobs, but no health insurance. They couldn't afford health insurance before the ACA. And they won't be able to afford it if President-elect Trump and congressional Republicans have their way and repeal it. These hard-working Americans deserve good medical care. Americans agree: 80 percent favor the Medicaid expansion for low-income, uninsured adults.
"Finally, M. President, we have 19 pueblos and 4 tribes in New Mexico. Native Americans make up more than a tenth of our population. And, as vice chair of this body's Indian Affairs Committee, I represent all of Indian Country.
"Native Americans are eligible to receive care through the Indian Health Service. But it is severely underfunded. Long delays are common. And, as a result, many Tribal members rely heavily on Medicare, Medicaid and the ACA health exchange. More than 132,000 Tribal members are enrolled in Medicaid in New Mexico alone.
"The All Pueblo Council of Governors, which represents all 19 New Mexico Pueblos, tells me that without the ACA, more Tribal members will go back to the days of long delays. Many will see their coverage cut. This is also the subject of an amendment I will be offering.
"Indian Health Services hospitals are heavily dependent on third party collections for clinical services. In fact, current federal funding covers less than half of their operational costs. Fortunately, increases in revenue from the Medicaid expansion have offset those annual costs.
"But, without that revenue, necessary services may no longer be available throughout Indian County. This is unconscionable. My amendment would protect health Indian Health Services from any cuts in federal funding if the ACA is repealed.
"M. President, there are tens of thousands of stories in New Mexico like those of Kevin, Pam and Mike, Karen, and Amy. Over 360,000 New Mexicans gained health care since the ACA was passed. And over 21 million Americans have health insurance because of Obamacare.
"I have heard from New Mexicans who are terrified because there is no plan to replace the ACA's protections, benefits, and rights. Republicans have called to ‘repeal and replace' the ACA for years. They have had years to figure out how to replace it. They have not.
"‘Repeal and replace' is not sound public policy. It is only an empty sound bite. Health care is a basic human right. Providing adequate medical care for everyone should be our guiding principle for health care policy.
"What is the guiding principle of ‘repeal and replace?' Act now, figure it out later?
"I said it before. The ACA is not perfect. But it was historic, the biggest expansion of health care since the 1960s. It has helped millions of Americans get care. Many of them now can see a doctor regularly for the first time ever.
"M. President, we need to work to improve, not repeal, the Affordable Care Act."
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