Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer: GOP Health Bill "Would End Medicare As We Know It," "Read The Fine Print"


Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer speaks in opposition to the Republican health care reform plan which was presented in the Senate today:

Read the bill here.

SCHUMER: Well, we're beginning to receive the first bits of information about the Senate Republican health care bill, which has until now been shrouded in absolute secrecy.

I can see why. Even as we continue to get more details, the broad outlines are clear. This is a bill designed to strip away health care benefits and protections from Americans who need it most in order to give a tax break to the folks who need it least.

This is a bill that would end Medicaid as we know it, rolling back Medicaid expansion, cutting federal support for the program even more than the House bill, which cut Medicaid by $800 billion. Let me remind everyone in this chamber, Medicaid is not just a health insurance program for Americans struggling in poverty, though that is an important and necessary part of it.

Medicaid is increasingly a middle class program. Medicaid is how many Americans are able to avoid -- are able to access opioid abuse treatment. Medicaid foots the bill for two-thirds of all Americans living in nursing homes. And Medicaid provides the cushion, particularly in rural areas, so hospitals can survive and give top- notch health care to all of us.

From what is reported, in just three short years under the Senate bill, Republicans will kick millions off their Medicaid coverage. And then starting in 2025, the plan will institute even more Medicaid cuts and each year those cuts get deeper than the year before. Within 10 years of this new funding system, the cuts to Medicaid could total hundreds of billions of dollars above the more than $800 billion the House bill already cuts from the program.

And every senior in America should read the fine print of this bill. It looks like American seniors could be paying way more.

Why do this? Looking at the bill, the answer is because the Republicans want to give a tax break to the wealthiest Americans, those making over $200,000 a year, and set themselves up to give these folks another even larger tax cut in their tax bill.

Even though much of the early reporting says the bill will keep certain protections for Americans with preexisting conditions, the truth is it may well not guarantee them the coverage they need. By allowing states to waive essential health benefits, what the bill is saying to those Americans is: Insurance still has to cover you, but it doesn't have to cover what you may actually need; it doesn't have to cover all or even most of your costs.

If you need treatment for opioid addiction, your plan may no longer cover it. If you're pregnant and need maternity care, your plan may have decided that's too expensive. The coverage that Americans with preexisting conditions actually need may well become either unaffordable or even nonexistent under this bill.

Simply put, this bill will result...


SCHUMER: Not right now; at the end of my remarks.

Simply put, this bill will result in higher costs, less care, and millions of Americans will lose their health insurance, particularly through Medicaid. It's every bit as bad as the House bill. In some ways, it's even worse.

The president said the Senate bill needed heart. The way this bill cuts health care is heartless. The president said the House bill was mean. The Senate bill may be meaner. The Senate Republican health care bill is a wolf in sheep's clothing, only this wolf has even sharper teeth than the House bill.

It's clear that Republicans know that cutting Medicaid will hurt so many people in the middle class, so many in my home state of New York. Republicans know that people want essential health benefits. So they've created a disguise by saying these changes won't occur for a year. But in reality, the Senate Republican bill is a wolf in sheep's clothing. Only this wolf has even sharper teeth than the House bill.SCHUMER: And we're potentially voting on it in a week. No committee hearings. No amendments in committee. No debate on the floor, save for 10 measly hours on one of the most important bills we're dealing with in decades. That brings shame on this body. We won't even know the full cost or consequence of the bill until CBO scores it. And that could take a few days more.

How can my friend, the majority leader, expect this body to fairly consider this legislation, prepare amendments and debate it in one week, with only 10 hours of debate? How can he expect his own members to do the same? Many of them on the Republican side are learning the details of the bill the same way we Democrats are. They're reading it today.

Now, listen to what the majority leader had to say in 2009 when we were debating health care. His words: "This is a very important issue. We shouldn't try to do it in the dark. And whatever final bill is produced should be available to the American public and to members of the Senate certainly for enough time to come to grips with it. And we're going to insist, and the American people are going to insist, that it be done in a transparent, fair and open way."

Is five or six days enough time for the American people and members of the Senate to come to grips with a bill that affects one- sixth of the economy and the lives of every American in this country? I don't think so. Neither to the American people. And neither do a whole bunch of Republican senators.

Senator Cassidy: "Would I have preferred a more open process? The answer is yes." Senator Collins: "I don't think it gives enough time to thoroughly analyze the bill, but we'll see when it comes out."

There's member after member -- Rand Paul, Lindsey Graham, Jerry Moran, Marco Rubio, Bob Corker, who repeatedly have said this process in their words and now in mine, is unfair; is truncated; is rushed.

For my dear friend the majority leader to say we're going to have an open amendment process is turning truth upside down. I would ask our leader rhetorically, because I know the answer: Can we allow at least one hour on each amendment, not two minutes? Will we have more time than 10 hours to debate the bill?

I hope so. But if not, please don't call this an open and fair process. If you want to rush it through, admit the consequences.

Now, Mr. President, the debate over health care has been fierce. We know that the Republicans and Democrats have differences when we debated the Affordable Care Act -- at least we had a debate. At least we had committee hearings and a process. And more broadly than that, at least we Democrats were trying to pass a health care bill that helped more Americans afford insurance and tried to bring costs down and end some of the most egregious practices of the health care industry.

What is this bill, Trumpcare, trying to achieve? It seems designed to slash support for health care programs in order to give tax breaks to the very wealthy. And when the CBO score comes out, I believe it will verify that millions of Americans in this great country will be unable to afford insurance or the insurance they can afford won't cover the services they need.

Somewhere in America, Mr. President, there's a family who takes a trip each Friday to visit grandma or grandpa at a nursing home; who sacrificed all of their savings to pay for their health care until they had no more savings; and now relies on Medicaid to help pay the cost of long-term care in the nursing home.

Somewhere in America, there's a father who is eaten up inside watching his son struggle with opioid addiction; who knows in his heart that his son would be able to go on and live a healthy and fulfilling life if he could only afford treatment to get him out from under his devastating addiction.SCHUMER: Somewhere in America, there's a parent whose child has cancer; a mother and father who stay up late at night worry that their insurance will either not be available or run out when the family needs it most.

In the America that my Republican friends envision with this health care bill, those Americans and many more beside might not get the coverage and care they need.

We live in the wealthiest country on Earth. Surely, surely, we can do better than what the Republican health care bill promises.

Now I have a unanimous consent request. Going to have to delay my friend from asking questions until we finish our unanimous consent request.

I ask unanimous consent for that any substitute or perfecting amendment offered to calendar number 120, H.R. 1628, not be in order if the text of the amendment has not been filed at the desk and made available on a public website for at least 72 hours, along with an analysis by the Congressional Budget Office of the bill's budgetary, coverage and cost implications.

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