tv Senators Durbin and Wyden on Health Care CSPAN September 19, 2017 6:58am-7:31am EDT
the same level of activism that we saw on the previous bills must be garnered now or they will just slide through in the dark of night. its effect, devastating and unknown. madam president, democrats in the senate, we have no choice. our constituencies, our consciences compel us. we will oppose cassidy-graham in every way we can using every tool at our disposal. we ask the american people to speak out once again to make their voices heard. the hour is late. the need is mr. durbin: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from illinois. mr. durbin: mr. president, the senate has spent a great deal of time over the lax six or sef -- last six or seven months debating health care in america.
for years after the passage of the affordable care act, the republican party, house and senate, has called for the repeal of the bill. and yet when the time came with the majority of republicans in the house and the senate, of course a republican president, and the task was immediately before them, they faltered because they didn't have a replacement. they didn't have something to propose that was better. and as a consequence, their efforts stopped short, one vote short on the floor of the senate several weeks ago. now, we still face some they didn't have something to propose is better and as a consequence, their efforts stopped one vote short on the floor of the senate several weeks ago. we face some significant challenges, some very immediate. before the end of september we will face the prospect of reauthorizing the children's health insurance program, this program provides health
insurance coverage for 9 million children and pregnant women across the country, 350,000 in my state. this program has had two decades of fraud bipartisan support and it is going to expire in 12 days. the good news is the finance committee chairman, orrin hatch of utah, as ranking member ron wyden, have reached bipartisan agreement on a 5-year reauthorization of the program. the bad news, instead of preserving health care for low-income children and women, senate republican leadership seems more interested in the next 12 days calling a different topic on a different issue, bill, altogether, graham cassidy bill, according to health insurance, bill would take health insurance coverage away from millions of americans including 1 million in the state of illinois. from where i am sitting
reauthorizing the chip program is a priority. not only serve the 9 million children and pregnant women across the country but 350,000 in my state. there is another bill we need to reauthorize, funding of community health centers. like chip funding for community health centers expires at the end of this month, just a few days. community health centers have enjoyed decades of broad bipartisan support. 10,000 community health centers across the country serve 26 million americans. community health centers serve one of every ten children, one in six americans living in rural areas, more than 330,000 of our nation's veterans. illinois health organizations receive $150 million in federal funding to provide care to the
1.3 million people at 360 locations. i have been to many of these locations and i have sitting real cancer and honesty if i have a medical issue for someone in my family i would enter community health centers in my state with confidence that my family would receive the best of care. they are outstanding organizations. if congress doesn't act in 12 days community health centers in my state and across the nation will see their funding cut by 70%. that dramatic funding cut, result in 2800 community health centers closing across america. 50,000 jobs lost, 9 million people losing access to health care. there is good news here as well. because of senators lund and stab now --stabinow taking the lead, the problem is there is
another bill which is captured the attention and calendar time of the senate. that is the possibility we. why shouldn't congress spend the next 12 crucial days reauthorizing the children's health insurance program across america and making certain community health centers don't lose critical funding to serve so many people? right now we know that we face some challenges when it comes to the health insurance market in america. approximately 6% of americans, 2% of people in my state purchase health insurance in the individual marketplace, 50% receiving some subsidies to pay for cost. however, many of these people are seeing dramatic increases in premiums. we know that and we know it is a challenge, one that we need to
address. here is the good news, time for some good news when it comes to health care. almost from the middle of the critical vote was cast ending the repeal of obamacare, meetings started taking place. the senate was adjourning, senator lamar alexander and patty murray talking in the middle of the night, it was 3:00 in the morning, they reached an agreement, republican, democrat, on the health committee, to start a series of hearings about what we could do as a senate that would strengthen health care system in america. before our august recess. we are back from recess, they kept their word. i attended three or four member hearings which they held before the official public hearings later in the morning. these were good meetings. i recall senator alexander
saying 53 senators, democrats and republicans, showed up for coffee and donuts to meet with us commissioners from five different states. a few days later after that another coffee and donut session, good turnout bipartisan turnout, as we sat down with five governors, democrats and republicans to talk about health insurance. later on a few days later, experts came in and talked about the subject. i felt there was more accomplished in those three hours with those outstanding witnesses from across the country than all of the time we have spent making speeches on the floor of the senate the previous seven months. it was interesting, when you brought in people from different states, different political parties, a virtually had the same thing to tell us. handful of things we could do to make immediate impact, positive impact, to make cost of health
insurance a lot more predictable, not to say we bring it down, i don't want overpromising to slow the rate of growth and health insurance costs as well as providing stability to the insurance market. the things that came out loud and clear from bipartisan senate meetings, first they told us stop playing games with cost-sharing reduction subsidies, these are subsidies to insurance companies that take on individuals with expensive health histories, these insurance companies are given support by subsidy so they can keep the premium cost for individuals under control. these cost-sharing reduction subsidies help 7 million americans afford their copayments and deductibles on health insurance policies. the trump administration has repeatedly threatened to stop the payments. as a result individual market premiums keep going up because
of the uncertainty whether the government will keep its promise to make cost reduction subsidies. i remember the commissioner from the state of south carolina told us, the senator from oregon, ranking democrat, said i am going to announce a 30% increase in health insurance premiums. if i knew these cost-sharing reduction subsidies were coming it would be 10%. i could eliminate 20% of the anticipated increase in premium costs if these subsidies came through. it is pretty clear to me this is sound policy on a bipartisan basis, it would have a dramatic impact reducing the cost of premiums to many individuals. that came through loud and clear in every meeting we had by senator murray and senator alexander. they talk about state reinsurance. i don't understand that as well
as some but where the state picks up a share of health insurance between certain dollar amounts so the private insurance companies don't pick up that burden. because of this they keep premium costs down. the third thing is provide states with more flexibility without undermining fundamental issues like preexisting condition protection. i let those meetings feeling encouraged. after seven months of bitter political rhetoric which led to nothing on the floor of the senate we were finally sitting down in a bipartisan basis, democrats and republicans and all across our country with specific suggestions that can help our healthcare system. that to me is the way to move forward. that to me is a lesson learned, much wasted time so far this year but that whole effort may
be derailed. senators cassidy and graham have a legislative alternative they want to move forward. unfortunately this measure is a have proposed not been scored by the congressional budget office or carefully measured to find out what impact it would have on the american healthcare system which accounts for 16 of the american national economy. here is what we know of the cassidy and graham proposal. what they are suggesting is eliminating subsidies that help individuals pay for private health insurance and bringing to a halt the medicaid expansion covering millions of americans giving them health insurance but they say instead something that has been said many times on the floor, give all the money to governors and they will figure it out, how to save money in their states.
turns out the governors of both political parties warn us if you give us a set amount of money is the cost of healthcare continues to grow, don't expect us to cover as many people or provide coverage if we do it on a state-by-state basis so who supports this new cassidy graham approach and who opposes it? every single medical advocacy group, hospitals, doctors, nurses all across america oppose cassidy graham approach as well as medical advocacy groups. they understands our approach allows discrimination against individuals insured based on preexisting conditions. going back before we pass the affordable care act. the cassidy graham approach which has been brought to us doesn't add up. if you take three or $400 billion out of the healthcare system, governors around the
country say good luck, do it on a local basis, i am sure it will work out. they will tell you as they have in the meetings we had, bipartisan meetings, it will not work, it does not compute. it will check the box for some that they repeal the affordable care act but didn't replace it with people or better value. the opposite is true. that is why we ought to twice. there is a mad dash in the last 12 days to do many things, a political viewpoint, limited opportunity for this repeal effort in a 12 a period, limited window under senate rules and reconciliation. it is a mistake as far as i'm concerned for us to move toward cassidy graham, concepts which have been roundly opposed in my state and across the nation, concepts have failed on the floor of the senate. let us all about receives and do three things that make sense, let's reauthorize the children's health insurance program, make sure those kids and pregnant
moms will have the basic coverage they've enjoyed for 20 years, let's also reauthorize community health centers. we know when people have a medical home, less likely to let medical conditions get worse and more expensive. that is good investment to ensure they continue. finally let's turn to a real bipartisan effort, a measure that can emerge soon from senators murray, alexander, on a bipartisan basis. they are working on it and haven't reached final agreement on what doing but both political parties will encourage them to do the right thing. remember when john mccain came to the floor after being diagnosed with her he is battling now? came and cast a crucial vote, this whole issue of healthcare, he asked to speak for 15 minutes, i wanted to hear it. he reminded us of the importance
of doing things on a bipartisan basis, doing it thoughtfully, comes to something as important as healthcare. let us keep that speech i john mccain and that lesson in mind, let us resist the cassidy graham approach which shares no support in the medical community and instead work on a bipartisan approach, alexander and mary, to the findings committee which senator wyden addressed so that we can have a bipartisan solution. the american people sent us here to solve problems, not create them. cassidy graham creates problems. let's find solutions that solve problems. i yield the floor. >> before we leave the floor i want to draw attention to the central point the senator from illinois has been making tonight. he has been focused on what our
duties to the american people are all about, which is to make their lives better. particularly improve the quality of their healthcare, which is a lifeline for millions of families. now, instead of looking at bipartisan approaches to make the lives of our people better, we introduced the children's health bill, 9 billion youngsters get better help. instead of focusing on that, my colleague from illinois has said, we are looking at a bill that will hurt our people, give them worst healthcare, go backwards with respect to the march in our country, to make sure we recognize all our people deserve quality affordable health care.
i particularly appreciate my colleagues pointing out the contrast between where we ought to go with a bipartisan proposal like children's health plan and where we shouldn't go which is the graham cassidy heller proposal that is going to go backwards with respect to the health care needs of our people. graham cassidy heller has been exposed for just a few days, already clear that legislation is a bad deal for the american people. senator cassidy has introduced healthcare bills before. earlier this year he introduced a bill with our colleague from maine, senator collins, an alternative to what the senate republican leadership put on us. i had my concerns with that proposal. the first thing i want the senate to understand is this
cassidy bill that we will soon be considering is much, much worse. the reason i say that is this bill lowers the bar, mister president, lowers the bar for legislation that has been hastily written, ill considered and i want to be clear, this cassidy bill will flunk the jimmy kimmel test of not hurting kids in america with existing conditions. to make matters worse, just this evening, mister president, i have been informed the senate finance committee will shortly announce a hearing for next monday on the graham cassidy heller proposal. contrary to the norms of the senate finance committee i was not consulted in this matter of
ranking democrats. mister president, i am all for for debating major legislation. but talking about a piece of legislation that will not have the congressional budget office of independent arbiters of these matters give their thoughts on coverage on premium matters, 48 hours before a vote is scheduled to happen is a sham process that makes a mockery of the eloquent words of our colleague from arizona, mister mccain, who appealed for the regular way in which the senate handles legislation. that means senators won't know how many millions of americans are going to wake up not knowing if they have health care.
how many seniors get kicked out of a nursing home, or see their core healthcare needs not met, how much will americans premiums go up? senate republicans have no answers on any of these matters. but graham cassidy heller gives a super block grant blank check, superblock blank check, states can do whatever they want in terms of americans healthcare. it sets the funding for those block grants over a very short period of time. that is going to mean a lot of pain for vulnerable people and an open door to some of the worst abuses of insurance
companies, abuses we thought we had gotten rid of, democrats and republicans that we had gotten rid of them. that is when i introduced him will with 7 democrats and 7 republicans, now we are talking about bringing them back. this bill amounts to the largest healthcare devolution, moving with any accountability at all to the states. the bill, if i might for a few minutes get into specifics, does especially serious damage to medicaid. in fact, it really hollows out the medicaid program. this year's debate over health care made one thing quite clear. medicaid matters. it pays for the healthcare of our most vulnerable, serves as a safety net to those who might not think they are ever going to
need it, nursing home care for older people, hard-earned savings, it pays for critically needed addiction treatment services for those who struggle with opioids, millions of americans are facing that now. it helps the americans with disabilities and kids with special needs live a healthier more productive life in their communities rather than an institution. that is just a little bit of the good medicaid does for folks from portland, oregon and portland, maine. under the graham cassidy heller proposal, that is simply gone. it ended medicaid coverage, 11 million americans count on right now. it medicaid, hundreds of billions of dollars in support to the federal government.
in effect, telling states good luck, telling them you can make hard decisions about which americans are going to get adequate healthcare and who will be the unfortunate souls who go with out. my view is this is going to lead to destitution for older americans who count on medicaid for nursing home care and it also represents a massive transfer of dollars from states that expanded medicaid to states that chose not to. history tells us that the most vulnerable americans without a voice or a powerful lobby are the ones who are going to be the worst off. i heard my colleague senator cassidy in particular claims that this bill is modeled on the
children's health insurance plan which gives the block grant program, should support graham cassidy heller. the could be further from the truth, children's health insurance program has been an extraordinarily successful program for more than 20 years, now covering 9 million youngsters. part of that is due to its reliance on a strong medicaid program. the rest of the healthcare system is block granted and slashed by hundreds of billions of dollars, the pillars that support a successful children's health insurance plan will crumble, they will lose their structural support, both in favor of graham cassidy, a vote
to demolish successful health care programs like the children's health insurance plan, and promise of affordable healthcare for millions of kids and their parents. there is one more step that the graham cassidy heller bill takes that is different from previous versions. rather than reducing the tax credits that help americans get help similar to earlier republican approaches, this bill just check them out, gets rid of them. that means asking states to use their federal health block grant for a whole host of competing healthcare priorities, pitting vulnerable americans against each other. and not having enough at the
table to meet these critical needs of our most vulnerable people, people who day in and day out walking on an economic tight rope trying to balance food costs, medical costs. graham cassidy heller is a recipe for disaster. this proposal opens loopholes for concerned companies that as i describe thought we had closed, but we had finally closed the book on the days when healthcare wasn't just for the healthy and wealthy. that was when we had discrimination against those with preexisting conditions, you had a preexisting condition, you were wealthy, paid the bill, if you didn't have preexisting conditions, nothing to worry about. for the millions of people who finally got some peace of mind
at night, when we illuminated discrimination, this brings back that ugly prospect, that ugly prospect, that a key consumer protection, protection that bars discrimination against those with preexisting condition is tossed aside just as what looks to be setting aside essential health benefits all americans are entitled to proceed. it is pretty obvious during the trumpcare debate, unraveling consumer protections people count on today leads to the entire system falling apart and the vulnerable bear the brunt of the pain. mister president, many of our friends and neighbors raising
their voices, showing up to stop bad health care legislation. thanks to their grassroots effort, partisan approach i have described being used here again has been stopped multiple times. i wanted to come on the floor tonight and say once again, the people in every community across our great country once again we need people power. once again, we need them to stand up and say we don't want to turn back the clock on the healthcare needs of the most vulnerable like seniors and the disabled and our kids. and once again we hope that they will speak out all across the
country. i will be having town hall meetings this upcoming weekend. you can be sure i am going to hear a lot from the people of oregon about this and i am very hopeful that once again people power around america is going to come forward and say to those talking about supporting graham cassidy heller at this is a mistake, they don't want to turn back the clock with respect to health care. they want to move forward. instead of turning back the clock what they're looking for his leadership that will hold down prescription drug costs. i have introduced legislation to require companies publicly justify raising their prices. we have senators introduce a
host of bills, that is what we should be doing, talking about how we are going to improve american healthcare. our colleague from illinois, children's health insurance plan, chairman hatch and i worked with our finance colleagues to introduce the community health center program. i could go on and on about opportunities for bipartisanship to take the country in the right direction rather than in the wrong direction. instead, it doesn't look like that is going to be up anytime soon. it is a proposal that turns back the clock, harms seniors, harms the vulnerable and i would be a major mistake. my bottom line has long been for for changes to the healthcare system to be sustainable and lasting, they have to be
bipartisan. that is why i mentioned efforts i was involved in. several of my colleagues who cosponsored the bill i am talking about have been supportive of that for quite some time. we know republicans and democrats know how to write bipartisan legislation. but what graham cassidy heller seeks to do is just the opposite. to use the most deeply partisan process called reconciliation. basically our way or the highway, not interested, trying to find common ground. it didn't end too well earlier when we talked about health care and i came to the floor tonight
to make the case that we cannot let partisan reconciliation have to win on this key issue. we ought to be working together to improve healthcare on a bipartisan basis in a way that helps people across the country and i mentioned, mister president, this is important to me, a number of bills colleagues on both sides of the aisle have worked on that would help improve the lives of the american people. graham cassidy heller does not meet that test. i hope my colleagues will reject it and i hope all across the country, from one quarter of america to every other, people will step up and say the political change doesn't start