Washington—Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) last night spoke on the Senate floor against Republican efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
Video is available here. Excerpts of Feinstein’s remarks as delivered follow:
“Let me correct something. They say also, well Obamacare is ‘dead.’ It’s ‘imploding’. They say this to build support for repealing the law.
“But they’re wrong. In California, which has worked hard to implement the law effectively, the marketplace to buy health coverage functions at a high level.
“There are 1.5 million people signed up through the website Covered California. Enrollments have been stable and there has been no uptick in healthy people leaving the insurance market. The general consensus among experts is that the federal health care market is not collapsing.
“Standard & Poor’s said that ‘2016 results and the market enrollment so far in 2017 show that the ACA individual market is not in a ‘death spiral.’ So please, stop saying that.”
“I’d like to share a story from Monica, from Oceanside, California. These are real cases.
“She was diagnosed with breast cancer shortly after gaining coverage through California’s individual market.
“Her doctor told her that she would have been dead had she not been covered by her new plan. She had cared for her father 10 years prior to his death from Parkinson’s disease. She didn’t have access to employer-provided insurance and wasn’t eligible for Medicaid at the time.
“By the time the Affordable Care Act was implemented, she qualified for a plan through Covered California.
“And she wrote, ‘Without the ACA, I would not be alive to write this post.’
“I wonder if that means anything to anybody on the Republican side of the aisle. No one comes forward. No one says what they would need. And this is such a big issue. It affects every single one of us and every single one of our constituents.”
“If the Senate bill is anything like the House bill, the effects would be devastating on my state. If the Senate bill is like the House bill, here’s what it would do:
“It would take health coverage away from 23 million working and middle-class families to finance a tax cut for the richest 5 percent of Americans. This is indefensible. There’s no justification for giving millionaires a $50,000 tax break by taking health care away from our most vulnerable citizens.
“And I don’t know of any that are asking for it. It’s some kind of blighted political agenda that you can leave the elderly and the sick untended and it justifies a $50,000 tax break for a millionaire.
“This would end Medicaid as we’ve known it for 50 years by cutting $834 billion.
“It eliminates protections for people with pre-existing conditions.
“It defunds Planned Parenthood. It denies all Californians and New Yorkers—all of them—tax credits unless the states change their laws requiring insurance companies to cover reproductive care, including abortion services. It’s almost kind of a blackmail provision.”
“I’ve just got to say: This is the least transparent process for a major piece of legislation I’ve seen in my 24 years in the Senate. Former Senate historian Don Ritchie said that you have to look back to before World War I to find another example of such a secret, partisan process for passing a major bill. The Senate health care bill, in fact, is being written behind closed doors.
“There’s no draft for public review. No Democratic senator has seen the bill. Republican senators all say they haven’t seen the bill either. When Republican senators are asked what’s in the bill—unless they’re the 13 privileged ones—they say they have no idea. Everyone except the 13 Republicans drafting the bill has been excluded. And these 13 senators represent just 10 states out of our 50.
“Health experts and health advocacy organizations have been shut out. No one representing doctors, nurses, patients, children, the elderly, hospitals, community clinics, or health plans is able to provide any feedback at all on how the bill would affect people.
“Over the weekend, the Los Angeles Times reported that a coalition of more than 15 patient groups, including, the American Heart Association, the March of Dimes and the American Lung Association, tried to get a meeting with Senator McConnell or his staff and were told “no.”
“That’s unbelievable. Think of it. Think of the American Heart Association, the March of Dimes, the American Lung Association, asking to meet with either the leader or his staff and somebody says “no.”
“Do my Republican colleagues really believe that groups like the American Heart Association don’t deserve an opportunity to weigh in on a health care bill when our health care system affects every single person in this country?
“Health care is the last subject that should be addressed behind closed doors, hidden from public view.
“Yet, apparently, Republicans intend to bring the bill to the floor without a single hearing. Senator McConnell wants to vote on a bill by next Thursday I’m told.—That’s 10 days from now. Well if there’s not going to be hearing, we shouldn’t vote. I think no hearing, no vote.
“It’s important to point out the contrast between what’s happening now and our consideration of the Affordable Health Care Act. That’s what’s known as Obamacare.
“There were 100 hearings, meetings, roundtables, and walkthroughs of the bill between the Senate Finance and HELP Committees. There were 25 consecutive days and 160 hours of debate on the Senate floor. There were 300 HELP Committee amendments, including more than 160 Republican amendments. Was our process in 2009 and ‘10 perfect? No, it wasn’t. But it’s infinitely better than what is happening now.”
“I’d like to say to my Republican colleagues. Don’t do this. Don’t write a bill in secret. Don’t take health care away from millions of people to cut taxes for the rich. Don’t undermine protections for people with pre-existing conditions. Don’t allow insurers to go back to the days of selling junk plans. And don’t end Medicaid. We’ve known it for so long. It’s working. It’s covering poor and elderly all across this country.
“Those of us on this side of the aisle want to make the Affordable Care Act better. We want to work to improve our health care system. We stand ready to work together on behalf of our constituents.
“But if our colleagues continue down this path, we will fight this bill with all we have. The stakes are too high not to.”