Elizabeth Warren

Remarks about the Future of the Affordable Care Act in 2017 - Jan. 9, 2017

Elizabeth Warren
January 09, 2017— Washington, D.C.
Print friendly

Thank you, Mr. President.

Mr. President, for eight years, Republicans have complained about health care in America. They have blamed everything in the world on President Obama. They have hung out on the sideline, name calling, making doomsday predictions and cheering every stumble that they could blame on someone else. They spent a lot of energy rooting against families who needed help paying for health insurance or who wanted coverage but were frozen out because of a preexisting condition. They jeered and carried on, but what they didn't do ever was lift a finger to try to improve health care in America.

But they're in charge now. They get to call the shots. So what's the first thing on the Republican agenda now that they're in control? Is it working to help improve health care in America, working to bring down premiums and deductibles, making fixes to expand the network of doctors and the number of plans that people can choose from, any of those? Nope. The very first thing on the Republican agenda in the 115th congress is to shatter health care in America.

The first thing, rip health insurance out of the hands of millions of Americans who need it. The first thing, massively raise the cost of health insurance for everyone who has it. The first thing, create chaos for hospitals, clinics and insurance companies and send their costs spiraling out of control. The first thing, abandon the people they were elected to represent. The first thing, repeal and run away.

Republicans have been rushing around capitol hill for the past couple of weeks, huddling in meetings and trying to come up with a plan to replace the Affordable Care Act, and they are shocked, shocked to discover that guaranteeing Americans access to health care is a complex business, and they don't have any good ideas. Now after eight years of complaining, they are trying to convince each other that it will all be okay if they just repeal health care access with nothing to replace it. They're trying to reassure each other that they know what they're doing. Get real. They don't have a clue what to do next. For eight years, they have had no plan, and they don't have a plan now.

Let's be very clear about what's going on here. Republicans want to tear apart our nation's health care system, a health care system that protects kids with cancer, protects women getting mammograms, protects independent contractors, protects new moms, protects college kids, protects grandparents, protects disease survivors and protects so many of America’s families. They want to tear it apart, and they don't have the first clue what to do with it afterwards. Repeal and run, that's the Republican plan.

In Massachusetts, we know how important health reform is because we have been working on it now for years, long before the affordable care act was even a spark on the horizon in Washington. My Republican colleagues could learn a lot from our work in Massachusetts. In Massachusetts, the belief that everyone should have access to affordable health insurance coverage is a shared value that Democrats, Republicans, business leaders, hospitals, insurers, doctors, consumers and advocates have all worked to implement over the past decade. It's not just the lip service we're hearing right now here in Washington. It is real commitment. And because of it, in Massachusetts, we got real results.

Just because we're all behind this effort together in Massachusetts doesn't mean that health care reform has been a cakewalk. Finding ways to cover more people and bring down costs, all while improving the quality of care, it is a tough job. You have to be in it for the long haul. And that's why in Massachusetts we didn't just pass one health care law and not in 2006 and then just run away.

We came back a couple of years later with additional legislation to make fixes and adjustments. We have formed committees to study how things were working and make recommendations for more changes. We passed amendments. We revised our regulations where they needed to be changed to support implementation. We worked to make coverage more affordable. We set standards to make sure that insurance is a good value. And we invested in prevention programs to keep people healthy in the first place. We got more coverage for more people, and we lowered health care costs. We kept working month after month, year after year because we know what it means for a family to have the peace of mind that comes with affordable high quality health insurance coverage. We kept working because we knew it was the right thing to do. And we kept working because we knew that's what Massachusetts residents expected us to do. Once we started something, we had to see it through. And when it got tough, we worked harder. We didn't repeal and run.

When the Affordable Care Act was signed into law in 2010, Massachusetts went all in. We expanded our Medicaid program, we used federal funds to cover people who still lacked insurance even after our state reforms. We set up a state health insurance exchange, the Health Connector, and we combined federal and state dollars to make sure that insurance was truly affordable. And just two months ago, we signed an ambitious new Medicaid agreement with the federal government that will allow us to set up innovative partnerships among health providers, insurers and community organizations so that we can better serve Medicaid patients in our state. We have a great deal to be proud of in Massachusetts. More than 97% of our citizens are insured. People have coverage. They have good coverage, coverage that they can afford. And this wasn't something we got done overnight, but it's something we worked at, and it's something we can achieve in every state if we're willing to do the work.

Democrats and nonpartisan government officials have worked for years here in Washington to try to make this health system work, and we have made real progress. Now Republicans in Congress are ready to throw away these years and years of progress. They are ready to threaten the collapse of our insurance markets. They are ready to threaten the health and the safety of millions of Americans simply to make a political point. They are ready to repeal and run.

In Massachusetts right now, families are watching this debate, and they're worried about what happens to them. Kids with diabetes, moms with cancer, grandparents in long-term care, they are worried. Hospitals and insurers are watching, too, and they are worried. Worried about an irresponsible republican party that is more interested in political stunts than in helping Americans get access to health care. I don't blame them for being worried, because this isn't a game. There is no magic replacement plan that will suddenly make everything all better.

In Massachusetts, we can't just snap back to our old health insurance system if Republicans decide to rip up the Affordable Care Act. And other states across the country are also facing the terrifying prospect that they will be left high and dry as a result of the Republicans' reckless actions.

Every senator here has ideas about how to improve health care in America, but no Democratic senator will vote to destroy it today based on the vague assurance that maybe at some point Republicans might think up some kind of replacement plan later on. The Republican strategy is repeal and run. Repeal and run. That's not governing. That's not leadership. It's one of the most reckless and irresponsible things that's ever been proposed in this Congress.

I know that some Republican senators agree with that. I know they are worried about whether this is the right move forward, given all that hangs in the balance. I hope their consciences get the better of them, and they scuttle this plan before it is too late. I hope they remember that every single Senator who votes to destroy health care in America will be responsible for the disastrous consequences that come next.

If Republicans actually want to improve health care in America, let's talk about how to do that. That's what we were sent here to do. That's what voters, conservative and liberal, Republican and Democrat, expect us to do. But if Republicans want to destroy health care in America, I will fight them every step of the way. The stakes are too high for the millions of Americans whose futures are about to be sacrificed so that one party can make a political point. Let's stay here and do the work that needs to be done to make sure that every American gets access to high-quality, affordable health care. Repeal and run is for cowards.

Thank you, Mr. President.

Speech from https://www.c-span.org/video/?421455-1/us-senate-democrats-accuse-republicans-repeal-run-late-night-health-care-debate.