In the weekly Democratic address, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) ripped the Republican health care bill current being considered by the U.S. Senate.
Wyden argued it would cut Medicaid by more than $800 billion, which is money that “helps pay for seniors’ nursing home care so the elderly don’t end up in squalor or out on the street.”
Transcript as follows:
Hello, I’m Ron Wyden, Senator from Oregon.
Americans across the country are heading into the dog days of summer—the kids are getting out of school, vacations are being planned, and families are firing up the grill. And this year, nobody would blame people who are feeling a little exhausted by politics. But the fact of the matter is, there are critical, life-changing decisions being made about Americans’ health care right now in the United States Senate that should have people on high alert. Before I came to the Senate, I co-founded a seniors’ group in Oregon known as the Gray Panthers, and what I learned then is that change happens from the bottom up. It isn’t top down from here in the stuffy halls of government buildings.
A little more than a month ago, the House of Representatives twisted arms and cut backroom deals until they passed a deeply unpopular health care bill. It’s complicated legislation, but at its heart is a basic architecture that takes from middle-class Americans to give large tax breaks to the well to-do.
Nobody should be surprised if Republican senators take the same approach. Earlier this week, Majority Leader McConnell moved to bring the House bill to the floor, bypassing any debate in committees and setting up a rushed, dead-of-night vote on a bill that will effect one-sixth of the American economy.
Their approach cuts Medicaid by more than $800 billion dollars. Some may not be familiar with the role Medicaid plays in the lives of millions of Americans to provide basic health care.
Medicaid helps pay for seniors’ nursing home care so the elderly don’t end up in squalor or out on the street.
Medicaid provides pregnant women with key maternity care, and helps with their child’s health care after they’re born.
Medicaid offers health care and support for Americans with disabilities so they can live, work and thrive in their communities, instead of institutions.
And Medicaid gives treatment to people with mental illnesses or substance abuse disorders who need a foundation to stand on so they can lead healthy, productive lives.
Bottom line, without Medicaid, America moves a giant step backward to the days when health care was reserved for the healthy and the wealthy.
The Republican health care legislation also takes nearly $300 billion in tax cuts for health care away from the middle-class. It’s difficult to tell how that’s going to make health care better or bring down premiums.
So working families and seniors on Medicaid and the middle class are hit hard under this plan. Taken together, it’s understandable why somebody would wonder where those cuts are going and how it’s going to make health care better.
Unfortunately, the answer is that the vast majority of the dollars from those cuts are used to pay for massive tax breaks exclusively for the wealthiest Americans and special interests. Every working American pays a Medicare tax straight out of their paycheck—but only those at the top will get a break. The tax on unearned income of the wealthiest Americans is eliminated. Big Pharma and insurance companies get a substantial tax break, too.
I’ve made health care a priority throughout my time representing Oregon because to me, if you or your family member don’t have your health, everything else is pretty much by the boards. This legislation is going to put the health of millions at risk.
To accomplish this “Robin Hood in reverse” approach without bipartisan support, Republicans are using an arcane process known as reconciliation. That’s not a term that’s likely to come up at coffee shops around the country, but it’s important. Reconciliation amounts to “my-way-or-the-highway,” not both parties working together to solve the nation’s problem as Americans expect them to.
Democrats are ready to work together with our Republican colleagues to make health care better. To bring down prescription drug prices. To bring more competition into health insurance markets. To improve treatment for people with multiple chronic illnesses like heart disease, diabetes and cancer that drive most health care spending today.
For now, that’s not what’s on offer, and the country is worse off because of it. But I’m still optimistic that principled bipartisanship can win the day after Americans’ raise their voices to make it clear they don’t support an approach that takes health care from middle- class Americans to give large tax breaks to the well to-do.
Follow Pam Key on Twitter @pamkeyNEN