CRANSTON, RI – Today, one day after Senate Republicans on Thursday unveiled
their plan to dismantle Obamacare and take health care away from millions of
Americans in order to provide massive tax breaks for the wealthy, U.S. Senators
Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse held a press conference at Senator Reed’s
Cranston office to express their opposition to the bill and discuss how they’ll
fight to preserve health care access for Rhode Islanders and all Americans.
The Senate “Trumpcare” bill, which dismantles
the Affordable Care Act (known as Obamacare), would provide tax breaks to the
wealthiest Americans at the expense of children, seniors, and people with
disabilities by decimating RIte Care and Medicaid programs across the country.
It would raise health care costs for working families and diminish
consumer protections for those with pre-existing conditions, as well as women
and older Americans.
At Senator Reed’s Cranston office, Reed and
Whitehouse gave their reactions to the bill and discussed their efforts to
defeat the legislation and protect vulnerable populations from the dangers of
losing health insurance. They also answered questions from the media on
what is to come in the future of health care in America. The Senators
noted that not only does the bill provide massive tax breaks to the wealthy, it
makes those tax breaks retroactive to the beginning of this year.
“This bill would be a disaster for the state
of Rhode Island and for the United States,” said Senator Reed. “It
was unveiled after a completely secretive process without any outside input and
it is an obvious effort to provide a massive tax cut for the richest Americans while
taking away health care from children, seniors, the disabled, and working
Americans. It is unfair and unconscionable policy that will affect
everyone here in Rhode Island. While the Affordable Care Act made serious
progress in ensuring that more Rhode Islanders had coverage, that progress will
now be reversed. We’ll continue to fight in Washington with all the
energy we have to protect the millions of Americans in serious
danger of losing their access to health care.”
?“I’m hearing from Rhode Islanders that this
bill is a nightmare," said Senator Whitehouse. "Doctors
are worried about what it means for their patients. Moms and dads are
scared of losing treatments their kids depend on. Folks over 50 are
learning that insurance companies could drive up their premiums, and nursing
homes could lose their main source of support. Our hospitals are unhappy,
and Governor Raimondo is livid. Really, no matter who you are in Rhode
Island, you stand to be hurt by this wretched bill—unless you belong to the
tiny group of people who are wealthy enough to get a huge tax cut. By the
way, I'm not hearing from Rhode Island's wealthy favoring the tax cut, because
I think they are more public-spirited than the folks who this was designed for.
Virtually no one supports this bill."
Senator Whitehouse currently serves on the
Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, which, along
with the Senate Finance Committee, should have jurisdiction over health
insurance legislation. But the Republican-controlled HELP Committee
devoted no time to public hearings or debate on the Republican’s Trumpcare
The bill has taken criticism on both sides of
the aisle. Five of Reed and Whitehouse’s colleagues, Senators Rand Paul
(R-KY), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Mike Lee (R-UT), Ron Johnson (R-WI), and Dean Heller
(R-NV) announced that they would oppose the bill without changes.
The American Academy of Pediatrics, the
American Association of Retired Persons, the Alliance for Retired Americans,
the American Hospital Association, the American Nurses Association, the
American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, the Association of American
Medical Colleges, and the Medicare Rights Center have also come out in
opposition to the legislation. Nearly every major health care
organization representing doctors, hospitals, nurses, and patients, among
others, has been shut out of process on this bill and has expressed serious
concern with Trumpcare.
This week, American Association of Retired
Persons (AARP) Executive Vice President Nancy LeaMond released a statement
opposing the bill’s imposition of an “Age Tax” on older adults by increasing
health insurance premiums and reducing tax credits, making cuts to both
Medicare and Medicaid funding, and giving billions of dollars in tax breaks to
drug and insurance companies.
“This new Senate bill was crafted in secrecy
behind closed doors without a single hearing or open debate—and it shows,” said
LeaMond. “The Senate bill would hit millions of Americans with higher
costs and result in less coverage for them. AARP is adamantly opposed to
the Age Tax, which would allow insurance companies to charge older Americans
five times more for coverage than everyone else while reducing tax credits that
help make insurance more affordable. AARP is also deeply concerned that
the Senate bill cuts Medicaid funding that would strip health coverage from
millions of low-income and vulnerable Americans who depend on the coverage,
including 17 million poor seniors and children and adults with disabilities.
The proposed Medicaid cuts would leave millions, including our most
vulnerable seniors, at risk of losing the care they need and erode seniors’
ability to live in their homes and communities.”
Medicaid currently serves an estimated 75 million
Americans, including seniors, children, the disabled, and the poor. A
study by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Commonwealth Fund revealed that
the federal government provided about $2 billion - or 59% - of the funding for
people covered by Medicaid in Rhode Island in Fiscal Year 2016. Currently
in Rhode Island, 60% of nursing home residents and 50% of people with
disabilities rely on Medicaid and are now at risk of losing needed coverage.
The Commonwealth Fund also found that 7,000
jobs in Medicaid-related industries such as nursing homes, residential care,
and home care could be lost in Rhode Island by 2026 under the bill.