United States Senate
For Immediate Release
March 23, 2017
Kerry Arndt (Murray)
Bryan Watt (Cantwell)
Murray, Cantwell Deliver Warning to Speaker Ryan, House Republicans: We're Not Going to Help You Erode Health Care Coverage
Senators: “Our caucus will not support any efforts that jeopardize the consumer protections our constituents rely upon when they purchase insurance”
WASHINGTON, DC – As the House of Representatives prepares to vote on legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), U.S. Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA) joined 40 of their Senate colleagues in sending a letter today to House Speaker Paul Ryan warning that he will not have their support for legislation to eliminate essential health benefits and consumer protections as outlined in the Speaker’s “three phase” plan of repealing the ACA.
“We are writing today to inform you that our caucus will not support any efforts that jeopardize the consumer protections our constituents rely upon when they purchase insurance,” the Senators wrote. “Before you move forward with floor consideration of the AHCA, we urge you to choose another path.”
Speaker Ryan and President Trump have assured certain Republican House members that legislation will be passed, either in the current bill or at a later date, to eliminate essential health benefit requirements for insurance coverage, including maternity care, emergency services, prescription drugs, substance misuse and mental health treatment, as well as undermine other critical consumer protections.
“We will oppose any efforts to lessen our constituent’s access to basic preventative and primary care… Undermining the value of insurance and requiring that insurance plans cover rudimentary health care services is simply shifting more costs onto patients and taxpayers,” the letter continues. “We have always supported sensible improvements to the ACA and believe in working together to improve our health care system for the good of the patients it serves. Instead of supporting a fatally-flawed, incomplete, partisan bill, we hope you will take us up on our sincere offer to improve health care for all Americans.”
The letter clearly demonstrates that there are enough votes to sustain a point of order on repealing essential health benefits if this provision is included in the House reconciliation bill, or to block a vote if this provision considered as separate legislation.
In addition to Murray and Cantwell, senators who signed the letter are: Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Thomas Carper (D-DE), Robert Casey (D-PA), Chris Coons (D-DE), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Al Franken (D-MN), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Angus King (I-ME), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Edward Markey (D-MA), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Gary Peters (D-MI), Jack Reed (D-RI), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Tom Udall (D-NM), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Mark Warner (D-VA),Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Ron Wyden (D-OR).
The senators’ letter can be read in full below:
March 22, 2017
The Honorable Paul Ryan
U.S. House of Representatives
Dear Speaker Ryan,
As a vote nears in the House of Representatives to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), you have repeatedly stated that consideration of the American Health Care Act (AHCA) is only the first phase in your plan to replace the landmark law that has resulted in the lowest uninsured rate in our country’s history. More specifically, you have promised consideration of several legislative proposals you falsely argue will help alleviate the devastating impact of the AHCA.
As we understand your plan, you will seek to enact these proposals after Congress uses expedited procedures to consider the AHCA, a bill the Congressional Budget Office estimated would cause 24 million Americans to lose their insurance coverage. Given your plans to pass subsequent legislation through regular order in Congress, we want to correct any misimpression you may have that we will support proposals you have cited as key to your effort. Simply put, these subsequent bills will worsen the damage the AHCA will cause.
Any assurances to your colleagues that future legislation to further scale back insurance coverage will pass through regular order if the AHCA is enacted are based on the flawed assumption that the Senate Democratic Caucus will vote to further erode the health care system and strip our constituents of coverage. We are writing today to inform you that our caucus will not support any efforts that jeopardize the consumer protections our constituents rely upon when they purchase insurance.
For example, we will oppose efforts to eliminate the ACA’s essential health benefits that ensure insurance companies cover maternity care, emergency services, substance misuse and mental health treatment, prescription drugs, pediatric dental and vision care and other vital services. We will also oppose any efforts to lessen our constituents’ access to basic preventative and primary care. Americans reasonably expect that the premiums they pay cover such basic needs, but before the ACA, consumers were often surprised to find their insurance did not. Undermining the value of insurance and requiring that insurance plans cover rudimentary health care services is simply shifting more costs onto patients and taxpayers. Eliminating the ACA's essential health benefits would merely force the same Americans to pay more out of pocket rather than actually reducing their costs and should not be the “solution” to the premium increases the ACHA will create.
Before you move forward with floor consideration of the AHCA, we urge you to choose another path. For many years, we have acknowledged that despite its successes, the Affordable Care Act is not perfect and it needs improvement. We have always supported sensible improvements to the ACA and believe in working together to improve our health care system for the good of the patients it serves.
Instead of supporting a fatally-flawed, incomplete, partisan bill, we hope you will take us up on our sincere offer to improve health care for all Americans.