On Senate Floor, Warner Highlights Virginians who Could be Affected by Trump Admin. Rule Undermining Health Care
Oct 23 2019
WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) took to the Senate floor today to highlight a number of Virginians with preexisting conditions who will be affected if the Senate neglects to overturn a Trump Administration waiver rule that destabilizes our health insurance market, weakens protections for Americans with preexisting conditions, and increases costs for millions Americans with quality health plans.
Today’s floor speech comes in advance of a move by Sen. Warner, who will use a legislative maneuver to force an up-or-down vote in the Senate next week, putting every Senator on the record as to whether they stand with Americans with preexisting conditions, or with the Trump Administration in its effort to undermine our nation’s health care system.
“For the last three years, this President has used every tool at his disposal to try to undermine the ACA. He tried to repeal it twice through Congress. When that failed, the Administration joined a lawsuit that would strike down the ACA with no plan to replace it. The truth is, this Administration is unfortunately actively working to destabilize the insurance market,” Sen. Warner said on the Senate floor. “One way the Administration is attempting to undermine the ACA is with these so-called “short-term” plans. Thanks to this administration, these “junk” plans allow insurance companies to once again discriminate against Americans with preexisting conditions. Make no mistake: these plans are a threat to the stability of the insurance market and to every American with a preexisting condition.”
“Madam President, I fear some members of this body have forgotten what it was like before the Affordable Care Act when an unexpected surgery or a diagnosis of a chronic illness could mean a one-way ticket out of the middle class. Unfortunately, this is not a hypothetical. Recently one of my constituents, a man named Jesse, received a $230,000 medical bill for his back surgery. Unbeknownst to him he had purchased a plan that he thought would cover this, but this plan was unfortunately a junk plan that considered his back injury as a preexisting condition,” he continued. “Jesse is one of the more than 3 million Virginians with a preexisting medical condition. I’ve got 3 daughters. Two of my three daughters have preexisting medical conditions that would not be covered under these junk plans. And today I want to share some of those stories to remind my colleagues of what real people will face if we allow this Administration to continue dismantling these protections that folks count on.”
In his floor speech, Sen. Warner shared several stories from Linda in Warren County; Mindy in Henrico; Sharon in Norfolk; Justine in Loudoun County; Katherine in Blacksburg; Michael in Abingdon; James in Danville; and Lynn in Lynchburg.
In July, Sen. Warner led the entire Democratic caucus in introducing the Protect Pre Existing Conditions Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution, which, if approved, would roll back a Trump Administration waiver rule that undermines our nation’s health care law and threatens protections for Americans with preexisting conditions. Last month, Sen. Warner successfully filed a discharge petition to bring the CRA resolution to the floor for a vote.
The Trump Administration’s waiver rule currently gives states the green light to use taxpayer dollars to push “junk plans” – bare-bones plans that don’t meet federal consumer protections and therefore raise premiums for quality insurance plans, increasing costs for older Americans and people with preexisting conditions who need comprehensive coverage. Additionally, under these junk plans, insurance companies can charge people more if they have a preexisting condition, or refuse to cover specific benefits or deny them coverage altogether.
Congressional Review Act resolutions exercise Congress’ authority to review and overturn rules implemented by the executive branch. Unlike other legislation on the Senate floor, a Congressional Review Act resolution only needs a simple majority to pass and can be brought to the Senate floor for a vote with 30 signatures.
Sen. Warner’s remarks as prepared for delivery can be found below:
Madam President, I’m here today because protections for Americans with preexisting medical conditions are under attack from this administration.
For the last three years, this President has used every tool at his disposal to try to undermine the ACA. He tried to repeal it twice through Congress. When that failed, the administration joined a lawsuit that would strike down the ACA — with no plan to replace it.
The truth is, this administration is actively working to destabilize the insurance market.
One way the administration is attempting to undermine the ACA is with these so-called “short-term” plans. Thanks to this administration, these “junk” plans allow insurance companies to once again discriminate against Americans with preexisting conditions.
Make no mistake: these plans are a threat to the stability of the insurance market and to every American with a preexisting condition.
That’s why I’ve introduced a resolution that will force an up-or-down vote on the administration’s rule that pushes more of these junk plans on unsuspecting consumers and significantly increases costs for other Americans.
Madam President, I fear some members of this body have forgotten what it was like before the Affordable Care Act when an unexpected surgery or a diagnosis of a chronic illness could mean a one-way ticket out of the middle class.
Unfortunately, this is not a hypothetical. Recently one of my constituents a man named Jesse received a $230,000 medical bill for his back surgery. Unbeknownst to him he had purchased a junk plan that considered his back injury as a preexisting condition.
Jesse is one of the more than 3 million Virginians with a preexisting medical condition.
And today I want to share some of their stories…to remind my colleagues of what real people will face… if we allow this administration to continue dismantling these protections that folks count on.
Recently I got an email from Linda in Warren County, VA. She is a cancer survivor with multiple preexisting conditions. She wrote:
“Due to the housing fallout in 2008, we lost our health coverage and I could no longer get health coverage because of my cancer diagnosis.”
Mindy from Henrico is also a cancer survivor. She writes:
“Even though my cancer is in partial remission, I remain on treatment for fear of the cancer returning again. As I prepare for retirement, it scares me to think that this cancer would be considered a preexisting condition and I could be denied health care or would be required to pay through the nose for insurance.”
Sharon in Norfolk told me about her struggle with behavioral health issues. She writes:
I am a functioning member of society, however that will not last long if I lose this access to medical help. I went off my medications in 2000 as I couldn't afford a doctor and medication and it was a very thin line between me and homelessness.
Justine from Loudoun County is worried she could lose coverage for her diabetes. Here’s her message for the members of this body:
What if you or a loved one was diagnosed with a “preexisting condition?” How would you feel being denied health coverage?
It’s a good question that we should all ask ourselves, Madam President. As a father, I’ve dealt with the scary reality of having a child with juvenile diabetes and a child with asthma. But I’m also an extraordinarily lucky individual. I knew that because of insurance and because I had the resources, they would be taken care of.
Katherine in Blacksburg, VA told me about her daughter who was diagnosed at age three with juvenile diabetes. She writes:
“Until there is a cure for diabetes, I cannot imagine how costly it will be for her to stay alive and manage her health if there are limitations on coverage for people with preexisting conditions.”
Madam President, Katherine’s daughter deserves access to care just as much as mine does.
I got a letter from a pharmacist in Abingdon named Michael. He treats diabetics every day, and he also knows what it’s like… because he’s lived with the disease for 38 years. He writes:
“Without insulin we will die…If coverage for preexisting conditions goes away, you will see a large decline in the health of type 1 diabetics, and more dependence upon Medicaid.”
I have far too many of these stories to share them all today.
James from Danville told me about his 10 separate preexisting conditions.
Lynn from Lynchburg is on three separate medications due to a brain tumor. She could die if her insurance didn’t cover them.
The list goes on.
In closing, Madam President, when we talk about preexisting conditions, we are talking about people’s lives.
That’s why we must pass the resolution I’ve introduced to reverse the Administration’s harmful rule changes…and defend protections for folks with preexisting conditions.
Next week, we will all have the opportunity to go on the record with an up-or-down vote to defend these protections and restore these critical guardrails.
My colleagues across the aisle insist that they actually support protections for folks with preexisting conditions – well this will be their chance to prove it.
Thank you, Madam President.