Senator Peters: Don’t undermine affordable care

Editor’s note: Below is the full unedited speech U.S. Senator Gary Peters (D- Michigan) delivered on the Senate floor Wednesday, Oct. 10 for a Democratic resolution aimed at undoing President Trump’s administration’s expansion of health care that does not include coverage for preexisting conditions. Because those who would be affected also include the working poor.

Mr. President. The topic of health care affordability should unite us as a common cause. We all need health care. Whether you are young or old, male or female, rich or poor. Not one of us will go through life without experiencing a major health concern. Even if you have a clean bill of health today, we all face the prospects of accidents, illnesses and the inherent, universal health challenges of aging.

The Affordable Care Act is not perfect, but it has moved us toward a shared goal of making health care more affordable, for everyone. Most significantly, the Affordable Care Act prevents insurers from denying coverage or increasing premiums because of preexisting conditions. This critical protection has been wildly popular, and rightly so. If you don’t have a preexisting condition, you probably have a family member who does.

 The Affordable Care Act also requires plans to cover a full set of benefits that enrollees will realistically need over the course of their lives. And overall, it encourages Americans to get and keep their health insurance, so they have the appropriate support when their time of need arises.

I will be the first to recognize there is room for improvement in our health care law. But we need to be working together to fix it, not allowing the Trump administration to continue its relentless push to undermine the affordability of health care. Since the beginning of his administration, President Trump has taken every possible step to weaken consumer protections in health insurance. All while misinforming the public about what real impact will be on their daily lives.

 But Americans are feeling the impact. For too many hardworking families, health insurance and health care are still not affordable. Today, premiums are going up. Health care prices are soaring. And the burden of cost is increasingly shifting to the patient.

We should be focused on ways to strengthen our health system, so it lowers out-of-pocket costs, removes barriers to health care and incentivizes cost-efficiency. But the flawed Trump Administration policy the Senate voted on earlier today is a step in the wrong direction. It is a step toward terrible coverage for consumers who won’t understand what their care plan fails to cover, until they need it.

We are seeing another Trump administration effort to roll back parts of the Affordable Care Act that are working for Americans. President Trump is creating a new loophole for some insurers to ignore the Affordable Care Act’s central patient protections. This is moving us back toward a period when insurance companies could discriminate against Americans based on their conditions like diabetes, cancer, arthritis and even pregnancy. Yes, even pregnancy.

Millions of Michiganders rely on the Affordable Care Act’s safeguards for preexisting condition coverage. Americans should be able to choose their health care, but this administration has it backwards. President Trump wants to give more power to insurers to not only choose who they cover, but also to choose what they cover. The problem with this is that the Affordable Care Act’s ten essential health benefits truly are just that, essential. The list includes things like prescription drugs, hospitalizations, and preventive care.

Before the Affordable Care Act, we saw insurance companies neglect to cover services like maternity care, substance use disorder treatment and mental health care, truly essential benefits. The Trump administration is allowing for risky plans that make insurance companies money while shifting costs to taxpayers and Michiganders who choose insurance that covers essential health benefits. The Trump policy will create a parallel market that only targets relatively healthy, less costly individuals.

That is why I am deeply disappointed by today’s vote and the actions of the administration. The true message President Trump is sending to the public is that he wants you to be misinformed. He wants you to make bad decisions and buy these flawed plans, increasing the profits of insurers. American taxpayers will be left with the bill when patients find out their insurance, and all the money they’ve put into it over the years, does not cover their health care needs.

No matter where you live, how much money you make, or what your health record looks like, no one should be forced to make the impossible choice between seeking medical assistance or paying the bills for other basic necessities. Regardless of what the health condition is or when it arises, all Americans deserve certainty that their decision to go to a doctor will not push them into bankruptcy.

Let’s be clear that any member who voted against this bill cast a vote against coverage protections for preexisting conditions and against affordable health care for Michigan families.

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