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Guthrie: There are More Urgent Priorities than Propping up Obamacare


03.23.21

Washington, D.C. — House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee Republican Leader Brett Guthrie delivered opening remarks at Tuesday’s hearing about why the Majority’s bills will fail to lower the cost of health care.

Excerpts and highlights from his remarks:

NEED TO FOCUS ON MORE PRESSING MATTERS

“I think we have more pressing items in this committee’s jurisdiction that should take priority over finding more ways to prop up the Affordable Care Act.

“We have a crisis at the border, where the HHS office in charge of taking care of unaccompanied children is being overwhelmed. Some reports indicate there are over 15,000 children in their control while there are only just over 13,000 licensed beds for them.

“We should also be looking at the impact of COVID-19 on mental health and substance use disorders, including programs this committee worked on to pass in CARA, 21st Century Cures, and the SUPPORT Act.

“We also need to be examining how to lower health care costs. This hearing title discusses ‘lowering costs,’ but I’m not sure the bills today do so, but rather these bills just continue subsidizing expensive insurance.”

THE AFFORDABLE CARE ACT STILL ISN’T WORKING

“The Majority called us here to look at ways to shore up the Affordable Care Act, which became law eleven years ago and it’s still not working.

“The ACA has increased premiums dramatically and many insurers stopped offering coverage. In my home state, Kentucky was found to have the sixth-largest rate increase in annual health insurance premiums at 27 percent over a six-year period. This is not sustainable for workers and families.

“Democrats have chosen to address it by pumping more money into the ACA and limiting state flexibility, instead of addressing the real problem: the high cost of health care.

“Even the generous subsidies that Congress just passed this month are apparently not enough to make these insurance plans attractive, as we are back again to discuss more spending.

“By my count, on top of the $1.9 trillion Democrats just spent, today we are discussing at least another $45 billion or so, based on scores I could find from last Congress. Compared to $1.9 trillion, $45 billion may sound small, but that is almost the entire annual budget of the National Institutes of Health.

“Before we authorize billions more on top, we first need to see how funding from the $1.9 trillion law, which is now being allocated, is being spent and where are the remaining gaps.”

NEED NEW AND INNOVATIVE IDEAS

“We also need to be looking at innovative ways to lower health care costs. Today we are reviewing recycled language from six bills from two 2019 Energy and Commerce hearings.

“For example, the bill giving grants for state exchanges, doesn’t even update the date from Jan. 1, 2019– so states like New Jersey that have already established an exchange since our last hearing could get funding from this grant.

“Additionally, I am concerned with banning short-term, limited duration plans. CBO has estimated that if the regulations are rolled back on these plans, 500,000 Americans would lose health care coverage. Instead of limiting plans, I think we need to allow states flexibility to best serve their residents

“Of the ten Medicaid bills, I specifically want to mention Money Follows the Person (MFP). This program is valuable for many individuals, and I am a champion of this program.

“Congress just extended MFP in December, which made important changes to the program. It is premature in my opinion to consider a permanent MFP extension before we know the impact of those changes.”

DEMOCRATS SHOULDN’T PURSUE A NATIONAL HEALTH CARE SYSTEM

“I also want to note that while the Democrats have called this hearing to talk about building on the ACA, over 100 Democrats, including Chairman Pallone and 15 other members of Energy and Commerce, introduced legislation that would ban ACA plans and Medicaid coverage and replace it with a one size fits all, government-run health care system for everyone.

“I am concerned that innovation would stop under a fully government-run health insurance program, and according to the Heritage Foundation, decrease the average annual American household disposable income by $5,671 (or 11%).

“Let us not forget, what we were all told about Obamacare – if you like your plan, you can keep it. Well today we have bills before us that would do just the opposite, again, by limiting state flexibility and stopping short-term, limited duration plans, but that would be nothing compared to the over 220 million of Americans that would lose their health insurance under Medicare for All.

“I hope that Democrats will learn about some of the unintended consequences of the partisan legislation before us today and change course to work with us to actually lower health care costs. Americans, not their government should have the right to pick what health insurance and doctor is right for them.”


Subcommittees
Health (117th Congress)
Press Release