WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), spoke on the Senate floor to hold Republicans accountable on TrumpCare and highlight the damaging impact it will have in New Mexico, especially for rural communities.
Below are Senator Heinrich's remarks as prepared for delivery:
Last month, President Trump and Republicans in the House rushed through a disastrous health care bill that would leave average New Mexico families paying thousands of dollars more for less health coverage, destroy the Medicaid program as it currently exists, and throw our entire health care system into chaos.
And now, Senate Republicans are drafting their version of a similar health care bill in complete secret, behind closed doors, with absolutely no bipartisan input.
This lack of transparency is unacceptable and deeply irresponsible, especially when every single American family’s health coverage is at stake if this bill ever becomes law.
While we don’t know for sure what the Senate Republican version of TrumpCare will look like, media reports say that it is shaping up to look more and more like the trainwreck of a bill that President Trump and House Republicans celebrated in the White House Rose Garden a couple months ago.
A bill that President Trump reportedly said in another closed door meeting with Republican senators last week is in his words: “mean” and “cold-hearted.”
The House-passed TrumpCare bill is devastating to low income families, to seniors, and to Americans living with pre-existing conditions.
This isn’t so much a health care bill as it is a tax cut for the ultra-rich masquerading as health reform.
You don’t have to take my word for it.
You can look at how the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office described its projected impacts of the House-passed TrumpCare bill.
According to the CBO’s analysis, TrumpCare would strip 14 million of their health insurance next year and 23 million by 2026, all to give tax breaks to the very wealthiest Americans.
That’s reckless and inexcusable by any measure.
How would this bill do that?
The House-passed bill, which, again, seems to be the baseline for the ongoing secret negotiations here in the Senate, would slash funding for the Medicaid program by hundreds of billions of dollars and end the need-based tax credits for individual health care market plans under the Affordable Care Act.
I have heard from so many New Mexicans who have told me how access to health care coverage has helped their families and in some cases even saved their lives.
I recently met with patients at the Ben Archer Health Center, a rural health clinic in Hatch, New Mexico, and heard firsthand how important Medicaid coverage has been for families in southern New Mexico.
One of the New Mexicans I met there was Anna Marie, a Las Cruces native who worked for the Las Cruces Public Food Service for 22 years.
Anna Marie's husband passed away in 2008, and when she found herself unable to keep working following a minor stroke, she could not afford health coverage on her own.
When she reached out to my office last year, she had bronchitis and walking pneumonia.
My staff helped her enroll in Medicaid, and now she is able to access the care she needs.
I want to take a moment to explain why the Medicaid program is so critical in my home state of New Mexico.
As a Medicaid expansion state, New Mexico has seen dramatic gains over the last five years in coverage for the folks that need it most.
Stories like Anna Marie's illustrate just how important Medicaid can be for hardworking people in New Mexico.
Medicaid currently provides affordable health coverage to over 900,000 New Mexicans, including many school children, seniors in nursing homes, people with disabilities, and people who need treatment for mental health and addiction.
Just one example of the wide-ranging consequences of the Republican health plan’s drastic cuts to Medicaid funding would be the end to any progress we have made so far in fighting the opioid and heroin epidemic.
The opioid addiction epidemic has been deeply felt in communities across New Mexico.
For years without adequate treatment resources, our state has suffered through some of the highest rates of opioid and heroin addiction in the nation.
However, when provided with an opportunity to receive comprehensive treatment and rehabilitation, people who have suffered through the trials of opioid addiction can turn their lives around.
Evidence-based treatment works, but it is only possible when we devote real resources to pay for it.
And so much of that comes through the Medicaid program.
As you can see on this chart, Medicaid pays for 30 percent of opioid medication-assisted treatment in New Mexico.
And in states like West Virginia, Ohio, and Kentucky, Medicaid pays for nearly half of opioid treatment payments.
This came up just last Friday when the White House hosted its first meeting for President Trump’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis.
The President’s top advisers probably didn’t hear what they would’ve liked to from the advocates who have been on the frontlines of fighting the growing opioid crisis.
Dr. Joe Parks, the medical director for the National Council for Behavioral Health told the Commission:
“Medicaid is the largest national payer for addiction and mental health treatment. Since the majority of increased opiate deaths and suicide occur in young and middle-aged adults, which is the Medicaid expansion population, the Medicaid expansions must be maintained and completed.”
It is nothing short of hypocrisy for the Trump White House to claim it is taking steps to address the opioid epidemic when it is helping Republicans in Congress push through legislation that would end the Medicaid program as we know it.
Slashing hundreds of billions of dollars in federal funding from the Medicaid program, will ultimately pass all of those costs on to states.
In New Mexico, it’s estimated that our state government would have to either come up with a way to raise 11 billion dollars of new taxes over the next 10 years or cut the equivalent amount of coverage for the hundreds of thousands of New Mexicans who rely on the program.
This would have an especially hard impact on our state’s rural communities.
When you small towns in New Mexico like Clayton, Raton, and Santa Rosa, as I did last fall during a rural health care listening tour, you see right away the vital role that hospitals play in rural communities.
In most cases, these hospitals are the only health care providers for many miles in any direction.
And hospitals are often the major employer in small towns.
Rural health providers face enormous challenges because it is financially difficult to provide care to populations that live over vast spaces and are on average older, less affluent, and more prone to chronic diseases than those in urban communities.
Medicaid expansion and the need-based tax credits for individual health care market plans in the Affordable Care Act have been critical financial lifelines for rural health providers.
Thanks to the coverage gains we have seen in New Mexico, instead of seeing uninsured patients coming to the emergency room during expensive medical emergencies, our rural health providers are able to help New Mexicans live healthier lives with a primary care and preventative medicine approach.
And when medical emergencies do arise, New Mexicans have coverage that helps rural health providers cover their expenses.
If President Trump and Republicans in Congress pass this health care bill, that all goes away.
And some of our rural health providers may very well have to close up shop.
Right now, more than one-third of rural hospitals are already at risk of closure.
But if you look at where the hospitals that have been forced to shut down in recent years are located, they are almost all in states that chose not to expand Medicaid.
We should learn from that.
I know for a fact that if hospitals shut down, health care delivery in rural New Mexico would be destroyed.
And the economic impact would be severe.
It is estimated that when a single hospital closes in a rural community, nearly 100 jobs are lost, taking more than 5 million dollars out of the local economy.
A recent report by the Economic Policy Institute estimates that if Congress passes TrumpCare into law, New Mexico alone would see a loss of almost 50,000 jobs by the year 2022.
Thanks in large part to the major coverage gains we’ve seen under the Affordable Care Act, the health care sector has been New Mexico’s strongest area of job growth for the last five years.
New Mexico added over 4,000 health care jobs in 2015 alone.
A couple months ago, I met with students at Central New Mexico Community College in Albuquerque who are training for health care jobs.
These bright young people want to make careers out of making their communities healthier and safer.
But with this dangerous legislation moving through Washington, they were all worried about what it might mean for their future career plans.
Why would we want to rip the rug out from under them by wreaking havoc on our nation’s health care system?
Again, you really have to ask yourself why Republicans are so intent on rushing through such a massive piece of legislation before we can understand its potential harmful consequences.
As I said earlier, I have heard from literally thousands of New Mexicans who have called in or written to me to oppose this legislation.
Many of them have told me how it will directly hurt their families.
I could pick any one of these stories to demonstrate what is at stake in this debate, but I’ll leave you with this one.
Brittany from Aztec, New Mexico wrote to me about her two young children who are diagnosed with a rare form of food allergies that created unaffordable costs through her husband’s employer-provided health plan.
Brittany said that she and her husband were averaging three doctor’s visits a week and were “barely keeping [their] heads above water just from paying co-pays.”
After applying for Medicaid, she and her husband now have full coverage for her children’s medical costs.
Brittany wrote to me:
“For us Medicaid is literally lifesaving. Please do not take away this program or any of the ACA! It may not be perfect and could use some work, but taking it away altogether would be catastrophic for so many people like my family.”
I urge President Trump and my Republican colleagues here in the Senate to listen to Brittany’s urgent message.
It’s time to turn the page on the disastrous policy path that is “Repeal and Replace” so we can finally get to work on actually fixing those things in the current health care system that need work.
Our common goal—regardless of whether we are Republicans or Democrats— that we should all be working toward is making quality health care more accessible and more affordable for all Americans.
I would welcome a good faith effort to tackle that challenge.
Because health care policy shouldn’t be a political game.
It should be about giving piece of mind to the millions of Americans like Anna Marie in Las Cruces and Brittany in Aztec who are only one diagnosis away from a crisis if we don’t get this right.