WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) delivered a speech on the Senate floor calling on Republicans in Congress and President-elect Donald Trump to halt their repeal of the Affordable Care Act without a replacement plan to ensure Americans retain access to health coverage.
"It's absolutely criminal for Republicans to strip millions of their health care without even a conceptual replacement plan in place," said Sen. Heinrich. "To my colleagues on the other side of the aisle, I want to make it very clear that 'We'll fix it later' simply doesn't cut it. No American sent their elected representative to Washington to score political points and threaten the health and finances of hardworking Americans-and Republicans need to realize that's exactly what they're doing."
Senator Heinrich told the story of Karen Jones, a registered nurse and breast cancer survivor from Santa Fe. When she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2002, Karen's insurance company dropped her coverage. When she had to pay out of pocket for her coverage, her costs doubled. As she went through several more recurrences of cancer, Karen went bankrupt and lost her house. Now, she is able to afford health care coverage even with her pre-existing condition.Below are Senator
Senator Heinrich's remarks as prepared for delivery:
I'm joining my colleagues this evening on the Senate floor to stand up for hundreds of thousands of my constituents in New Mexico, who will lose their health care coverage if Republicans repeal the Affordable Care Act and throw our nation's health care system into chaos.
It's absolutely criminal for Republicans to strip millions of their health care without even a conceptual replacement plan in place.
To my colleagues on the other side of the aisle, I want to make it very clear that "We'll fix it later" simply doesn't cut it.
They promised "Repeal and Replace."
Now they are giving us "Repeal and Run."
And that will cause chaos in our health care system.
In my home state of New Mexico, according to the Urban Institute, an estimated 266,000 people will lose their health care coverage.
This is not a change to their plan, or a different premium - they will lose their coverage in its entirety.
Thousands more of our state's two million residents will lose access to birth control and other preventive services, and Medicare prescription drug coverage.
Nearly everyone will be subjected to higher costs for lower quality insurance, especially those with pre-existing conditions.
Dismantling our health care system would also put at risk many of the gains that we've made in protecting the 860,000 New Mexicans-who have preexisting conditions, like cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.
These individuals will be forced to pay more for their health coverage and possibly lose access altogether.
This is not a game.
This is a matter of life and death.
Without any plan in place, this "Repeal and Run" maneuver will cause health care costs for all Americans to skyrocket.
Dismantling our health care system literally means taking hundreds of dollars each month away from hard working families.
In my book, that is highway robbery.
How? It is simple. This reckless Republican "Repeal and Run" will strip away the tax credits that help many working Americans afford their premiums.
More than 32,000 New Mexicans rely on these tax credits, which average around $205 per month-well over half of their monthly premium for health coverage.
Many of the sickest, oldest, and poorest of our neighbors and family members will lose their health care coverage altogether.
And over 20,000 New Mexico seniors will be forced to pay $1,000 more per year for their prescription drugs.
Fixed income seniors cannot afford to pay more for prescriptions drugs, period.
Dismantling our health care system is particularly problematic in our nation's rural areas, including much of New Mexico.
Last fall I went on a multi-day rural health care listening tour across communities throughout northeastern New Mexico.
Rural hospitals like those in Raton, Clayton, and Santa Rosa are often the only health care providers for hundreds of miles in any direction.
Under the ACA, rural hospitals agreed to exchange higher rates of insurance coverage for their patients for a reduction in reimbursement rates.
In other words, they aren't being paid as much per patient as they once were, but the number of patients who come in without any insurance is dramatically lower.
Now Republicans are going to take away coverage from a quarter million New Mexicans, but they aren't going to give rural hospitals their higher reimbursement rates back.
This "Repeal and Run" maneuver would cause many rural hospitals that are already operating on the margins or at a loss to shut their doors or turn away sick patients.
Nationwide, nearly 700 local hospitals in rural communities face the risk of imminent closure.
Think about that.
That is nearly one-third of the nation's hospitals.
Almost all of them would be forced to turn away patients if the Republicans move forward in dismantling our nation's health care system.
In New Mexico, that would mean forcing many of my constituents to drive for hours to access critical, lifesaving care.
It would also shake our state's economy to its core.
Health care jobs were one of the only bright economic spots in New Mexico over the past few years, particularly in rural communities.
But this reckless plan-or lack of one to be accurate-will throw our nation's health care system into chaos and scar New Mexico's rural communities for years to come.
A community whose hospital shuts down may never recover.
This is what is at stake.
Denying a family health care-denying whole communities health care-is reckless and immoral.
Now you might hear Republicans say they want to tear everything apart now, but that we shouldn't worry because they'll fix it later.
Let me be clear, we have the capacity to fix and improve our current health care system in a bipartisan way - without throwing it all into chaos. But Republicans have to make that choice before it's too late.
I would welcome honest attempts to find ways to improve our nation's health care laws and make them work better for all Americans.
In the past, I have taken the lead on commonsense fixes to our nation's health care policies.
In 2010, I led the fight in the House of Representatives to extend coverage to children in military families covered by TRICARE until they are 26 years old, just like the ACA affords civilian families.
After hearing from many small businesses in New Mexico, I also helped lead efforts to repeal unnecessary 1099 tax-reporting requirements for small businesses.
And I continue to work with Republicans like Senator Dean Heller of Nevada to eliminate the so-called "Cadillac Tax" that would place an unfair tax burden on employer-provided health insurance that many working families rely on.
Republicans need to put partisan politics aside, and remember why Congress passed the ACA in the first place - to expand access to quality health care for all Americans.
Before we passed health care reform, New Mexico had the second-highest rate of uninsured citizens in the country.
I have heard from many New Mexicans who have told me how access to health care coverage has impacted their families and even saved their lives.
I would like to tell you the story of one of those New Mexicans.
Karen from Santa Fe is a registered nurse and a breast cancer survivor. As a nurse, Karen has seen how health care reform and the reduction of uninsured and uncompensated care has helped community hospitals better serve their patients.
But the real impact of health care reform for Karen has been personal.
When she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2002, Karen's insurance company dropped her coverage.
When she had to pay out of pocket for her coverage, her costs doubled.
As she went through several more recurrences of cancer, Karen went bankrupt and lost her house.
In a letter to me, she said: "Cancer is hard enough, but not to be able to afford my co-pays and appointments caused me so much stress it made me more vulnerable for complications."
Now, Karen is able to afford health care coverage even with her pre-existing condition.
But Republicans are threatening to take that all away from Karen and from hundreds of millions of other Americans.
Karen went on to say in her letter: "No one should go without health care because of income. Good health is not a privilege for the wealthy few, but a human right."
I couldn't say it any better.
No American sent their elected representative to Washington to score political points and threaten the health and finances of hardworking Americans-and Republicans need to realize that's exactly what they're doing.
What they're doing means chaos and less health care for everyone. It is that simple.
I wish we could be here today talking about pragmatic policy solutions to reduce health care costs and improve how providers deliver care.
Instead, unfortunately, we are here trying to stop Republicans from turning bumper sticker demagoguery into a very real disaster for thousands of my constituents and millions of Americans.
This reckless effort threatens the very lives and livelihoods of the people of New Mexico.
I won't stand for that, and I know New Mexicans won't either.