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Ranking Member Yarmuth’s Opening Statement for Today’s Budget Committee Hearing on the Affordable Care Act

Jan 24, 2017

Washington, DCToday, Kentucky Congressman John Yarmuth, Ranking Member of the House Budget Committee, delivered opening remarks at a hearing on the Affordable Care Act. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery: 
Thank you Chairman Black. I want to join the Chairman in welcoming all of our witnesses this morning. My Democratic colleagues and I are confused why the Majority did not hold this hearing before rushing through a budget to repeal the Affordable Care Act and defund Planned Parenthood; however, we will use it as an opportunity to set the record straight about a number of things.  

The American people have made it clear they do not support repealing the Affordable Care Act. They, rightly, fear losing access to quality and affordable health care and know the consequences would be disastrous. Over the weekend, millions of people across the nation rallied against the dangerous policies of the new Administration—including threats to our health care. I know every one of my Democratic colleagues has heard from people whose lives have been transformed or saved because of the ACA, and there are hundreds of thousands of constituents in every Congressional District across the country who have benefited from the law. 

Let me tell you about one of them -- Steve Riggert, a constituent who recently wrote to me. Steve’s daughter, Anna, was diagnosed with chronic pancreatitis at the age of 12 and has been hospitalized more than two dozen times over the past ten years for a variety of reasons. From the beginning, Steve knew that Anna’s serious medical problems would make getting health insurance difficult. When the ACA passed, he was immensely relieved that she could always get coverage even though she had a pre-existing condition. 

But the Republican plan to repeal the ACA has now left Steve feeling – and these are his words – “helpless”, “petrified”, and “literally losing sleep.” At age 64 and recently diagnosed with pancreatic cancer himself, he fears that he won’t be able to help his daughter. To quote his letter, “Repeal of all aspects of the Affordable Care Act would place everything I have worked for and those I care about in jeopardy.” 

Steve is one of many. There are a lot more. In fact, the Congressional Budget Office estimates repealing the major coverage provisions will cause 32 million people to lose health insurance. In the individual market, eventually three-quarters of the U.S. population will have no access to an insurer, and premiums will double. But that is just the beginning. Under a full repeal of the law, insurance companies will once again be able to deny coverage based on pre-existing medical conditions. People with job-based insurance will face annual and lifetime limits on coverage and co-pays for preventive services, and seniors in Medicare will pay more for prescription drugs. 

Hospitals caution that repeal will increase uncompensated care costs, likely leading to service cuts, layoffs, or higher prices for everyone. Outside experts say repeal will result in three million lost jobs in 2019 alone. Republican Governors are pleading with the Republican Congressional leadership not to go through with this repeal. Despite these warnings and despite the grave consequences, here we are. 

I expect my Republican colleagues today will wave around bills and claim they have a plan to replace the ACA. They do not. The reality is that in nearly seven years, Republicans have yet to introduce a single bill that has the support of the majority of their conference or comes close to matching the ACA’s record of success.

We will hear a lot of ideas today from my colleagues on the other side of the aisle. And I would wager that at the end of the day these ideas will also fail to garner the majority of their conference or come close to a plan that matches the ACA’s record of success. I will keep an open mind, I will ask questions and I look forward to hearing more from our witnesses. I yield back the remainder of my time.