U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) took to the Senate floor today to blast the Trump administration’s ongoing efforts to undermine the nation’s existing health care law.
“There’s a lot of work to be done to bring down the cost of health care, to make insurance more affordable and increase coverage for people who still don’t have it,” Nelson said. “But, in the meantime, the Trump administration is doing everything in its power to undermine and undo the existing law that has helped so many so much.”
In what was billed as the second in a series of speeches the Florida Democrat plans to give over the next couple of weeks on various issues he’s worked on in the Senate, Nelson reiterated to his colleagues the importance of continue the fight to ensure that all Americans “have access to critical health services through the Affordable Care Act.”
“The Affordable Care Act has given people health care that they otherwise would never have had,” Nelson said. “Over and over they’ve come to me and said we want to see a bipartisan fix to the ACA, not a repeal.”
In addition to urging his colleagues to focus their efforts on working together in a bipartisan way to fix the nation’s health care law, Nelson called on the American people to stand up to the Trump administration and their efforts to repeal it.
“The administration should better look at their situation and do the opposite of what they have been doing,” Nelson said. “I ask the American people to demand that the Trump administration stop undermining the ACA. We should be working together in a bipartisan way to make the ACA work better, not trying to kill it.”
Following is a rush transcript of Nelson’s full remarks and here’s a link to watch video of his speech.
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson
Remarks on the Senate floor
November 28, 201
Sen. Nelson: This afternoon I want to give a concluding speech on the topic of health care. Mr. President, I want to talk about the importance of ensuring that all Americans and especially my state all Floridians have access to critical health services through the affordable care act.
When the A.C.A. passed, it stated that an insurance company cannot deny health insurance coverage because a person had a preexisting condition. In other words, that means that you cannot be denied health coverage because you have something like asthma or cancer or heart trouble or diabetes or A.L.S. Or in some cases even a rash. Before the affordable care act even being a woman was considered a preexisting condition.
Nearly everyone has a preexisting condition. In Florida alone, almost 8 million people have a preexisting condition. We think of our neighbors, our friends, and family members, and we thought of them when we passed the A.C.A. We worked very hard to give them the health care protections that they needed.
And in these past few years, I’ve talked to folks all over our country, and in Florida I’ve talked to the very folks that we fought so hard to insure — ensure that they have health insurance and health care. Last year, for example, I spoke with a well-known community leader from Hollywood, Florida, Elaine Geller. Her daughter Megan was diagnosed with leukemia at the age of 26. At the time that she was admitted to a hospital, Megan’s bloodcount was 4. She had water on the heart, she had pneumonia. She went through one round of chemo, and it put the cancer in remission. She was initially hospitalized in New York where she had been working as a special Ed teacher but returned to Florida to receive the care at the university of Miami’s comprehensive cancer center. One of the finest cancer centers around the country. And so, as the story goes, Megan’s doctor told Megan and her mom Elaine that she needed a transplant and that required a payment of $150,000 up front. And from January until about the end of April , Megan lived at that comprehensive cancer center at the university, receiving multiple rounds of chemo, biopsies and various other treatments.
You know what her mom said to me? She said, thanks for the affordable care act. She could focus as a mom all of her energy on her daughter. She didn’t have to worry about all the bills that were piling it up and ultimately she didn’t have to write a check for the transplant. And that’s because she had health insurance, despite a preexisting condition. And the affordable care act created a transitional program to cover eligible individuals with preexisting conditions like Megan. After Megan left the Sylvester comprehensive care center, her cancer went into remission, but then the cancer came back. The remission only lasted 63 days. And so they flew to Texas to the M.D. Anderson cancer center. Why travel across the country to get cancer treatments? Because when you’re dying and when a mom is watching her daughter die, there’s nothing that you as a parent would not do. You can’t put a price on your life, on your child’s life.
And it would do us a lot of good if we would remember that. And so, sadly then, Megan had a fall, hit her head, she died at the age of 28, and her total care in that battle with cancer could have cost Elaine, her mom, $5 million, but thanks to the A.C.A., because she had health insurance, Megan’s part of that treatment was $70,000. That not only saved her from going bankrupt, it also gave her more time to spend with her daughter. Anyone that’s lost someone knows that every second counts. We shouldn’t take things for granted. Elaine said her daughter would be proud to know that her story of the affordable care act matters.
It matters to me as their senator, and that’s why I’m telling it on the floor of the senate. And it should matter to every one of these senators here.
Let me give you another person that I met along the trail. I met with one of the most courageous 14-year olds that I’ve ever seen, J.J. Holmes and his family who are from Longwood, Florida. J.J. Has cerebral palsy and requires a wheelchair and constant attention to get around and to be taken care of. He can only communicate with his computer vocalization device. It’s just amazing, since J.J. can’t directly communicate except by the sparkle in his eyes. He uses his left neon a device on the wheelchair to hit it, and it goes to a computer screen, and he can type out the words and the sounds in order to give him an ability to communicate with another ordinary person. J.J. Has a preexisting condition. He has cerebral palsy. And all of the efforts to repeal and undermine the A.C.A. are undermining his access to care and his ability to live. And each attempt to repeal the A.C.A. was another threat to his very life. His mom told me that there was so much of a daily struggle, worry and heartache, that when you have a child who is severely disabled and the A.C.A. finally gave that family the much-needed security, and it lifted a huge burden of how in the world were they going to cope with this medical condition of their child.
I’ll give you another example in Florida. Earlier this year I was joined at a local roundtable on health care by Elizabeth Isso from St. Petersburg. Elizabeth told me that the A.C.A. had saved her life and allowed her to purchase insurance for the very first time. She doesn’t know how she’s going to be able to afford coverage if the lifetime caps of the law are reinstated and if essential health benefits are not provided as the A.C.A. provides.
Elizabeth was a productive member of society. She’s a social worker. And then she developed a sinus tumor. She went without insurance for three years, during which her health was constantly deteriorating, and it was to the point that she thought she was dying. She had vital organ damage and reached complete disability. The mass in her sinus had extended into her skull. And after the A.C.A. Became the law of the land, she purchased insurance through healthcare.gov. She said it’s the best insurance she’s ever had because it covered essential health benefits like the preventive services.
So let’s think about this, just in these three cases I have given. The A.C.A. protects people like Meghan with preexisting condition from being charged more simply because of their diagnosis. It protects people like J.J. From being unable to afford care because they hit annual or lifetime limits on coverage. It protects people like Elizabeth from being denied treatment because insurers are now required to cover essential health services. Services and benefits like hospitalizations and prescription drugs. And these folks are not the only ones that I’ve talked to about how the A.C.A. has changed their life.
The American people, not just Floridians, have been writing to us, have been calling to us, have been showing up in our town halls, have been showing up in our roundtables, approaching me on the street corner, at the airport, at events all over Florida to share how important the A.C.A. is to them. The affordable care act has given people health care that they otherwise would never have had. Over and over they’ve come to me and said we want to see a bipartisan fix, a fix to the A.C.A. Not a repeal. Why can’t you just get together and fix the A.C.A.? How many times have I made that plea on the floor of the senate, and they are right.
There’s a lot of work to be done to bring down the cost of health care, to make insurance more affordable and increase coverage for people who still don’t have it. But in the meantime, the Trump administration is doing everything in its power to undermine and undo the existing law that has helped so many so much. We’ve seen an executive order of President Trump’s stating that the policy of his administration was to seek prompt repeal of the A.C.A.
We’ve seen rules coming out, out of the Trump administration, cutting in half the length of time that people had to enroll in plans on healthcare.gov, eliminated low-income subsidies and cutting outreach and advertising for enrollment by 90%. Why would you make it harder for people to sign up for health insurance? If your intention wasn’t to undermine the affordable care act, which is exactly what the Trump administration’s intention is. We’ve seen the implementation of expanding short-term health plans. These are plans that are less than a year or, as they really are designed, junk plans. And because that’s just what they are. They don’t offer essential health benefits. They offer extremely limited coverage so that people don’t have the coverage and they don’t have the coverage for preexisting conditions. They remove protections for people with those preexisting conditions. They do not cover that list of 10 or 12 things called essential health benefits like maternity care and prescription drug costs.
We’ve seen multiple Republican repeal and replace bills that have come before the house and before this senate. We’ve seen this Trump administration claim that they do care about those with preexisting conditions.
Just last month President Trump tweeted Republicans will protect people with preexisting conditions far better than the Dems. But that’s not what they’re doing. Nor is that what they’ve done.
Well, Mr. President, if that’s the case, then why is your administration supporting the lawsuit, Texas vs. The U.S. Department of health and human services? That very lawsuit that was brought forward by a Republican attorneys general, including Florida’s attorney general, urging a federal court to strike down preexisting conditions and patient protections as unconstitutional, and it would cause a chaos in our health care system? You’re not protecting 133 million Americans with preexisting conditions. No. What you’re doing is eliminating their health care. And that includes 17 million children.
The administration should better look at their situation and do the opposite of what they have been doing. I ask the American people to demand that the Trump administration stop undermining the A.C.A., get to work, this administration, do its job, implement all parts of the existing law, the affordable care act.
We should be looking for ways to help them get through the tough times. We should be working together in a bipartisan way to make the A.C.A. Work better, not trying to kill it.
Mr. President, I yield the floor.