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Congressman Richard Neal

Representing the 1st District of Massachusetts

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Neal Opening Statement on HR 849

October 4, 2017
Press Release
Protecting Seniors Access to Medicare Act of 2017

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I want to take a moment to reflect on today’s mark up in the Ways and Means Committee and what is also going on in the Energy and Commerce Committee. In the past, our two committees have worked together in a bipartisan manner on health extenders. For this reason, I am concerned by the partisan nature of the Energy and Commerce Committee markup because it signals a departure from strong bipartisan action.

I’m pleased to see that Chairman Walden and Ranking Member Pallone were able to agree to the Senate’s bipartisan agreement on the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). CHIP is important to all of our members, on both sides of the aisle.

However, there are some issues that cause me concern. First, I do not believe we should be paying for an extenders package by harming Medicare beneficiaries and causing people to lose health insurance. Shortening the grace period for premium payments will cause coverage loss; further coverage loss will come from shifting the full cost of Medicare premiums on to beneficiaries. This breaks the social contract of Medicare. We should not pay for kids’ coverage by kicking other people off of health insurance coverage.

Second, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Americans on these islands have been devastated by Hurricane Maria. They need our help. The amount of money the Energy and Commerce Committee proposes for Medicaid funding, coupled with new conditions on that money, is vastly inadequate. We can and should do better.

Third, delaying the cuts to the Medicaid disproportionate share hospital (DSH) program is unacceptable. I’m glad to see Chairman Walden recognizes this needs to be done, but how they plan to do it is not right. Hospitals should get more than one year of relief, like the other extenders. And it should not be accomplished by making the cuts worse in later years. Again, we can do better.

The last time we did an extenders package, it was a bipartisan deal. And I hope we can get to that point in this year’s package. But harming beneficiaries and short changing hospitals and hurricane-ravaged areas isn’t the way to do it.

Now, turning to the bill at hand, IPAB repeal. As you know, I believe Congress should make the tough decisions, not boards like IPAB. But I have grave concerns about how we are proceeding today.

Today’s mark up is yet another example of misplaced priorities on the part of my Republican colleagues. We as a committee should be looking to address the most pressing of matters, not a provision of law that doesn’t even get triggered for another three years.

While Republicans were able to quickly provide support for states harmed by Irma, aid has been inexcusably slow for the American citizens who were the victims of Maria in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. And then earlier this week the tragedy in Las Vegas. Surely there is some action we can take as a committee to prevent needless gun deaths and mass murders on our own soil.

Also more action is urgently needed to address the opioid crisis. To date, the Ways and Means Committee has not even a held a hearing to identify what we could do within our jurisdiction in any of these areas.

This committee plays a crucial role in important matters that impact our nation. We should be focusing on the things that matter to American families, and I just don’t believe IPAB is it.