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Neal Opening Statement at Hearing on Pathways to Universal Healthcare

June 12, 2019
Press Release

(As prepared for delivery)

 

Good morning and thank you to our witnesses and guests for joining us for today’s hearing on “Pathways to Universal Health Coverage.”

 

Almost a decade ago, the Affordable Care Act was signed into law. It provided an opportunity for more Americans – including those with preexisting conditions – to access affordable, high-quality health care. Developing the ACA was not an easy task. The drafting process spanned nearly a year and included hours of hearings, markups, and testimony. I was proud to be part of that process.

 

While the ACA has helped millions gain coverage, there’s more work to be done. Our nation continues to have some of the best health care in the world – but unfortunately, many families still remain concerned about their ability to access and afford that care. Today’s hearing is part of our effort to build on the progress we’ve made and explore opportunities to achieve affordable universal coverage. 

 

As we consider our options, I want to emphasize that it is also imperative to protect existing, critical health programs, prevent discrimination against people with preexisting conditions, and block any changes that would steer Americans to junk plans that provide no real coverage when it’s really needed. As this Committee is all too aware, over the past several years, there has been a steady stream of attempts to dismantle our current health care system. What’s more, those wishing to repeal our existing health law have no viable replacement. Instead, they offer half-baked proposals that won’t bring down costs or expand coverage.

 

This hearing is about exploring ideas that put patients first. My colleagues have introduced a number of bills that aim to improve affordability and get even more Americans covered. Today is an opportunity to learn more about those proposals, understand their tradeoffs, and examine how they would affect vulnerable populations.

 

We will hear about a range of ideas today: Ways to strengthen existing law, the addition of a lower-cost public option, Medicare/Medicaid buy-in, Medicare for America, and Medicare for All. All of these proposals would help American families see lower health care costs and increase the number of Americans with insurance coverage.

 

I want to recognize Congresswoman Jayapal – who is here with us today – for her unwavering commitment to Medicare for All, as well as Mr. Higgins and Mr. Larson for their unrelenting efforts on the Medicare buy-in. I also want to recognize Mr. Lujan for his work on the Medicaid buy-in and similarly acknowledge Mr. Richmond, Mr. Delgado, and Ms. Schakowsky for their public option proposals, and Ms. DeLauro and Ms. Schakowsky for their Medicare for America policy.

 

Many of our colleagues have also helped to strengthen and protect the ACA.  This includes – Mr. Pallone, Mr. Scott, Ms. Kuster, Ms. Castor, Mr. Kim, Ms. Craig, Ms. Underwood, and Ms. Wild.

For decades, Democrats have fought to improve Americans’ health care. We are continuing that fight for the people now. Yes, members of our party have put forward different policy ideas. But what unites us as Democrats is our shared, core belief that all Americans should have health care coverage and receive care that isn’t a financial burden.

 

As we discuss these proposals, I encourage my colleagues to think about how the approaches not only affect individual patients, but also communities as a whole. Many of us have hospitals in our districts that are among the largest employers in our state or region. In particular, I think about how universal coverage could affect rural communities in states that may not have expanded Medicaid.

 

Ultimately, we want to lower health care costs and see more people access and enroll in programs that provide quality health care. But this is a complicated undertaking. Whatever path we take, it is critical to address important aspects like coverage, benefits, public insurance, and administration. In addition, patient costs, provider payments, public financing and other items like health information technology, patient data, and enrollment processes must also be considered.

 

The importance of this topic to millions of Americans is underscored by today’s overflowing hearing room.  Members of many organizations have travelled long distances to show their support for a variety of proposals. Welcome, and thank you for joining us to hear more about potential paths we can pursue to help Americans access health care when they need it, at a price they can afford, and at a quality level they can count on.

 

This is the beginning of a process. Health care policy requires a thoughtful and detailed approach. Our witnesses today can help provide insight into universal health care policy proposals. I look forward to an open discussion about how we can expand access to health care, ensure affordability of coverage, and improve the quality of life for all Americans.

 

With that I will recognize the Ranking Member, Mr. Brady, for an opening statement.  

 

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