Neal Opening Statement at Markup of Health and Tax Legislation
(As prepared for delivery)
Mr. Chairman, the health and tax related bills we are considering today would not address the health care crisis facing the American Public. In fact, health savings accounts have long been key components of Republican efforts to dismantle the ACA. The provisions we are considering today provide America’s wealthiest another option to stash tax-free money at a cost of $92 billion to tax payers.
Most of the legislation today does very little for the average American. Instead, we should be strengthening and protecting already existing health programs like the ACA, Medicare and Medicaid—not slashing them. Consumers are already struggling to afford health care costs – including the cost of prescription drugs – and these bills do nothing to help them. If you cannot afford your monthly prescription, you’re unlikely to have the money to fund an HSA.
Actions today would not reverse the ongoing sabotage on our nation’s health care system. The list is astounding—proposed cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP. And rolling back consumer protections, zeroing out the individual mandate and cutting off funds for risk adjustment. All this has led to increased premiums, creates more uncertainty, and discriminates against those with pre-existing conditions.
It is disheartening to think of families that have to make terrible health decisions because of recent sabotage efforts. Nearly 44 percent of Americans cannot afford a $400 emergency. How then can Republicans expect them to fund an HSA, or pay for routine, needed care in one of these catastrophic plans. Last week, the Boston Globe reported about a woman who had her leg cut to the bone by a mishap at the train station. But when people came to her aid, she screamed out, “please don’t call an ambulance,” because she could not afford the bill: and she had insurance. One in four cancer patients reports they did not fill a prescription or are taking less medicine than prescribed due to cost. These measures would do nothing for these people. They simply provide greater tax shelters for those with the means to take advantage of them.
Instead of ensuring a sustainable future for the ACA, Medicare and Medicaid, Republicans want to cut these programs to pay for their $2.3 trillion tax plan. And today’s bills add close to another $100 billion to the deficit. All this for programs that few Americans have the extra income to use in the first place. I want to be clear: HSAs do not provide a replacement for cost sharing reduction and premium subsidies that help low-and moderate income Americans – the very same subsidies that Republicans have been trying to undermine in the court for the past ten years.
What we have before us today will not solve the problems facing average Americans. It leaves them, and their families, with increased health care costs and lower coverage and quality care.