A picture of Senator Richard J. Durbin
Richard D.
Democrat IL

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  • Affordable Care Act

    by Senator Richard J. Durbin

    Posted on 2015-02-10

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    DURBIN. Mr. President, we continue to debate the Affordable Care Act. The Affordable Care Act, of course, is the effort we passed in the Senate to try to make America a better place for those who need health insurance.

    Our goal was accessibility, to make sure more and more people would have access to affordable health care. Our goals tried to transform health care into something that was more preventive, something that reduced the likelihood that someone would be hospitalized or have a serious disease. Our goal was to try to make certain we created incentives within the practice of medicine--for quality care, not the most expensive care. And we have achieved many of those goals in the first year.

    Some 10 million Americans now have access to health insurance through the Affordable Care Program, and yet the Republicans in the House, as late as last week, for the 56th time voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

    Now we might ask ourselves: What do they want to replace it with? They surely wouldn't just walk away from it. And the answer is: They don't have a replacement. They are so determined to kill this program. I will say to their credit that two Republican Senators have stepped up and said: Here is what [[Page S877]] we would suggest as an alternative. I will acknowledge they are the first, I believe, after all these years, to actually step up with a proposal. But it is important for us to take a close look at this proposal.

    This new plan which the Republicans offered does not offer the same protection when it comes to insuring people with preexisting conditions. Does anyone know a person in their family or a friend with a preexisting medical condition? Everybody's hand ought to go up because we all do. Everybody has somebody in their family with some history--a history that, in the old days, would disqualify them from health insurance or end up with premiums they couldn't afford. The new Republican approach to replace the current protection of people with preexisting conditions doesn't give the same opportunity for health insurance for those people. That, to me, is a fatal flaw.

    Secondly, we decided we would make prescription drugs under Medicare for seniors more affordable. We used to have something called the doughnut hole. It cost seniors over $1,000 a year to pay for their prescription drugs. We started closing that doughnut hole, and it saves on average in Illinois, for every senior citizen, $780 a year. So that is $780 for these seniors to have in their savings, in their checkbook. The new Republican approach, the Hatch-Burr program, eliminates that and we go back to the doughnut hole. We go back to this debt.

    Sadly, it doesn't provide the Medicaid coverage which people in low- income categories need. Take a close look at Medicaid. The vast majority of people receiving Medicaid benefits in America are children and pregnant moms. When we cut back on Medicaid, as this Hatch-Burr proposal does, we do it at their expense. But the largest number in terms of dollars spent who receive these benefits are those in nursing homes who are broke.

    Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, keep them alive. When we cut back on Medicaid, cut back on reimbursements to the nursing home, the obvious question is: What is going to happen to grandma? What is going to happen to mom? So when they start cutting back on Medicaid, look long and hard. The people whom we are protecting on Medicaid Programs are some of the most vulnerable in America.

    I yield the floor.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Vermont.

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