Weekly Democratic Address
March 17, 2017
Hello, I’m Jeanne Shaheen, Senator from New Hampshire. I previously served as New Hampshire’s governor. And during my years as governor and now as Senator, I’ve worked across the aisle to get things done.
That’s not what we’re seeing in Washington right now. President Trump and Republican leaders in Congress have rejected bipartisanship. They are tying themselves in knots trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act – often called Obamacare. But for millions of everyday Americans, health coverage isn’t about politics, it’s a matter of life and death.
On Monday in Concord, New Hampshire, I met with a former construction supervisor named Philip Spagnuolo. Like millions of others in my state and across America, Philip had been struggling with addiction. But thanks to the expansion of Medicaid in New Hampshire – made possible by Obamacare – he has been able to get treatment, enter recovery, and build a new life.
I talked with a police officer in Laconia, New Hampshire, who has been reaching out to families struggling with substance use disorders. He estimates that of the nearly 170 families he has worked with, almost three-quarters rely on health coverage through Medicaid.
The oldest rule in medicine is “do no harm.” But millions of Americans like Philip and those families in Laconia will be hurt by efforts to repeal Obamacare and replace it with the Republican healthcare plan, also known as Trumpcare. This week, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office told us that 24 million Americans would lose their health coverage over the next 10 years – including 14 million next year. While premiums would go up an average of 15 percent next year if you buy your own health insurance under Trumpcare, it would give tax cuts to the big drug and insurance companies. And top-income-earners would see tax cuts of nearly $200,000 a year.
Let’s be clear, President Trump does not have a mandate to take away people’s health coverage. In dozens of visits to New Hampshire during the campaign, he promised aggressive action to fight the opioid and heroine epidemic. He promised never to cut Medicare and Medicaid, and that no one would lose health coverage. But with this new Republican plan, millions of Americans will lose their health coverage, and those who keep it will pay much more.
This new legislation takes us in the wrong direction. It will have especially tragic consequences for New Hampshire and other states fighting the heroin and opioid epidemic. Our most powerful weapon in this fight has been getting people access to life-saving treatment, thanks to Obamacare. Under Trumpcare, 1.3 million Americans now in treatment for mental health and substance use disorders would lose their health coverage.
Not surprisingly, a whole range of groups are opposing this legislation, including doctors, nurses, hospitals, and the AARP. AARP strongly opposes the Republican plan because it hurts Medicare – and it includes an “age tax” that allows insurance companies to charge Americans age 50 to 64 up to five times more than younger Americans.
Congress should stop, take a deep breath, and work together to find a better way forward. Let’s begin by listening to the American people. In poll after poll, they’re telling us not to end Obamacare but to mend it. . .keep the most successful parts, and fix what is not working.
And let’s listen to Republican governor John Kasich of Ohio, whose state is also struggling with the opioid crisis. He rejects the way Trumpcare would end treatment for people in recovery. I agree with the Governor’s call to put politics aside, use common sense, and find common ground. Many of my Republican colleagues in the Senate are also saying: Let’s slow down and work across the aisle.
Let’s keep our promises to the American people, so that millions do not lose their health coverage. And let’s come together to strengthen what’s working, and fix what’s not.
The stakes could not be higher for the health and financial security of our families. We need to get this right. And that means Republicans and Democrats working together, keeping our promises, putting people first.