VIDEO: Schneider Defends Affordable Health Care with Andy Slavitt in Ways and Means
WASHINGTON – Yesterday, Congressmen Brad Schneider (IL-10) spoke in defense of the Affordable Care Act with Andy Slavitt, who led the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services under President Obama, during a hearing of the House Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee. Video can be found here.
“There is no doubt our country’s health care system is stronger because of the ACA. More than 130 million Americans have pre-existing condition protections. And that number will only grow because of COVID,” said Congressman Schneider. “These benefits are valuable in normal times, but have proven absolutely critical during the COVID pandemic where getting care when and where you need it is at a premium.”
“I think the first thing is to reach out to the communities that are in need of coverage and assure them that this coverage is available to them, in most cases, for under $75, to reach out to young people, and to continue to expand the ACA,” said Andy Slavitt. “There are opportunities for us to make the law better. It was passed 10 years ago. It was not intended to be the final word. It was intended to be a great start. There are plenty of opportunities if the Congress would work in a bipartisan way to build on what we have, not eliminate or reduce it. This is what Americans want.”
Schneider’s remarks are below:
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
We are so deluged with crises, it is hard to know where to turn our energies. But this hearing maintains this issue on the front burner, especially as we fight the COVID-19 pandemic and the long-term impacts it is likely to have.
Trump Administration has taken unprecedented steps to undermine what has been the law of the land for a decade – the Affordable Care Act – not only before but during this global health crisis that has cost more than 200,000 American lives. Eight and a quarter million people are already confirmed to have the infection and many if not most are likely to have lifetime related-effects. In other words, COVID-19 is likely to be a pre-existing condition. Mr. Slavitt, as you noted, early evidence indicates COVID-impacts our “heart, lungs, pancreas, kidneys, brain, and our clotting and immune systems.” Mr. Slavitt, you also noted that when you worked in the Obama Administration, you were duty-bound to implement the laws as Congress intended. The Administration cannot choose to pick and choose to enforce the law as they do or do not like. This is true with all laws, but is especially problematic when the law in question has proven beneficial to so many millions of Americans.
There is no doubt our country’s health care system is stronger because of the ACA. More than 130 million Americans have pre-existing condition protections. And as already noted, that number will only grow because of COVID. Lifetime and annual caps on coverage are banned for more than 100 million Americans. Free preventative care. Expanded Medicaid eligibility. The list goes on and on. These benefits are valuable in normal times, but have proven absolutely critical during the COVID pandemic where getting care when and where you need it is at a premium.
But those critical improvements will be of no value if we have an Administration that tries to sabotage the law at every turn. Trump has promoted junk plans that don’t cover pre-existing conditions. He’s gutted funding and support for enrollment assistance. And we convene, his Administration is looking to invalidate the entire law through the courts.
However, less eye-catching but just as disappointing is partisan refusal to work across the aisle to improve the ACA. Any law as large and complex as the ACA is bound to need changes and improvements. But for a decade, any significant edit to build on the ACA's successes, fix its shortcomings, and explore ways to improve health care for all Americans have only been met with disdain and derision by our Republican counterparts. Improving existing laws for the betterment of our constituents should not be controversial, but that has been the political reality for too long.
So, Mr. Slavitt, I appreciate your insights. If you were still serving in an administration, what would be the top improvements you would immediately make to the ACA, or recommend to Congress?