Chairman Black Rules Committee Opening Statement: Markup of the American Health Care Act

Remarks as prepared for delivery: 

Good morning. Thank you Chairman Sessions and members of the committee for the opportunity to speak here today. I come before you to discuss H.R. 1628, the American Health Care Act of 2017.

The American Health Care Act is a first step in our efforts toward patient-centered health care reform. This bill seeks to give the American people freedom and choice in their health care decisions. It gets government out of the relationship between patients and their doctors and puts people back in charge of their own health care.  And it brings the free-market principle of competition to an industry that has long been dominated by government intervention.

We are united in our goal: to repeal Obamacare and replace it with patient-centered health care. Right now, Obamacare is imploding. We were promised premiums would decrease by $2,500; instead, average family premiums in the employer-market soared by $4,300. We were promised health care costs would go down; instead, deductibles have skyrocketed. We were promised we could keep our doctor and our health insurance plans; instead, millions of Americans lost the insurance and the doctors that they liked. 

In short, the Affordable Care Act was neither affordable, nor did it provide the quality of care that the American people deserve. 

Last week, the House Budget Committee favorably reported the American Health Care Act to the full House of Representatives for consideration. Our markup was filled with lively debate and I applaud our members for working to make this bill better. There was concern from members of my committee that this bill did not reflect a strong enough conservative vision for health care reform and I joined them in that concern.

The Budget Committee approved four motions to be recommended to this committee and the full House, as laid out in our report. These motions describe potential changes that would address our concerns, including greater state flexibility in the design of their Medicaid programs, minimizing new Medicaid enrollment by able-bodied adults, promoting work-requirements in state Medicaid programs, and ensuring that tax credits are targeted to those individuals who need them most.

The Manager’s Amendment submitted this week includes changes advocated for by my committee. This is the way the legislative process is supposed to work and I applaud my colleagues for staying in the fight and making sure that we pass a bill that truly reflects our values.

It goes a long way towards resolving some of the conflict and disagreement within our conference and addressing the concerns of my committee. It is a step in the right direction and I urge the members of this committee to support it.

We have a once in a generation opportunity to reform health care with free-market principles in the driver’s seat – not government. It’s an opportunity that we cannot let pass us by.

As this bill continues to better reflect our patient-centered vision of health care, we will soon be faced with a stark choice. The choice is between repealing and replacing Obamacare and voting to keep Obamacare’s status quo.

While no legislation is perfect, this bill does accomplish some important reforms. It zeroes out the mandates. It repeals the taxes. It repeals the subsidies. It allows people to choose health insurance plans to meet the unique needs of their families, instead of purchasing  one-size-fits-all plans mandated by a Washington bureaucrat. And it modernizes Medicaid, a once in a lifetime entitlement reform. Ending Medicaid’s open-ended funding structure will play an important role in addressing future budget deficits and our growing national debt.

Put simply, this is a good first step, but it is only our first step. My good friend and our former colleague, Dr. Tom Price, will use his position as Secretary of Health and Human Services to address some of the regulatory burden of Obamacare through administrative action. And we will vote soon on individual pieces of legislation to implement even more patient-centered, free market reforms that we cannot address through reconciliation.

This is the three-pronged approach we are taking to rescue the American people from the damage Obamacare has done to our economy and our health care system.

But as we talk about our work to repeal Obamacare and replace it with patient-centered reforms, we also have to remember that the problems with Obamacare are not merely numbers on a page. I’ve been a nurse for 45 years. I saw the impact in the 1990s of a government-run, single-payer health care system had on people during the TennCare pilot program in Tennessee. I saw costs rise and the quality of care fall. It’s what inspired me to get involved in public service in the first place. 

And when I saw the same broken principles applied to health care on a national level with Obamacare, I felt compelled to bring my voice and my experience to Congress. 

I get calls every single day in my office saying please help us, rescue us. Premiums in my state of Tennessee have skyrocketed. There are parts of Tennessee that don’t have a single insurance provider in the marketplace, while in other parts of my state, people may have an insurance card but they can’t get care. 

We must work together on a conservative vision for repealing and replacing Obamacare. It’s a promise we’ve made to voters for years. And it’s a promise we finally have an opportunity to keep. I intend to keep that promise.

I urge all members to work toward this common goal. And with that, I look forward to answering your questions.