Schumer Floor Remarks On Hurricane Michael, Climate Change And Republican Junk Healthcare Plans

October 11, 2018

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor regarding Hurricane Michael, the impact of climate change and Republican junk healthcare plans. Below are his remarks, which can also be viewed here:

First, let me say to the people of Florida and Georgia and anyone affected by Hurricane Michael that our thoughts and our hearts are with you. Having lived and worked through the recovery from Hurricane Sandy in my home state of New York, I remember vividly the anguish of families who lost their homes and businesses. So we hope everyone stays safe as this storm passes through the country. We know Americans and the Senate will pull together – as they always do – to help one another rebuild and recover.

This year has seen huge a number of powerful storms and hurricanes buffet the Atlantic seaboard and the Gulf. Harvey, Irma, Maria, Florence, and now Michael have wrought severe damages. According to NOAA, 2017 was the most expensive year on record for disasters in the US. At some point, we have to acknowledge that the intensity of these storms is much greater than in past years and is a symptom of a changing climate. Climate change is real, it is being driven by human activity, it is happening right now. These are facts; they are not in dispute. Our scientists know it, our businesses know it, the world knows it, and the American people know. But, too many senators on the other side of the aisle just put their head in the sand. It costs us more, and more, and more. We aren’t going to leave these people high and dry, but if we did more on climate change, we’d have fewer of these hurricanes and other types of storms. Everyone knows that, except for a few. Why? Why won’t they admit the truth? Maybe there are two words that explain it: oil industry. 

Just this week, the UN released a report on climate change saying the world has only a short time, maybe a little more than a decade, to get a handle on carbon emissions. So far, the current administration has done nothing but move the issue backward. Amazing -- that we, the leading country, supposed to be the moral force, the economic, political, military leader, we are the ones that pull out of the Paris Climate Accords and the administration has been repealing environmental protection after protection. So while we are thinking about the people of Florida and Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina and everyone in Hurricane Michael’s path, let’s remember that we are running out of time to do something about climate change, and the kind of storms we are seeing now will only increase if this body continues to keep its head in the sand, ostrich-like, and ignore the scientific realities.

Now, on another matter -- healthcare. Yesterday, fifty of my Republican colleagues voted against ensuring protections for people with preexisting conditions. Republican Senators sided with the Trump administration to expand the ability of insurance companies to sell cut-rate, junk insurance to Americans, to dupe Americans. These plans will destabilize the health care market and raise the cost of insurance for people with pre-existing condition, who may end up priced out of insurance all together. 

Let me say that again: Republicans yesterday voted to let insurance companies offer junk insurance plans that don’t cover essential health benefits – allowing them to nickel and dime patients out of the medical care they deserve. Our constituents, Democrat, Republican, north, west, east, south say ‘I want better healthcare at a lower cost.’ And what do Republicans do? The offer worse healthcare, at a higher cost ultimately, because the plans don’t cover anything and then you have to pay out of your pocket. And what do they do it in the name of? Freedom. Freedom. This is like the 1890s, who is going to have freedom? The insurance companies, the big shots, who is going to have no freedom, from illness and disease? Average folks. It’s terrible, terrible thinking, once again siding with big, powerful special interest, not the average person. The only people who want these junk insurance plans are two groups: the insurance companies and the right wing ideologues who believe the government shouldn’t be involved in healthcare at all. They want to cut Medicare, they want to cut Medicaid, they want to cut social security. That’s who it is.

So, let us remember, the junk health insurance plans are hardly worth the paper they’re printed on. They lure consumers in with low premiums, but the deductibles are so high, the copays are so high, and the coverage so skimpy, that the plans hardly offer any benefit to the consumer at all.

While every Republican save one voted to hand the keys to the insurance companies, every single Democrat -- every single Democrat -- stood up to the sabotage from the Trump Administration and voted to not allow the expansion of junk insurance plans across America..

I warn my colleagues: these are the kinds of issues that voters remember come election time. Health care is the number one issue in America to the broad majority of voters. The American people will head to the polls in November and ask themselves: which party will defend the people’s right to quality health care, and which party won’t?

 

The answer to that question could not be clearer. Democrats have spent the past two years offering several plans to reduce the cost of health care while maintaining or increasing the quality, while President Trump and Republicans in Congress have done nothing but drive costs up and quality down in obeisance to the big special interests – the insurance industry.

 

They’ve tried to repeal the health care law. They’ve tried to gut Medicaid, eliminate health care for millions of Americans, and put the insurers back in charge. They’ve eliminated the program intended to help low and middle-income Americans afford insurance. And worst of all, Republican attorneys general -- including two running for the Senate, one in Missouri, one in West Virginia -- are suing as we speak to eliminate protections for Americans with pre-existing conditions.

 

These actions are undergirded by a belief on the other side of the aisle that the American people just don’t deserve help affording adequate health care. Republicans have believed, continue to believe, and act on it, unfortunately, that insurance companies should rule the roost, just like the 1890s. And the consequences are severe.

 

As a result of the Republican health care agenda, premiums are up by double-digits in several states and quality is down.

 

As a result of the Republican health care agenda, Americans are paying more and getting less.

 

But in a few short weeks, I say to the American people: you’ll have a choice. You can vote for two more years of healthcare sabotage from a Republican Congress – more attempts at repealing the health care law, more premium increases and uncertainty, more actions that undermine protections for patients with pre-existing conditions. Or the American people can vote to flip the script and support Democratic candidates who will not only protect the care that Americans have today but who will work every single day to make it better.

 

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