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.Read More
This morning, House Budget Committee Chairman Diane Black talked to MSNBC’s Hallie Jackson about the American Health Care Act and her confidence that the committee will pass the bill tomorrow to help those suffering under Obamacare.
“We don’t want to have the American people suffer anymore,” said Chairman Black. “I come from a state where there was a 63% increase in premiums last year. We have two thirds of our counties that only have one provider. That’s not choice; that’s a monopoly. And we actually have places in East Tennessee where there are no providers left…for the exchanges. So let me just say that my constituents are suffering and they’re saying ‘help us out.’ [Obamacare] is a failed plan and we’re going to rescue them and put something more patient-centered in place that will give them an opportunity to have what they want at a cost they can afford.”
Watch the full video here:
As a registered nurse, Diane Black knows what it’s like to actually provide health care. The fundamental problem with Obamacare was that it disrupted the personal relationship between patients and their doctors while rising costs put real care out of reach for many Americans.
This week, the Budget Committee will act on the American Health Care Act as it moves through the legislative process. Listen to Diane Black, in her own words, discuss how the failures of government-run health care and her commitment to helping patients inspired her to get involved in public service.
WASHINGTON, D.C. - On Friday, House Budget Committee Chairman Diane Black appeared on the PBS Newshour to discuss the American Health Care Act and how this bill creates more competition to help drive down costs and allows states to tailor their Medicaid program to fit the unique needs of their populations.
You can watch the full interview here and check out key highlights below.
On how competition, not government, helps lower costs:
"First of all, we want to make sure everyone knows we're not going to pull the rug out from underneath of them. But what we do want to do is open the marketplace back up again and allow more competition. ... Out of the 23 co-ops, 18 are gone. Which meant here in my state when we lost that co-op, over 20,000 people who were in that health care policy lost their insurance because you just can't afford it when it's government-run and there are so many requirements on it, it drives the cost of the policy up."
On modernizing Medicaid for the 21st century:
"We are still going to have Medicaid there for them. But it's going to be changed in the way it's done so it's more patient-centered. We're also going to give the states an opportunity to make a decision about how they can best use those dollars. What's good for New York and California is not necessarily what's good for here in the state of Tennessee. And we'll allow the governor here in our state to make that decision about how best to spend those dollars that are sent down from Washington."
Last month, my colleagues gave me the great honor of being named Chairman of the House Budget Committee for the 115th Congress. It isn't a role I originally aspired to, but one that I have been unknowingly preparing for over many years.
Prior to coming to Washington, I served in the Tennessee state legislature, where we actually balanced our budget every year, and spent decades on the frontlines of our healthcare system as an emergency room nurse.
With Obamacare and our looming budget deficits among the committee's top challenges this year, I am ready to take the lessons I've learned in the past and apply them to the problems we face today.
Some of my colleagues have also been quick to point out that I am the first woman to chair the House Budget Committee. To that I say "it was about time" – but when all is said and done, I hope it's not what I'm remembered for.
I did not offer my name as Budget Committee Chair because I needed a new title, I did it to get things done – and our unified Republican government has provided a once in a generation opportunity to do exactly that. That is why, this year, our committee will work to tackle three major tasks:
Repealing and Replacing Obamacare:
First, we will honor our promise to the American people to repeal Obamacare and put patients back in charge of their healthcare decisions. The House Budget Committee will play an important role in this fight, and I am not flinching from this commitment for a moment.
With another insurer announcing just last month that it would opt to leave the Obamacare exchanges, the forecast for President Obama's healthcare law has grown even dimmer. Entire regions of my state are now left without a single coverage option on the Obamacare exchange, compounding difficulties for a marketplace that our state insurance commissioner had already described as "very near collapse.
Tennessee's struggles under Obamacare are not unique. Nationwide, 4.7 million Americans were kicked off the insurance plans they liked and were told they could keep, while nearly 20 million Americans have opted out of Obamacare altogether – choosing to either pay the fine for lacking coverage, or seek an exemption.
House Republicans are working on a repeal and replace plan that starts with eliminating Obamacare's onerous individual and employer mandates, empowering states to develop ideas to best help their unique populations, and enhancing health savings accounts so families can spend their healthcare dollars the way they want and need.
Our plan additionally provides portable, monthly tax credits – so Americans without employer-sponsored coverage or access to programs such as Medicare and Medicaid can enjoy the freedom and flexibility to buy a plan of their choice.
Importantly, our proposal also guarantees access to coverage for those with pre-existing conditions, and allows young adults to stay on their parents' insurance plans, just as they have been able to do under the current law.
Offering a Real-World Budget
Next, the Budget Committee will carry out the primary task given to us in law by offering a serious, timely, and fiscally responsible budget resolution that tackles the drivers of our debt and deficits.
Already, I have ruffled a few feathers in Washington by stating that we will work towards a balanced budget as we have in past years. In my view, the daunting fiscal challenges we face today aren't an excuse to move the goalposts, they are exactly why responsible budgeting is so important.
On our current trajectory, the Congressional Budget Office estimates Washington will rack up nearly $10 trillion in deficits over the next ten years. Our budget for Fiscal Year 2018 will rein in spending, reform broken government programs, and tackle our debt and deficits.
Overhauling Our Broken Tax Code
Former Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) said it best when he proclaimed that our broken tax code is "Ten times the size of the Bible, but with none of the good news."
Each year that I have served on the House Budget Committee, our budget proposals advocated for pro-growth tax reform; streamlining the tax code, cutting out the confusion, and lowering rates for many families and workers. But in divided government, those proposals didn't get far.
In 2017, all of that can change. After we unveil our budget in the spring, there will be an opportunity to complete another reconciliation bill – a unique piece of legislation that is protected from the threat of a Democratic filibuster in the Senate.
If our plan is made law, it would open the door for a tax code that is among the most competitive in the world and that allows families to complete their taxes on a postcard-sized form like this. That means more businesses that choose to stay here in America, rather than moving offshore, and less hassle for families who are forced to spend too much time and money just figuring out how much they owe.
We on the House Budget Committee know that we cannot squander this historic opportunity by playing it safe. Together, we are ready to meet big problems with bold solutions. We have drawn up an ambitious game plan, and now we're ready to score a victory for the American people.