As Senate Democrats held court on the Republicans’ American Health Care Act Monday night, Colorado’s Michael Bennet gave a lengthy and passionate take, after first noting there were no Republicans there to hear him.
“It doesn’t surprise me, given what’s in the legislation,” Bennet said.
Hours later, Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell delayed a vote, but not because of Democrats such as Bennet, but resistance from fellow Republicans such as Rand Paul.
Bennet charged that the United States is a step behind the rest of the industrialized world on health care for its citizens.
“Only in this country do people have to make choices about feeing their families and taking care of their kids at the doctor,” he said. “Only in this country do seniors have to make choices about cutting those pills in half. Only in this country.”
He said opponents vilified Obamacare the same way they vilified President Obama, and they disregard the program’s success in insuring children and the working poor. They should be working to improve it, Bennet said.
“In Colorado, my state, that meant over 600,000 Coloradans who now have health insurance who didn’t have it before the Affordable Care Act,” he testified.
Bennet said “Candidate Trump” saw the unease among Americans and promised affordable care that was better, “because those knuckleheads in Washington don’t know what they’re doing,” but the Senate bill doesn’t deliver on that campaign promise, especially that a Trump administration wouldn’t cut Medicare or Medicaid. The Republican bill would take $800 billion out of Medicaid.
Bennet gave a long monologue about his recent town hall in Frisco, which Colorado Politics’ Ernest Luning covered. Bennet said everyone from all over the country should visit.
“There’s tremendous skiing and tremendous hiking, wonderful people,” he said.
Bennet said he visited Frisco’s Summit Community Care Clinic before the town hall meeting that struggles to get by and provide services, where no one is turned away.
“This is not a poor community by American standards,” Bennet told the Senate Democrats hanging around. “… It’s a resort community, but people live there all year round. I asked the people there, ‘Who are the payers in your clinic? Who are they? What pays for health care here?’ And she said, ‘Well, Michael, Medicaid is 33 percent,’ which shocked me, because if you’re in rural Colorado the Medicaid number is usually a lot higher than that, because people don’t have access to a lot of resources and we all know they don’t have access to a robust insurance market.”
Bennet said 53 percent of the clinic’s care was uncompensated, and the remaining 14 percent was private insurance.
He said it was “ridiculous” that the government would require people to buy insurance but not provide them a market where they could afford it. He said was the problem Congress should be working on.
“The House bill makes it worse,” Bennet said. “This Senate bill makes it worse.”
He said the only way the Republican bill could save people money only by providing even worse insurance.
“I’m all for working in a bipartisan way to address the issues in our health care system that frankly go far beyond the Affordable Care Act to make sure people in America don’t have to make the choices that people all over the world don’t have to make,” he said.
At the end of his 42-minute address, Bennet apologized to rural America because Washington wasn’t seeing to its needs, that rural hospitals might be cut because of “an ill-conceived piece of legislation.”