Pelosi Remarks at Press Conference Announcing Letters to Trump Administration Demanding Documents on New Attack on Pre-Existing Conditions Protections


Washington, D.C. – House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, and top Democratic Ranking Members unveiled letters to the Department of Justice and Department of Health and Human Services and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services demanding the Trump Administration produce documents on the legal justification and analysis of the health coverage and cost consequences of the administration’s decision to ask a court to strike down protections for people with pre-existing conditions.

Leader Pelosi.  Recognize this?  [Referencing picture on poster]  That was the day Republicans in the House of Representatives were joining the President to celebrate removing the protection that the benfit of no pre-existing condition discrimination provided.  Isn’t that remarkable?

Congressman Hoyer.  Otherwise known as two weeks before he called it a mean bill

Leader Pelosi.  GOP attacking Americans with pre-existing conditions.  It’s really a riot.  At least it should be.

Good afternoon.  It’s afternoon now.  I’m pleased to be here with the distinguished Democratic Whip, Mr. Hoyer, and our Ranking Members of the committees of jurisdiction for maintaining the protections of pre-existing conditions and also addressing the Department of Justice responsibility to defend the law of the land

House Republicans’ assault on protections for Americans with pre-existing conditions was one of the cruelest, with stiff competition mind you, but one of the cruelest parts of their Trumpcare legislation.

In every district across America, families spoke out with the stories of their loved ones, frightened and angry that the GOP would try to make health coverage completely unaffordable for those in the most need of it.  And, by the way, there were 10,000 events by outside groups, people telling their stories, at the time of the discussion of this legislation.

Stories like nine year old Zoe Madison Lihn from Arizona, born with a congenital heart defect, enduring 3 heart surgeries and a pre-existing condition that will require attention and care for the rest of her life.

Story after story.  Stories like Ady Barkan from California, diagnosed with ALS, but determined to speak out for as long as he can against threats to health care.  He’s really a tremendous hero.  Any of you who have heard him speak know how articulate a messenger he is for everyone with a pre-existing medical condition.

Stories like those from Charlie and the Little Lobbyists.  You’ve seen little Charlie, she, with her parents and these Little Lobbyists with their parents.  The beautiful children with complex medical needs, whose lives depend on protections for their pre-existing conditions.

But, Republicans in Congress don’t listen.  217 Republicans voted for the monstrosity of Trumpcare, which would have demanded key protections for people with pre-existing conditions be dismantled.  And last week Republicans renewed their effort to dismantle those vital protections.  This time, trying to fulfill the cruel vision of Trumpcare through the courts.

Today, House Democrats are demanding accountability and answers.  Led by Ranking Members Pallone, Neal, Scott, Nadler, and Cummings – who’s not with us here, but with us in terms of signing the letters – Democrats have written letters requesting documents on the decision making and analysis that led to this awful assault on people with pre-existing conditions.  A letter to HHS and CMS asking for documents – well, our colleagues will talk about what the letters say.

This action in the court is the latest evidence that the Republicans have launched an all-out assault on Americans’ health care, especially those with pre-existing medical conditions, and they don’t care about who gets hurt.

Over the coming months, Democrats will continue to lift up the stories of people impacted by the GOP’s health care sabotage and continue to hold Republicans accountable for their record, their awful record, on health care.

With that I’m pleased to yield to distinguished Whip, the Democratic Whip of the House, Mr. Hoyer.

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Leader Pelosi.  I thank our distinguished Ranking Members for their very impressive statements regarding the unfortunate action taken by the administration to the disadvantage of over 130 million people, that means families, in our country.

When you see the Little Lobbyists come, children with disabilities or are born with challenges at birth, who have a pre-existing condition for life, for life.

Of course, being a woman is considered being a pre-existing condition, if you have any issues that relate to women’s health issues, like having a baby, as I’ve had five.  And they’ve told me, at the insurance company, you’re a risk because you’ve had five babies.  I said, well no, I thought I showed my strength by doing that, not my weakness.

Any questions on this subject?

Q:  Can you elaborate on the 130 million?  Aren’t you including people who were covered before?

Leader Pelosi.   Yeah, yes.  No, but on that score, the pre-existing condition benefit was a big enhancement for people who are insured because it affected whether they would be employable, if they have someone in their family in that way.

You’ve [Congressman Neal] addressed this issue about those who have employer-based insurance.  What was one of the advantages of the Affordable Care Act is not only that it expanded coverage to over 20 million people who didn’t have health insurance, that was a very important part of it, but the enhanced benefits it gave to people with health insurance already.

And that included the benefit, removing all doubt about the benefit of pre-existing conditions, being people with pre-existing conditions having access to health care, removing the cap.  There was a cap on the coverage that people could have.  The list goes on.

Congressman Neal.  No, on out-of-pocket costs, that was part of the consideration and I cited a specific example earlier that was part of incremental change.  And the incremental change was a big success story here and that was called mental health parity and how people will be able to secure benefits.

If you remember, at one time, there was a cap on mental health benefits that once you got to a certain point, two things could happen.  Either they could be cut entirely or the benefit would be reduced.

So, I use that as an example and I use the example of diabetes as well.  And linking that to employer-based health insurance also I think calls into consideration the fact that if you take this away and you’ve got a young person that has a sickness and, all of a sudden, they want to move from Microsoft to Apple.

They’re going to say, ‘Well, I can’t, I may stay at the lower paying job because they may treat it differently at the next employer.’

Leader Pelosi.  Many people that we had heard from in the course of the debate said they were job-locked.  No matter what their credentials, their experience, their education or back to their experience in the field – they were job-locked if they had a child with a pre-existing condition or a family member.  They simply did not have that mobility, which is unfortunate for their families and for our economy.  Any other comments?

Congressman Pallone.  We have been focusing on pre-existing conditions, but remember, Republicans during this whole debate said that we were not going to get rid of patient protections whether it was annual limitations on total cost, lifetime caps that existed out there, community rating, all these things.  They said, ‘Oh we are going to keep patient protections.’

Leader Pelosi.  Don’t forget maternity.

Congressman Pallone.  Yeah, exactly and it’s clear now they don’t care.  Total hypocrisy because they kept saying they would keep patient protections but now they don’t care.

Q:  Madam Leader, are you going to encourage candidates to run on this, do you think this is an effective campaign issue?

Leader Pelosi.  We would rather get the issue resolved for the benefit of the American people.  That’s our purpose.  The issue of health care is challenging to the American people because of the unfortunate decisions the Republicans have made, their health costs will increase.  [Signaling to picture of President Trump and House Republicans at the White House] Put it right at that doorstep.

Secondly, the issue that relates to the cost of prescription drugs is a financial stability issue for people.  It’s about their health but it’s also about if they are able to pay their bills and afford those prescription drugs.  The assault they are making on Medicare and Medicaid is problematic.

So it’s not a question of what we encourage, it’s a question about what people in their lives are threatened by when it comes to their health and their financial stability that is threatened by higher cost of health care so this isn’t about politics, it’s about the health of the American people.  And the American people are speaking out as to what they want to hear from people running for office to hold all of us accountable on how we affect their lives, their health, their financial stability.

Congressman Neal.  We held hearings when we wrote the Affordable Care Act.  If it is being disassembled, we ought to hold some hearings on these proposals.  So I think, specifically, the Ways and Means Committee should hold a hearing on the whole notion of pre-existing conditions.  I am happy to put the spotlight on it, happy to amplify the discussion, happy to contrast their position with ours.

Leader Pelosi.  Other questions?

Yes, ma’am?

Q:  Speaking of elections, primary last night for [Congressman] Mark Sanford.  Do you have any –

Leader Pelosi.  No.  [Laughter]  As the Speaker said, ‘You’ll have to ask him about that.’  But we are very pleased at how the primary elections are proceeding.  We are very proud of the successes we had in California, New Mexico, Iowa last week, Virginia as recently as last night, Maine as returns come in, we may not know for a few days because they have ranked voting.

We are very proud of our candidates.  We think we have the A-Team on the field.  They know their purpose and they know the path to connect to the aspirations and apprehensions of the American people.

Q:  Sorry, just one last question.  One more on this topic and one on North Korea if that’s alright with you, Leader Pelosi?  This is for Mr. Nadler, I was wondering if the lawyer in the Justice Department who resigned is someone that, that you have been talking to or someone that you’ve reached out to that person?

Congressman Nadler.  Well we haven’t, we might be interested in talking to him. His reason for resigning was crystal clear, this violates all the legal standards.  It violates the duty of the Department of Justice to defend the laws, to divide the separations of powers and he was asked to do what he felt consciously he thought he couldn’t do.

Q:  I just had a follow up on the Singapore Summit, Leader Pelosi –

Leader Pelosi.  Yes.

Q:  The President tweeted out this morning that there’s no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea?

[Laughter]

Leader Pelosi.  Without saying anything about the President’s tweets, let me just talk about what the threat is of North Korea, and what the opportunity can be.  We all support diplomacy.  Talk, talk, talk is better than fight, fight, fight.  We all agree with that.

The challenge that North Korea presents is that they are a nuclear state and the denuclearization of the peninsula has been one of the priorities that was spelled out by all of us, but including the Secretary of State, in advance of the meetings, you saw that.  So the denuclearization, that certainly has not happened nor has there [been] any prospect that it will.  A.

B.  The threat of North Korea as a proliferator of weapons of mass destruction is a reality.  It happens.  So I don’t know if anything has been said in these discussions about the fact that they must stop selling this.  When they do their demonstrations, their dog and pony [show], their launch this, launch that.  That’s their sales pitch.  That’s their sales pitch.  I’m one of the few Members of Congress that been to North Korea and they told us when we were there, we said ‘if you want to be in our trade agreements and the rest you have to stop selling these missiles.’  And they said ‘we don’t sell it for any other reason except for money.’

So they’ve been proliferating for a long time.  And that has to be a part of any agreement if we’re talking about national security.  Stopping the spread of weapons of mass destruction is a pillar of our national security and it’s not anything to be frivolous about.  Let’s hope for the best in whatever their conversations were.

There’s nothing in the documents that were signed that would indicated North Korea is no longer a nuclear threat.  I’m concerned about them being a threat as a proliferator.  And when you deal with these issues you have to see, what is their capability?  We know, it’s nuclear.  What is their proliferating behavior?  We’ve seen the experience.   What is their intention as we go forward in both of those areas?

These are long term, serious discussions that have to take place.  And you don’t just say we’re not going to do exercises with the South because we don’t see a threat with the North.  So again, we all hope and pray diplomacy works, for sure, but this is deadly serious.

And I guess the one thing I would say is, they complained about the Iran agreement, and they have what?  They come home with this and say we have an agreement?  But I’ll say it’s a lesson to any country, if you want to negotiated with Donald Trump, it pays to have a nuclear bomb in your pocket because that is what will increase your negotiating power.

I think we do have to go now though.  Thank you.

 

 

 

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