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Rep. Engel Fights Health Care Repeal, Calls the Republican Bill "Political Theater"

Press Release

Location: Washington, DC

Congressman Eliot Engel (D-NY-17) criticized the Republicans for putting political grandstanding ahead of governing in their first days in the Majority. By rushing a vote to repeal last year's landmark Affordable Care Act, and using parliamentary trickery to do it, Republicans have already broken one vow for open government and have appeased their political base by pursuing a repeal destined to fail in the Senate. By using the "closed rule' on repealing Patients' Rights, Republicans do not permit amendments or committee debate.

In addition to repeal being devastating to the health care of millions of Americans, the GOP also broke one of their campaign promises on only their second day in charge. Republicans railed against this same "closed rule' procedure as stifling to debate and discourse. Now as one of their first acts as the Majority, they are using the closed rule on the health care repeal vote.

"This repeal would act as a virtual death sentence for too many Americans, and will result in inevitable bankruptcy for others. It is irresponsible governing and diverts the focus from putting Americans back to work, and instead manages to put millions of others out of work," added Rep. Engel. To view his comments from the House floor -

"Call this Republican Hypocrisy Case #1 of 2011. Republicans say they came to Congress to stop business as usual, stop political gamesmanship and get to work," said Rep. Engel. "But this is pure political theater and does not help the American people in any way, shape or form."

"Instead of an Affordable Care Act, the Republican leadership has instead proposed a "We Don't Care Act' for the American people. This is unacceptable and I will vote against repeal. I call on my colleagues in the Senate to kill this disastrous bill the minute it reaches Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's desk," added Rep. Engel. "The same Republicans who demanded that taxes on the wealthy not go up, now want to pay for that by taking health care away from everyone else."

Despite the Republican no amendment rule, Rep. Engel introduced an amendment to protect New York and other "do-gooder states." New York provides coverage to parents up to 150% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) and to childless adults to 100% of the FPL. The Affordable Care Act expanded Medicaid to cover all non-elderly parents and childless adults, children and pregnant women up to 133% of the FPL. While New York has been ahead of the curve on this issue, others have not been. This provision elevates the level of care nationwide and helps families and the states have improved care while dealing with financial hardship.

The reality for Americans is that repealing the Affordable Care Act would:

* Raise the number of uninsured Americans by 32 million -- once again placing the burden of care upon emergency rooms,
* Explode the deficit by $230 billion by 2021, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
* Re-open the "donut" hole for Medicare Part D prescription drugs increasing costs for millions of seniors,
* Force young Americans up to 26 years old to be removed from their parents' plans and be on their own should catastrophic health issues occur,
* Empower insurance companies to deny ailing Americans with pre-existing conditions, and to cap the coverage of others who are in great need of care,
* Increase the taxes on small businesses who provide health care for their employees,
* Halt the preventative cancer screenings and annual check-ups for seniors,
* Force high-risk Medicare patients who are hospitalized to be continually readmitted, rather than allow for comparable services in community care programs,
* Stop advances in health care technology rather than looking ahead at new and innovative ways to care for Americans in the 21st century and beyond.

For New York, the consequences of repeal would mean:

* 77,800 young adults would lose their insurance coverage through their parents' health plans, sometimes just after they finish school and as they are looking for a job. From 2007-2010, 24% of 18-29 year old Americans moved back in with their parents. Repeal would force them to do so without being able to have their parents care for their health.
* More than 10 million residents of New York with private insurance coverage would suddenly find themselves vulnerable again to having lifetime limits placed on how much insurance companies will spend on their health care.
* Insurance companies would once again be allowed cut off someone's coverage at will because of clerical errors. This would leave 734,000 people in New York at risk of losing their insurance at the moment they need it most.
* 734,000 residents of New York would not know if they are receiving value for their health insurance premium dollars, as insurers in state would no longer be required to spend at least 80 to 85 percent of premium dollars on health care rather than CEO salaries, bonuses, and corporate profits.
* New insurance plans would no longer be required to cover recommended preventive services, like mammograms and flu shots, without cost sharing, nor would they have to guarantee enrollees the right to choose any available primary care provider in the network or see an OB-GYN without a referral.
* Nearly 2.9 million seniors in New York who have Medicare coverage would be forced to pay a co-pay to receive important preventive services, like mammograms and colonoscopies.
* Medicare would no longer pay for an annual check-up visit, so Nearly 2.9 million seniors in New York who have Medicare coverage would have to pay extra if they want to stay healthy by getting check-ups regularly.
* 192,596 on Medicare Would See Significantly Higher Prescription Drug Costs: In New York, 192,596 Medicare beneficiaries received a one-time, tax-free $250 rebate to help pay for prescription drugs in the "donut hole" coverage gap in 2010. Medicare beneficiaries who fall into the "donut hole" in 2011 will be eligible for 50 percent discounts on covered brand name prescription drugs. Without the law, the burden of high prescription drug costs would hurt millions of Medicare beneficiaries across the country.
* New York Would Not Receive Additional Resources to Crack Down on Unreasonable Insurance Premium Increases: States would not have new resources to review proposed health insurance premium increases and hold insurance companies accountable for unjustified premiums increases.
* New York Would Not Receive Additional Funds to Plan for a Health Insurance Exchange: States would not have new resources to build a new, competitive, private health insurance marketplace for consumers that provide lower costs, one-stop insurance shopping, and greater benefits and protections.
* New York Would Not Receive Additional Funds to Support a Consumer Assistance Program: States would not have new resources to help protect consumers from some of the worst insurance industry practices.
* 465 Employers Would Not Be Receiving Help from the Early Retiree Reinsurance Program: Businesses, schools and other educational institutions, unions, State and local governments, and non-profits would not be receiving much-needed financial relief to help early retirees and their families continue to have quality, affordable health coverage. Find a list of organizations in your state that would not have been accepted into this program here.

"This is both hypocrisy at its worst, and an example of bad government. If this is going to be the legacy of the 112th Congress, then it is going to be a long two years for the American people," added Rep. Engel, a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

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