The top Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee Kevin Brady (R-TX) delivered the following opening statement at a Full Committee Markup of Health Legislation.
Remarks as prepared for delivery:
“Thank you, Chairman Neal.
“Our Committee will be debating multiple bills today, including the highly partisan and secretly written H.R. 3, Speaker Pelosi’s Fewer Cures for Patients Act.
“This is legislation that will ensure lost lifesaving cures, lost jobs, and a nation that no longer leads the world in medical innovation.
“It’s unfortunate that we are spending valuable time on a bill that is dead on arrival in the Senate and stands no chance of becoming law.
“Especially given the bipartisan work our Committee was working toward that has been thrown to the wind.
“We are also considering four bills that expand Medicare benefits as this important program is facing bankruptcy – and have no responsible way to pay for them.
“All the concerns that Democrats theatrically raised about debts and deficits during tax reform are suddenly absent today.
“As Medicare faces bankruptcy, Democrats are choosing to add billions to the deficit instead of working toward making this needed health care program solvent for future generations.
“Sadly, this comes as no surprise. In the past nine months this committee has advanced legislation that adds nearly $1 trillion to the deficit over the next decade.
“We are all eager to hear another lecture on fiscal responsibility.
“Making health care more affordable and accessible should be our highest priority – it certainly is for America’s patients and seniors. But the bills before us today fall short on these goals.
“The first bill that we’ll be considering is H.R. 3398, the Pathways to Healthcare Careers Act of 2019. This bill seeks to expand the Health Profession Opportunity Grants program, or HPOGs.
“HPOGs is a program that was created with the Affordable Care Act. Its goal was to help low-income workers and welfare recipients find jobs in the health care field.
“And though well intentioned, we should not be moving forward with any reforms to the program until we have a full evaluation of its effectiveness.
“This was a program that was established, by its very own definition, as a demonstration. But years later Congress lacks the evidence needed to know whether or not it even deserves continuation much less expansion.
“HPOGs currently has an $85 million budget – H.R. 3398 more than quadruples that to $425 million.
“All of this added to the national debt and onto the backs of taxpayers, who don’t even know if the program is actually working.
“Instead of continuing to throw money from Americans’ wallets, we should be working toward getting more folks off the sidelines of unemployment and into the front lines of the labor force.
“Our nation’s cash-for-work program is facing its 41st straight extension this November. Instead of letting that program continue to settle for only okay, let’s focus on growing jobs and paychecks for these parents.
“We will also be debating four bills to expand Medicare entitlements.
“Medicare’s solvency has improved, thanks to Republican policies that have led to more people joining our workforce.
“But growth alone cannot fund Medicare’s shortfalls as waves of baby boomers continue to retire and enroll into Medicare.
“For years, Washington has punted on structural changes to these entitlement programs.
“The result has been a slowly crumbling social safety net that is failing doctors and the seniors who spent their entire careers paying into this program.
“Either we tackle these problems now or they will tackle us.
“There is a bright spot: Medicare Advantage, which are private plans competing for seniors’ business created by Republicans in Congress, is delivering lower costs and providing more generous benefits for seniors than the old fee-for-service Medicare.
“Premiums for the 24 million seniors expected to enroll in 2020 will be 23 percent lower than last year – which is the lowest monthly premiums have been in 13 years.
“Seniors enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans have seen billions of dollars in savings for their health care costs, and privately administered Medicare Advantage plans already provide supplemental hearing, vision, and dental benefits to seniors.
“In fact, nearly ninety percent of total Medicare Advantage plans offer some form of coverage for hearing, dental, and vision.
“But anyone who cares about seniors should have serious reservations about expanding Medicare fee-for-service without fixing its fundamental flaws for those in or near retirement.
“If we cannot find bipartisan ways to pay for this, it is our children and grandchildren stuck paying the largest price.
“All in all, we have no CBO score. Zip.
“Republicans on this Committee have concerns but are open to advance the process on these bills until such a time when we can get a complete CBO analysis and come to an agreement on bipartisan pay-fors.
“But those agreements cannot include government price setting, which is at the center of the last bill we will be debating today.
“I’ll speak more on H.R. 3 when it is brought up for debate.
“Suffice it to say there is a right way and a wrong way to lower drug prices in America. This is a dangerous bill with long-term consequences. And it doesn’t have to be that way.
“Thank you, Mr. Chairman.”