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Cummings Issues Statement on Oversight Committee Field Hearing on ACA

Dec 16, 2013
Press Release

Washington, D.C.— Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, issued the following statement regarding the Committee’s fourth field hearing on the Affordable Care Act taking place in Richardson, Texas today:

“I welcome legitimate and responsible congressional oversight, but House Republicans have made clear that they have no interest in improving the Affordable Care Act.  The focus of today’s field hearing is on a handful of people who everyone agrees have no place in the navigator program, instead of the much more significant problem that Texas has refused to expand its Medicaid program, which would help millions of residents in a state with the highest number of uninsured in the nation. Instead of engaging in this destructive political exercise, the Committee should conduct legitimate and responsible congressional oversight to ensure all Americans have access to quality, affordable health insurance.”

Today’s hearing drew criticism from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), state officials, and local groups, which highlighted that Texas has the highest rate of uninsured in the nation, yet today’s field hearing is another attempt by Republicans to deter individuals from obtaining coverage under the Affordable Care Act. These officials and groups also expressed concerns that today’s hearing fails to focus on the state’s decision not to expand Medicaid, which would help insure millions more Texans.

In an op-ed in the Dallas Morning News yesterday, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius wrote that today’s hearing is “designed to stifle, intimidate and impugn the reputation of the people who have been working hard to help their fellow Texans get covered.” She added, “With so many Texans lacking affordable coverage, now is not the time to be putting up roadblocks. We should be helping navigators and other assisters in their important work, not demonizing, demoralizing or deterring them.”

Texas state Representative Chris Turner wrote a letter to Chairman Issa expressing concern for the millions of uninsured Texans, and saying, “Instead of wasting time and taxpayer money on this type of witch hunt,” the Committee should focus on  “increasing access to health insurance coverage for our neighbors in need, and listen to the stories of those who have and will benefit from the passage of this law.”

Texas state Representative Ruth Jones McClendon also wrote a letter to Chairman Issa asking him to “help Texas families and individuals purchase affordable health insurance that is right for their needs, and not make it any more difficult for them.”

The Texas Alliance for Retired Americans called today’s hearing “a traveling road show designed to discredit the Affordable Care Act” and posted a story from an organization member who has benefited from the healthcare law.

Several other state officials and local groups submitted statements that were included in today’s hearing record, including:

·        State Senator West

·        State Senator Watson

·        State Rep. Howard

·        State Rep. Wu

·        State Rep. Johnson

·        State Rep. Miles

·        State Rep. Burnam

·        54 Texas State Representatives’ Letter to Texas Department of Insurance

·        Texans Care for Children

·        Community Council of Greater Dallas

·        Dallas Area Interfaith

·        Los Barrios Unidos Community Clinic and a personal story from patient Misty Park.

·        Migrant Health Promotion

·        United Way of Tarrant County

Rep. Marc Veasey (TX-33) attended today’s hearing. His opening statement, as prepared for delivery, is copied below.

Opening Statement by Marc Veasey
Field Hearing on “Obamacare Implementation: Who are the Navigators”
Committee on Oversight and Government Reform
December 16, 2013

Thank you Mr. Chairman, Members, and our witnesses.  I want to extend a warm welcome to the Committee and thank the Members for traveling all the way to Texas for this field hearing.

I am glad you are here because I would like to tell you about the citizens of the 33rd congressional district here in Texas, which I have the privilege of representing.  My district has the highest number of uninsured individuals in the country.  Insurance companies have discriminated against them because of their preexisting conditions, they have been allowed to charge women more than men, and they have been allowed to sell “junk” policies that collect premiums up-front, but then don’t pay for the hospital bills when they get sick.

But now that the Affordable Care Act is the law of the land, it has already begun helping them in many ways, and it will help them even more in the weeks and months and years to come.  Here in Texas and all across the country:

·        millions of young adults now have health insurance on their parent’s plans;

·        millions of children with pre-existing conditions will no longer be denied coverage;

·        tens of millions of seniors have already received free preventative services, including the new Annual Wellness Visit; and

·        consumers have received rebates from their insurance companies, which are now required to spend at least 80% of premium dollars on healthcare.

I understand the topic of today’s hearing is the Navigator Program.  The purpose of this program is simple:  to help educate and enroll citizens in health insurance.  Reducing health care costs requires that everyone be covered, that everyone be in the insurance pool.  So Navigators help people get health care coverage, some for the first time in their lives, and that helps to  lower health care costs for everyone in the nation.

The model for this enrollment effort is well established.  A similar model was used more than two decades ago to implement the State Children’s Health Insurance Program.  The Texas Navigators are trusted, community organizations and non-profits such as the United Way and the Councils on Aging. They are churches and chambers of commerce. 

            Last month, when CMS was made aware that some employees of the Urban League of Greater Dallas encouraged applicants to provide false information on applications, they immediately decertified the two individuals from ever participating in the Navigator program. Of course, everyone agrees that no one should tell applicants to lie on their forms.  And that is why I was encouraged that the Urban League and CMS took such swift action in firing those who engaged in that activity.  They give this program a bad name.  But make no mistake – they are the exception, not the rule.

            So while I am glad that you came to Texas to talk about these individuals, now that you are here, I hope we can talk about a much more significant problem, which is why our governor is refusing to expand the state’s Medicaid program, why he is refusing to accept billions of dollars in federal assistance that we so desperately need, and why he is refusing to help insure millions of Texans who could be covered today if not for his purely political opposition.

Governor Perry has denied my constituents this help.  In my opinion, there is no excuse for his actions.  Under the Affordable Care Act, the federal government would pay states 100% of the costs of this expansion for the first three years, and 90% after that.  Yet Governor Perry would rather leave over $9 billion dollars on the table for healthcare our state desperately needs. 

Let me make this as clear as I can.  Because of Governor Perry’s actions, there are over 2 million Texans who will not be eligible for healthcare under the Medicaid program.  In a state where one out of every four of our citizens has no insurance, that action is not only reprehensible, it is immoral. 

So, Mr. Chairman, thank you for coming all the way to Richardson, Texas to hold a hearing about a handful of people we all agree have no place in this program.  But it’s high time we start talking about the millions of people right here in this state who have no insurance at all because of the political opposition of our governor to the Affordable Care Act.

Thank you.

Issues: 
113th Congress