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Kentucky Health Care Speech

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Bernie Sanders speaking at the People's Summit 2017
(Image by Rob Kall)
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Let me thank everyone for being here today. This is a great turnout. Thank you all for standing up for justice and decency. Thank you for standing up for democracy and for demanding that the government of the United States represent all of us, and not just wealthy campaign contributors and the 1 percent.

Let me give a shout out to a number of organizations who helped put this event together including:

Let me thank all of those who have already spoken and told you what this disastrous legislation would do to them and their loved ones. It takes a lot of courage to get up here in front of a large crowd, and in front of hundreds of thousands who will see this live-streamed across the country, and talk about very personal issues -- and there's nothing more personal than one's own health problems. But they did it. And I thank them for doing that because the issues they raised today are not just about them, but the lives of people all across this state and this country. Tonight, those who have gotten up here to speak are speaking for millions of Americans.

I am here in Covington tonight for two reasons. First, I want to talk about the so-called Republican "health care" bill which, to my mind, is the worst and most dangerous piece of legislation ever seriously considered by the U.S. Senate in the modern history of our country.

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Secondly, I want to talk about something that troubles me very much, and that is the state of our democracy and representative government, and how it could be that the leader of the Senate, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, could be working so hard to destroy the Affordable Care Act, legislation which has benefited his own state, the state of Kentucky, more than any other state in the country. That, I do not understand.

Let me be as clear as I can be. The so-called "health care" bill passed in the House several months ago, strongly supported by President Trump, is the most anti-working class legislation that I have ever seen and the Senate bill, also supported by Trump, in some respects is even worse. At a time when working families in Kentucky, Ohio, Vermont and throughout this country are struggling to survive, when many people are working longer hours for lower wages, when people are forced to work two or three jobs, this legislation will cause devastating harm to millions of our families from one end of this country to the other.

We are gathered here tonight to make one simple point. And that is that we will not allow 22 million Americans to be thrown off of the health insurance they currently have in order to give over $500 billion in tax breaks to the wealthiest 2 percent of this country, and to profitable drug companies, insurance companies and other large corporations. We will not support a bill which takes from the most vulnerable people in our country -- the children, the elderly, the disabled, the sick and the poor -- in order to make the very rich even richer. That is unconscionable, that is un-American and we will not accept it.

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Plainly stated, this so-called "health care" bill is nothing more than an enormous transfer of wealth from the working class of this country to the very rich. While this bill contains massive cuts to Medicaid, while seniors will pay far more in premiums, while Planned Parenthood will be defunded -- the 400 highest-income taxpayers, most of whom are billionaires, will get about $33 billion in tax cuts.

At a time when the middle class in this country continues to shrink and when families in Kentucky, Ohio, Vermont and across this country are struggling to make ends meet, to put food on the table, to pay the rent, to save a few bucks for retirement we will not be part of a process which takes from working class families in order to give even more to the very rich -- people who are already doing phenomenally well. This is a deeply immoral piece of legislation. That is not what America is supposed to be about.

Not only is this bill a disaster for Kentucky, Ohio, Vermont and the entire country, but the secretive, backroom process by which it has been written is unprecedented and literally beyond belief. This bill impacts one-sixth of our economy, over $3 trillion dollars each and every year, and touches upon virtually every person in our country. Yet the discussions and negotiations on this legislation, which I am sure are continuing in Washington right now, have never been made public. Everything has been done behind closed doors.

Unbelievably, with legislation that would completely revamp our health care system, there have been no doctors, no nurses, no hospital administrators, no representatives of senior citizen groups, no one one knowledgeable about the opioid crisis who has testified about the impact that this legislation will have on our country. How can you draft a bill of such enormous magnitude without hearing one public comment from the experts in our country who are most knowledgeable about health care? How can you go forward without one public hearing? And, by the way, this concern has been raised by a number of Republicans as well as Democrats.

Now, I know there are some people in Kentucky who will say; "Bernie Sanders is a progressive. Of course he will disagree with Sen. McConnell on this legislation." But what I want you to understand is that it is not just me who disagrees with Sen. McConnell. It is virtually every major healthcare organization in this country -- all of which oppose this terrible bill.

It is the AARP, the American Medical Association, the American Hospital Association, the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Psychiatric Association, the Federation of American Hospitals, the Catholic Health Association, the American Lung Association, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, the March of Dimes, the National MS Society and the American Nurses Association. All of them oppose this legislation.

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Several months ago, as you know, with the strong support of President Trump, the House passed their disastrous health care bill. While the Senate bill is very similar, let me describe to you exactly what the House bill actually does.

At a time when 28 million Americans today have no health insurance and millions more are under-insured with high deductibles and co-payments, this bill will throw 23 million Americans off of the health insurance they currently have -- including more than 230,000 right here in Kentucky. That would bring the number of uninsured in our country to over 50 million people. That is beyond comprehension. That is unconscionable. That must not be allowed to happen.

Let me also be clear in stating that no state in America has benefitted more from the Affordable Care Act than Kentucky. Since this legislation was implemented, the uninsured rate for adults in Kentucky has gone down from 20.4 percent in 2013 to just 7.8 percent in 2016 -- the largest reduction in America. Today, only 4 percent of children in Kentucky are uninsured. This is a significant accomplishment, something to be very proud of, and something that should not be destroyed.

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Bernie Sanders is the independent U.S. Senator from Vermont. He is the longest serving independent member of Congress in American history. He is a member of the Senate's Budget, Veterans, Environment, Energy, and H.E.L.P. (Health, Education, (more...)
 

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