Van Hollen On The Floor: “Denying Women Access to Affordable Care is GOP’s Top Priority in 2016”

Here are Chris Van Hollen’s opening remarks on the House floor on the GOP budget reconciliation bill that seeks to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Dude has been incredibly busy today cranking out important statements on policy issues.

It may be a new year, Mr. Speaker, but here we go again. We’re in this Congress on the floor of this House for the 62nd time with this effort to dismantle the Affordable Care Act. And to add insult to injury, to deny millions of women access to health care choices by targeting Planned Parenthood.

So while the calendar has changed, the Tea Party Republican agenda remains the same. Despite all the pressing issues we face in this country at home and abroad, the only thing and the first thing our Republican colleagues decide to bring to the floor of the House – as the most pressing business to start 2016 – was to take away access to affordable care to 22 million Americans and deny access to affordable care for millions of American women.

That 22 million figure, Mr. Speaker – that’s not my figure. That’s the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office that has looked at this legislation and concluded that as a result of this bill, 22 million Americans will lose access to their affordable health insurance. So it will be the freedom to be uninsured – the freedom to not have any opportunity to have coverage when your family has health care needs.

Mr. Speaker, if you look at this chart, you can see that the Affordable Care Act has already made a dramatic difference in bringing down the number of uninsured in the United States of America. And yet here we are in a new year, and the first act of this Republican Congress will be to turn back the clock and change that figure.

So I really hope, Mr. Speaker, that our colleagues will begin to focus on more important issues in the days ahead. Everybody knows that this will take about a nanosecond for the President of the United States to veto, because the President of the United States is not going to allow 22 million Americans to lose their access to affordable health insurance. And the President is not going to allow millions of Americans, and millions of American women, to lose access to reproductive choice and a range of health care options here in the United States.

So it’s disturbing, shameful, sad that this is the way we’re starting the new year. I hope we get on to more important business, Mr. Speaker.

Pharma Bro Arrested

Martin Shkreli, the reviled “pharma bro” who jacked up the price of a drug used to treat AIDS-related symptoms from $13 a pill to $750, was arrested on securities fraud charges this morning. Not for jacking up drug prices, but for stealing from his former company.

A boyish drug company entrepreneur, who rocketed to infamy by jacking up the price of a life-saving pill from $13.50 to $750, was arrested by federal agents at his Manhattan home early Thursday morning on securities fraud related to a firm he founded.

Martin Shkreli, 32, ignited a firestorm over drug prices in September and became a symbol of defiant greed. The federal case against him has nothing to do with pharmaceutical costs, however. Prosecutors in Brooklyn charged him with illegally taking stock from Retrophin Inc., a biotechnology firm he started in 2011, and using it to pay off debts from unrelated business dealings. He was later ousted from the company, where he’d been chief executive officer, and sued by its board.

Karma is truly a bitch, ain’t it? I hope they lock him up and take every dollar they can find from this asshole.

Health Exchange Contractor To Repay $45 Million 

The 2013 health care exchange rollout in Maryland was one of the worst debacles ever. It substantially contributed to Anthony Brown’s loss to Larry Hogan in November, and it cost an enormous amount to fix. Today, the State announced a settlement with the prime contractor, Noridian Healthcare Solutions, which will eventually recoup approximately 60% of the money paid to Noridian. The Sun:

The prime contractor on Maryland’s online health exchange will repay the state $45 million to settle claims that it botched the rollout of the marketplace created under the Affordable Care Act, according to a agreement announced Tuesday with Noridian Healthcare Solutions.

The total — just over 60 percent of what Noridian was paid — was unanimously approved by the health exchange board during a meeting Tuesday afternoon. U.S regulators still must approve the deal as much of the funding was federal.
The state cut ties with Noridian about four months after the website crashed on its first day in 2013, paying the company about $73 million of its $193 million contract to build and operate the exchange. The site never worked properly, delaying the applications of thousands of people without employer healthcare and in need of coverage.

It clearly appears to be a good settlement: $20 million now, and $5 million per year for five years. I just have one question: where do I go to get the governor’s mansion back? Sigh.

The ACA Works - Who Knew?

The New York Times reported last night that, contrary to all the bullshit propaganda spring forth from the monkey cage of the Republican Party, that the Affordable Care Act is working precisely as intended in bringing down out of pocket costs for birth control for women.

Out-of-pocket spending on most major birth control methods fell sharply in the months after the Affordable Care Act began requiring insurance plans to cover contraception at no cost to women, a new study has found. Spending on the pill, the most popular form of prescription birth control, dropped by about half in the first six months of 2013, compared with the same period in 2012, before the mandate took effect.

You’d think that if there was a real, sincere and legitimate desire to cut done on abortions, that conservatives would applaud better access to birth control, because it would cut down on the need for abortion. As we know from the past several years, the notion that conservative opposition to abortion is real, sincere or legitimate is complete and utter crap. But the article also makes clear that not only have out of pocket costs gone down, so has the number of abortions.

The study did not address whether free or cheaper birth control led to fewer unintended pregnancies. Findings from pilot studies in St. Louis and Colorado suggested that when cost was not an issue, birth control use increased and women tended to choose the most effective methods, such as long-acting intrauterine devices and implants. That helped drive down rates of abortion and unintended pregnancy in both states.

“We have no doubt that the cost makes a difference,” said Diana Zuckerman, the president of the National Center for Health Research in Washington. “When you have free contraception, it’s going to affect pregnancy and abortion as well because money matters.”
Contraception coverage has improved drastically since the early 1990s, with most insurance companies now covering the full range of birth control methods. But women still had to bear some cost, a requirement that experts say discouraged some lower-income women from getting it and that the Affordable Care Act largely eliminated.

A government program that actually does what it promised regarding women’s reproductive rights, cutting costs, increasing access to better birth control and cutting rates of abortion substantially. What an amazingly unique idea. Thanks, Obama!