Bill Flores Discusses Recent Tragedies and Legislative Initiatives
by Bill Flores on August 13, 2019 at 3:30 PM
I issued the following statements regarding the recent tragedies in El Paso and Dayton and my recent health care related legislative initiatives:
Tragedies in El Paso and Dayton
Our hearts ache for the pain experienced by the people and the communities of El Paso and Dayton. As a nation, we mourn and pray for those who have been killed and injured. We are also grateful for the quick response of local law enforcement, first responders and volunteers whose selfless actions saved lives and stopped the violence.
During 2017 and 2018, the 115th Congress worked on a bipartisan basis to pass key mental health reforms, school safety legislation, improved background checks and more robust protocol reforms for the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). Still, there is more work to do to address violence in our society. As always, I stand ready to push aside political partisanship in Washington to work with all policymakers to develop solutions that will early identify, deter and prevent violence. This work, if done thoughtfully, will improve the safety of our communities, while balancing and protecting the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens.
Health Care Related Legislative Solutions for the 116th Congress
Since convening in January, the House Democrat Majority has spent much of the 116th Congress focused on a hard-left agenda that has produced divisive and political show votes and a continued harassment of President Trump and his administration. This hyper-partisan, socialist agenda has produced few solutions to address the actual needs of hardworking American families. As a result, very few bills have made it to the president’s desk for his signature. The current House legislative efforts pale in comparison to the work we did in the 115th Congress (2017-2018) when about 99 percent of the 443 bills signed by President Trump were bipartisan. Rather than focus on political attacks, Congress would be better served using its time to address the issues that Americans really care about – securing our border, fixing our broken immigration system, addressing prescription drug prices, improving our health care system and continuing America’s energy dominance while improving the environment.
In contrast to Speaker Pelosi’s failing agenda, I am working with my reasonable Democrat and Republican colleagues to address these important issues, to improve economic opportunities for hardworking American families and to keep America prosperous, safe, secure and great. In the paragraphs below, we discuss our health care related legislative activities. Later this month, we will discuss our other 2019 legislative initiatives.
Health Coverage State Flexibility Act
Since its inception, Obamacare has failed to meet virtually any of its initial goals. Under current law, patients who obtain insurance through Obamacare, but fail to pay their premium, have a three-month grace period before their coverage lapses. This Obamacare provision was intended to prevent people from losing their insurance because they failed to make a monthly premium payment. Despite the intent, some Obamacare enrollees are using this provision as a loophole to get free health care without paying into the system. Using what is known as an advanced premium tax credit, some people can simply pay for only nine months of health insurance but yet receive coverage for a full year. Those same patients can then re-enroll the following year and start the cycle all over again. Gaming the system like this creates an imbalance in risk pools which, in turn, drives up the cost of coverage in the form of higher premiums for Americans who play by the rules.
I introduced the Health Coverage State Flexibility Act to close this loophole and provide premium relief for hardworking American families. This commonsense bill reforms the length of Obamacare’s three-month grace period to one month or a time period in line with any existing state statute. Closing this loophole will stabilize health care risk pools and provide premium relief for hardworking Americans.
Verify Eligibility Coverage Act
Medicaid is a critically important safety net program that serves the most vulnerable in our communities. Tax dollars used to fund the program must be spent taking care of those in the greatest need. Obamacare, however, created loopholes which allow illegal immigrants to obtain Medicaid coverage without providing any evidence of citizenship or other eligibility. To address this abuse of hardworking taxpayer dollars, I introduced the Verify Eligibility Coverage Act. This bill prevents federal funds from being used to provide Medicaid coverage until applicants have provided satisfactory evidence of citizenship or lawful U.S. presence. These commonsense reforms will ensure that Medicaid is being implemented as the program was intended.
Health Care Safety Net Enhancement Act
Emergency physicians and on-call specialists perform lifesaving acts every day, often requiring these physicians to make quick, life-and-death decisions with minimal information about the patient. This lifesaving care is sometimes risky and exposes these specialists to an increased likelihood of litigation because emergency and trauma patients are often sicker, have more serious complications and usually have no pre-existing relationship with the treating physician. As a result, we are seeing declines in the availability of emergency physicians and on-call specialists across the country.
To ensure patients have access to quality emergency care, I have introduced the Health Care Safety Net Enhancement Act. This bill temporarily extends liability protections to on-call and emergency department physicians. It allows for federally mandated emergency medical services furnished by a hospital or physician to be covered in the same manner as those who provide care to medically underserved communities and vulnerable populations. This solution will help address our growing shortage of physicians and specialists, so that we can make sure emergency medical care is available when and where it is needed.
Hatch-Waxman Integrity Act
Today, innovative pharmaceutical companies continue to develop new and exciting therapies to help change the lives of patients around the world. This innovation is due in large part to the Hatch-Waxman Act, which was signed into law in 1984 to strike a balance between brand-name and generic drug manufacturers. The Hatch-Waxman Integrity Act, which I was proud to introduce with Senator Thom Tillis of North Carolina, ensures that unintended consequences from recently implemented alternative pathways for challenging drug patents do not conflict with the original intent of the Hatch-Waxman Act. This bill stops current activities which stifle innovation and it supports continued innovation by ensuring a balanced process to challenge pharmaceutical patents. Our efforts will make certain that American patients continue to benefit from research, new discovery and medical innovation.
Youth Empowerment Act
The federal government has funded sexual education programs for several decades, and for most of that time, Congress set a priority on Sexual Risk Avoidance (SRA) Abstinence Education. Unfortunately, the Obama administration made draconian and arbitrary cuts to abstinence education, denying young people a balanced sex education curriculum. The Youth Empowerment Act modernizes abstinence education programs and restores parity funding for SRA activities. During the last Congress, I was successful in getting the language from this bill incorporated into the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018.
This year, I reintroduced the bill (H.R. 3696) to ensure that this important program continues to receive annual funding in the future. Our nation's youth must be given the information they need to make healthy decisions that will put them on the path to success.
Every New Heart Deserves a Chance Act
Science has proven that once a heartbeat is detected in an unborn child, the rate of live birth success is high. I introduced the Every New Heart Deserves a Chance Act because I find it unconscionable that current law does not protect these lives as soon as a heartbeat is detected. This bill would make it illegal to perform an abortion after the detection of a heartbeat. While we must do whatever we can to protect the unborn, this bill provides exceptions for necessary procedures if the life of the mother is in danger and in cases of rape or incest. Life is sacred and America must do more to protect the rights of unborn children and to preserve the sanctity of life.
While Republicans in Congress have made headway in providing relief from the failures of Obamacare, hardworking American families continue to struggle under its skyrocketing costs and shrinking options. Since my first day in office, one of my top priorities has been to repeal Obamacare and replace it with free-market principles that improve competition and increase choices for every American. Despite falling short of repealing and replacing Obamacare during the last Congress, my resolve for improving our health care system remains steadfast. Rather than work with Republicans to address Obamacare’s failures, the House Democrat Majority in the 116th Congress has instead focused on bailing out its botched programs. Hardworking American families deserve better, which is why I introduced a bill (H.R. 2356) that fully repeals Obamacare on January 1, 2023. This bill would provide ample time for Congress to work in a bipartisan manner to put a 21st century health care system in place that empowers hardworking American families to take control of their health care decisions and provides them access to robust, innovative, market-driven and affordable health care coverage that puts the patient first and covers pre-existing conditions.
There is still a lot of work to be done in the 116th Congress. It is my hope that we can put aside the partisan agendas and get back to working on the issues important to hardworking American families. In the coming weeks, we will cover the other legislative solutions which I have put forth to improve economic opportunities for hardworking American families and to keep America prosperous, safe, secure and great.