Madam President, one of the things that I would most like to work on is the cost of prescription drugs. And I think we should make sensible changes to the Affordable Care Act. But the bill that came over from the House doesn't really do that at all. And whether it's bringing the costs down for seniors by having negotiations under Medicare Part D, whether it's allowing for less expensive drugs to come in by generic drugs or from other countries, the bill just doesn't do that and now we're--supposedly a bill is being considered here but it's being done in secret, so I can't have my say.
For any bill int the Senate, committees meet, debate, and vote on amendments offered by senators on both sides of the aisle. We need to hear ideas on how to fix this bill from the HELP Committee. I ask that we agree that the bill won't come to the floor until the HELP Committee has had an open meeting and considered amendements from both parties. I ask unanimous consent that no motion to proceed Calendar No. 120, H.R. 1628, Affordable Care Act, be in order until the bill has been the subject of executive session meetings in the Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee during which amendments from the majority and minority receive votes and the bill has been reported favorably.
Mr. President, I rise today to join my colleagues to speak out and ask for a normal process here--to ask for hearings, to ask for a debate, to ask for amendments because the House health care repeal bill is a major step backwards, throwing over 20 million people off of health insurance, strongly opposed by AARP.
We don't know what is being concocted here in the Senate, but clearly something is going on, and we would like to have a say. And most importantly, the people of my state would like to have a say. Look at Laura from North St. Paul who wrote to me about her concerns about that bad House bill. Laura has recently retired but won't be eligible for Medicare until next year, and she has a daughter with several chronic health conditions. Laura is worried that if the proposal goes through this chamber, she will end up paying far more for her health insurance and her daughter might lose her coverage altogether. Like so many others, Laura asked that we work across the aisle to make improvements to the bill that her family needs and that so many families across the country need.
Or take Mike in Grand Marais, up in the tip of our state, not too far from Canada. There in Canada, Mike knows what the prices are for prescription drugs. But here in America, that House health care bill, it doesn't do anything to bring down the cost of prescription drugs. Mike has been self-employed his whole life and is now approaching retirement. He told me he is very worried that just as he is about to retire, he will not be able to afford health insurance because of premiums that under that bill for older Minnesotans like him would skyrocket.
Or take a woman from Andover, Minnesota, she wrote to me to say she is so worried, "about the GOP's slamdunk approach to check off a box on their to-do list" and that would be her 28-year-old son. She says that Medicaid coverage has been a lifesaver for her son because it helps him afford the treatment he needs to strive for an independent, productive life.
The truth of the matter is, I've heard from so many people like these three, from all corners of my state--the old to the young to the middle-aged. I have heard from so many people from the rural parts of my state about the bill. They are especially worried about the $834 billion in cuts to Medicaid. Medicaid covers more than 1.2 million Minnesotans, including more than one-fifth of our rural population. Twenty percent of our rural population.
This funding is vital for our rual hospitals and the health care providers' ability in those parts of our state to stay open and serve their patients. Many, many people who work in rural hospitals, who are served by rural hopsitals, have come up to me to talk about their concerns. And these hospitals are not like big urban hospitals. They're not. One of my rural hospitals--I see the Senator from Hawaii here. I thank him for organizing this along with Senator Murray. Our rural hospitals, they actually treat a lot of accidents. People out snowmobiling or on ATVs. In fact, one of them has a chart every summer showing all the places, the fishhooks they've had to remove from people's hands. They have more than 100 of them by the end of the summer. You wouldn't see this in an urban area. It just shows, different parts of the country, different parts of our state have different issues that they're dealing with. These hospitals are particularly concerned about these cuts. These drastic cuts would cause may of our rural hospitals to close, forcing families to drive 60, 70, 80 miles or more when they need the health care the most.
The other issue that this bill brings up to me whne you look at rural areas is the opioid epidemic. That is hitting communities across the country. In my state, deaths from prescription drugs now claim more lives than homicides or car crashes. While there is more work to do to combat this epidemic, I want to recognize that we have made meaningful progress so far in a bipartisan way. We passed a framework bill, the CARA bill. We passed the CURES Act last December as well as money to fund the treatment.
Unfortunately, just as we're starting to move forward on this issue, the health care repeal bill passed by the House would put us at the risk of moving backwards. There is money in that for opioid treatment, but guess what? Medicaid and Children's Health Insurance Program cover three out of every ten people with an opioid addiction. But according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, mental health and substance abuse benefits could be cut under the House bill, increasing out-of-pocket costs.
It is clear this legislation has massive life-changing implications for families across the country, yet we haven't seen a draft in the Senate. What we do know is that just last week the President of the United States, who's known for not really mincing words, known for using very direct language, calle the House bill mean. He called it mean. He didn't need a poll or a focus group. Didn't need to know every detail of the bill. But when you hear that over 20 million people can lose thier health insurance, that's a pretty good word to describe it--mean. So, what we don't want to have here out of the Senate is that we bring forward the "Son of Mean" or "Mean II." We don't know what we have because we haven't seen it, because the legislation is being drafted behind closed doors.
Most of us agree that we must make changes to the Affordable Care Act. I certainly think so. I would love to pass my bills my bills or include them in amendments to the Affordable Care Act to bring down the cost of prescription drugs. My bill to allow 41 million seniors to harness their negotiating power to bring drug prices down. Right now they're banned to from doing that. That's wrong. I would love to see more competition come in the market in the form of less expensive drugs from other countries like Canada. A bill I have with Senator McCain. Or make it easier to get generics on the market. Or pay-for-delay. I think the American people would be surprised if they found out that the big pharmaceutical companies are paying their generic competitiors to keep their products off the market.
We can make improvements to the exchanges, just as we've done some of that work in the state of Minnesota, we can do that nationally. We can make improvements to change the small business rates. There are things we can do. But we can't do it if we're not in the door because the door is closed. And when the door is closed, it is not just closed for the Democrats in the Senate. The door is closed to the American people.
What it all comes down to is we need to work in a bipartisan way to make health care better and less expensive for the people in our country. Last week we all came together--I was at that congressional baseball game. It was such an amazing moment--25,000 people in the stands, all four leaders out there looking like they actually liked each other. There they were, and there our teams were. Two teams--a Republican team and a Democratic team. In the end, it was a hard-fought game. One team won--the Democratic team. But they handed their award to the Republican team. They said, "Put it in Representative Scalise's office." We want to take that spirit and go even further. Instead of two teams, one team for America. And the way we make changes to an issue that has been long fought on both sides. I know Republicans weren't happy with everything that happened during the debate on the Affordable Care Act. They have made that clear. But now we have a moment in time where we can come together, make sensible changes, and make things better for the people of this country. Let's do it.
Thank you, Mr. President. I yield the floor.