Pandemic is Over Act

Floor Speech

Date: Jan. 31, 2023
Location: Washington, DC


Mr. BLUMENAUER. Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the gentleman's courtesy in permitting me to speak on this. It is not quite as simple as my friend from Florida implies.

Today we are voting to upend the healthcare system and interrupt patient care. Ending the public health emergency prematurely would have far-reaching implications, and this is a waste of time. The Biden administration has already made clear that they are planning on ending the emergency in May.

Why are we spending time abruptly ending this declaration, which is going to end in 3 months anyway, when we could have instead had a serious conversation about making this as smooth a transition as possible?

There are many things that are involved here. Congress already started this work in the omnibus by beginning a process to wind down Medicaid enrollment policies and extending important programs like telehealth.

I was happy that my bipartisan legislation to extend Medicare's Hospital at Home program was extended in this manner. We fought for this because we viewed the waivers and policies of the last 3 years as a blueprint for future opportunities to innovate and extract value from our healthcare system.

This work was bipartisan because both sides of the aisle saw the benefit of the pandemic-era policies. It is unfortunate that instead of continuing to build on that work, my colleagues are posturing.

I have heard from hospitals in my district, and I imagine you have heard in yours, how important it is to extend, not end, the waivers that address their capacity and staffing challenges.

If this bill were enacted, those operations would be upended. State Medicaid programs would be in unnecessary chaos, with millions at risk of losing their health insurance. Seniors would lose access to COVID tests because Medicare would no longer be able to pay for them. These are just a few examples of the complexity and how irresponsible this legislation is. It certainly does not honor the more than a million Americans who have lost their lives to this disease.

After a traumatic 3 years full of loss, the last thing the public needs is additional chaos at the hands of the Federal Government.

At the start of the pandemic, we saw an often divided Congress come together to bring meaningful relief to American families. I had hoped that we would continue that same spirit of cooperation and dedication to our constituents at the end of this chapter.

I know we have all heard from our hospitals and healthcare systems about the needs they still have. I believe we can work together to make this a stable transition and learn lessons from the pandemic.

I urge my colleagues to reject this legislation and instead come to the table to work to ease the transition in a reasonable fashion.