The leading Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee Kevin Brady (R-TX) delivered the following opening statement at a Full Committee Markup of Tax and Health Legislation.
Remarks as prepared for delivery:
“Thank you, Chairman Neal.
“Compared to yesterday’s markup, I’m glad to see our Committee come together today to consider some important bipartisan bills to improve our nation’s health care system.
“Of the multiple health bills we are debating today, Republicans have been proud to lead the fight on many of these issues alongside our Democrat colleagues.
“From repealing some of Obamacare’s most harmful taxes to expanding Health Savings Accounts for patients and seniors – there is a lot to be proud of in these bills.
“HSAs are incredibly popular, combining the benefits of a lower-premium health plan with a tax-favored savings account to help patients afford out-of-pocket health costs. These are accounts Americans want to utilize, they are tools Republicans have worked hard to improve and expand.
“And they truly help the middle class – the median household income for an HSA account holder is roughly $57,000.
“Congress should do all in its powers to make HSAs as flexible and patient-focused as possible.
“First, we are considering H.R. 1922, the Restoring Access to Medication Act, sponsored by Rep. Jackie Walorski and Rep. Darin LaHood.
“Obamacare imposed over $1 trillion in tax increases to partly pay for new entitlements, they have increased health care costs and it hindered patients’ abilities to purchase needed medical products.
“One of the first tax increases to take effect from Obamacare was the ‘Medicine Cabinet Tax.’
“Obamacare gave patients three options when it came to buying drugs and medical products.
“The law told patients they could either spend time and money on an unnecessary appointment with a doctor to get a prescription, resulting in longer wait times and piles of paperwork for doctors’ offices.
“That they could purchase these medicines with their own fully taxed funds, which raised the cost of accessing needed treatments.
“Or they could simply not seek treatment due to the added cost.
“All of these options hurt patients, and all three raised health care costs.
“H.R. 1922 repeals this harmful provision to allow all tax-favored health accounts to be used to purchase over-the-counter medical products as well as, for the first time, feminine products.
“Millions of Americans would see the benefits immediately with this legislation.
“We will also be considering H.R. 3708, the Primary Care Enhancement Act, sponsored by our top Republican on the Health Subcommittee Devin Nunes as well as Rep. Jason Smith.
“This bipartisan legislation will give folks with Health Savings Accounts greater choice when it comes to accessing the coordinated care that is best for them and their family.
“H.R. 3708 will give patients more say over their health care decisions and allow them to see more convenient, personalized providers.
“And we are considering H.R. 4716, the Inhaler Coverage and Access Now Act, sponsored by Rep. Drew Ferguson.
“This is commonsense legislation that allows the high-deductible health plans that are coupled with HSAs to cover the costs of inhalers before patients have reached the deductible.
“This is already allowed for other preventive treatments, and it makes sense to allow this coverage for inhalers that prevent hospitalizations and very serious health consequences for patients suffering from asthma.
“This is a potentially lifesaving action, and codifies similar improvements already made by the Trump Administration this year to improve our health care system for all Americans.
“The last bill we will be debating today is H.R. 4742, which would impose a new tax on vaping products.
“Vaping has been the subject of many media reports, and we all share a strong commitment on this Committee to ensure each and every American can live a safe and healthy life – especially our kids and teenagers.
“But this is an issue that we are hearing about for the first time today in this Committee.
“We have held no hearings on this issue.
“We have not been looped in on the drafting of this bill. And we have had no experts testify to tell us the challenges they see and what steps are best for Congress to take.
“Instead of regular order, the Majority has decided to ‘tax first, ask questions later.’
“There is a bipartisan desire among our Members to tackle e-cigarettes and ensure that all Americans are safe from any harmful side effects from these products. We want to have that discussion through regular order.
“There is a right way to do this. But to ask Members to approve a brand-new tax with a mere two-days’ notice is not it.
“Republicans look forward to today’s debate.
“There is good work being done to make health care more affordable and more patient-focused in today’s bills, and I’m hopeful we can send many of these bipartisan proposals to the President’s desk soon.