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Public Statements

Veto of SCHIP

Floor Speech

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Location: Washington, DC


VETO OF SCHIP -- (Senate - October 04, 2007)

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Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, I want to spend a few minutes talking about this issue of health care and children's health care, the issue about all the politics that are involved, and the issue about the next election and how you can make somebody look bad because they do not agree that we ought to transfer a large segment of our health care to the Government.

I think it is most important that the American people ought to be asking some questions. Why is it we have a health care program that we are putting out that the President rightly vetoed that pays $4,000 to buy $2,300 worth of care? It is a simple question. We are going to pay $1,700 more than we should to run it through the Government--to buy $2,300 worth of care. That makes no sense. But whoever said Washington makes sense?

As a matter of fact, this bill is more nonsensical than any bill we have passed this year. It assumes that 22 million Americans now have to start smoking to pay the taxes that will pay for this bill. Twenty-two million? Right now we have a problem with the cost of tobacco use in this country and long-term care.

The other situation which has not been characterized is, if you look at the CBO scoring, for any one new child who goes on SCHIP under this bill, one comes off of private insurance. It is one for one. That is what the CBO says. So what we are doing is, we are asking the American taxpayers--but, actually, we are not. We are asking the very children whom we are supposedly going to give care to, to allow us to borrow money now to pay for their care so they can pay a higher tax rate 25 years from now.

This bill lacks integrity in terms of the way it pays for itself. Everybody knows that. It is another little wink and nod from Washington: Yes, we have a pay-go rule. Yes, we are going to pay for it. But, oh, by the way, it costs $121 billion, but we are only going to tell you it costs $35 billion. And, by the way, we don't have the tax revenues to pay for it, so we are going to lie about the tax revenues on it.

It is important that Washington start getting what America has already got; that is, how about some plain words that have to do with our health care situation? If we want to move to national health care, let's have a debate about national health care. Let's talk about the fact that in England the average length of time waiting for treatment for a cancer after it is diagnosed--they are trying to move from 10 months to 3 months. In this country it is 4 weeks. It is 4 weeks. The cure rates for cancers in this country are 50 percent to 100 percent better than anywhere else that has a nationalized health care system. Why is that? Why is it that 80 percent of all the innovation in health care in terms of new medical products, new techniques, new devices, new diagnostics come out of this country's private sector?

Let's have a real debate about national health care. But let's quit lying to the American people that in the name of children we are going to spend their future money to create a segue to national health care.

In the State of New Jersey, well over half the money for children's health care is spent on adults. In the State of

Florida, 750,000 kids under 200 percent of the poverty level are not on SCHIP right now. In the State of Texas, 700,000 are not. Yet we are going to create a system to raise--it is important the American people know what 200 percent of the poverty level is. It is $42,000 a year.

What we are saying under the present SCHIP bill--the one that has been extended with the CR--is if you as a family make less than that, we are going to help you out with your kids. But if you make more than that, you ought to be contributing.

This body does not care about kids because it voted against a premium support amendment to allow kids in these higher income families a way to buy health insurance. What we have said is no, we cannot do that. But we can certainly be dishonest about what our intentions are in the rest of the bill.

So as the American public hears all the criticism of those who say: We don't want more Government; we want less; we want the Government we have to be more efficient, more transparent, and more accountable--as they criticize us for those positions, they are going to say we don't care about children.

Do you care about children if you are going to steal their future by undermining their ability to have a future by not paying for and growing the Government and borrowing more and more money? It cannot happen. We cannot give our children a future if we continue to be dishonest with ourselves and dishonest with the American public.

I think President Bush is right on this issue. No. I don't think so. I know he is. One of the reasons we are having difficulty at this time in our country with health care is because 52 percent of the health care now is run by the Government. Why is it a large percentage of people who are now coming on to Medicare--and in 3 years the baby boomers start coming on to Medicare--why is it the vast majority of them cannot find a Medicare physician? Why is that? Could it be that we have promised something we are not going to pay for, so we are going to reimburse at a lower level?

The next thing to come out of this body will be: If you are a physician in this country, you have to take Medicare, just as in Massachusetts you have to take Medicaid. Our health care system ought to be about freedom and choice and personal responsibility, and, yes, it ought to be about helping those who need our help. But, quite frankly, if you are making $80,000 a year in this country, we ought to be about paying off debt rather than paying for your child's health insurance. That is what this bill does. That is what this bill allows.

So we are going to have a debate. We are going to see the political games played out. This bill will not be overridden in the House, and then we are going to have to come back and address it. My hope is when we address it, we will add premium support for those who are on the edge so we can help those who are in private insurance stay in private insurance, we will be honest on how we pay for it. The most disappointing thing about this bill is the lack of integrity and honesty and character in terms of the way it is paid for. It shows the depths of which we fool ourselves and play the game of politics rather than play the game of statesmanship. It is a disappointing aspect, and I would say our approval rating is well earned just on the basis of this bill.

I yield the floor.

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