HIGHWAY TECHNICAL CORRECTIONS ACT OF 2007 -- (Senate - April 17, 2008)
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Mr. VITTER. Madam President, today I stand on the Senate floor and continue a very important discussion that I began with all of my Republican classmates in the Senate several weeks ago. It is about the need for dramatic, bold, health care reform in this country.
We adopted this as a class project, if you will. Again, I thank my colleagues Senators THUNE, BURR, DEMINT, MARTINEZ, ISAKSON, and COBURN for their hard work on this important debate, on this important discussion.
Again, the idea is very simple: to put forward our conservative, free-market principles and what vision that leads to in terms of necessary, bold, transformative health care reform, and also to provide a clear contrast between that vision and the alternative, which is clearly in our mind a big government solution, a one-size-fits all solution that has the government role in health care grow and grow and private individual choice lessened and lessened.
In the first week of this discussion on the Senate floor, I rose and laid out our broad principles and where we wanted this discussion to lead. Again, as I said that week, I believe there is great consensus in America, almost universal consensus that our health care delivery system is badly broken and that major reform needs to take place. But, of course, having said that, the hard part is figuring out what that change is and how it can work best for the American people.
As I said in those introductory comments, I believe the broad choices are clear. Our conservative, free-market vision is to empower the individual, to maximize choice, to help everyone get good private insurance that is accessible and affordable, to use taxpayer dollars where appropriate to help the truly poor afford that sort of good private insurance that stresses preventive care and other measures that will bring down health care costs.
But that is a very different vision from one based on Government first and foremost, based on Government programs, one-size-fits-all, growing those programs and in the process lessening individual choice and responsibility and lessening the sanctity of the individual doctor-patient relationship.
In the second week of our discussion, our colleague JOHN THUNE came to the floor and elaborated on a very important component of this message, which is that we want to stress a choice of private health plans as a predominant factor in American health care versus Government programs, or the one-size-fits-all, pushing people more and more in that direction and increasing the dominance of Government in this very major sector of our economy.
Following up on that, I come to the Senate floor this week to talk about a closely related principle and closely related theme, which is, again, opting for individual choice and incentives versus forced enrollment or forcing action upon citizens by the Government. Again, this is a crucial element of our vision for the dramatic, bold health care reform we need.
We believe firmly and we believe strongly that individuals are capable of choosing their own health insurance plan and that we must continue to focus on individuals and empowering individuals with choices and with incentives, not forcing individuals in a certain direction. So we are opposed to forcing people to enroll in certain plans rather than providing incentives for individuals to make rational choices that fit their own circumstances.
Congress should be pushing reform that creates those incentives for individuals, for employers, for insurance companies, and for States to come up with innovative solutions. We shouldn't be forcing mandates down people's throats, forcing them to enroll in any particular big government or other program. The way we can most effectively maximize this choice and empower the individual is through the Tax Code, creating options for families and individuals through the Tax Code that help those families buy insurance, that create those incentives that make sure it is accessible and affordable for everyone.
Now, as I suggest, Madam President, I have some pretty fundamental philosophical objections to mandating action on people. But in addition to that, I have some very practical concerns. If we look at other jurisdictions--States, even other countries--that force these mandates on people, we find they really don't work in the end.
A few examples. Hawaii--obviously a State--has a mandate that all employers must provide their workers with health insurance. Well, they think that is a magic wand that just automatically solves the problem. But it doesn't. First of all, unfortunately, it creates a barrier in many instances to creating jobs, increasing employment, and growing business. So that is a problem. But even beyond that, it doesn't insure all workers. In fact, in Hawaii, 10 percent of workers--not unemployed people, not nonworkers, but
10 percent of workers--- do not have health insurance. So there is the very practical issue of simply throwing out an edict, a mandate from the Government which doesn't accomplish the goal.
Another example is Canada. Canada requires everyone to be covered. Again, that creates significant challenges in actually making that happen and enforcing that rule. For instance, in the province of British Columbia alone, more than 40,000 people somehow slipped through the cracks or slipped through that mandate. It isn't a magic wand, and it doesn't get done.
So we believe there is a better way, and that is to maximize choice, empower the individual, and create incentives. That will get a great number of people enrolled and provide more affordability and access to health care.
We believe, as a part of that, that existing Government programs can be improved and modernized and made more efficient. And that is important. But we are opposed to attempts which often come up in this body and the other body of Congress that try to significantly expand these programs well beyond the bounds of how they were originally set up, well beyond the core constituencies or income levels for which they were established. We believe that is going down the path of big government, nationalizing health care, making government the dominant force by far, and we don't want to do that.
We also believe that encouraging competition in the marketplace is key to lowering health care costs. So we are opposed to price controls, profit ceilings, rigid expensive requirements, and mandates that usually end up doing exactly the opposite.
We believe in recognizing that seniors have increasingly turned to Medicare Advantage Plans because they offer a better value and in many cases a higher quality of care than traditional fee-for-service Medicare. So we are opposed to efforts to dismantle these programs and again lessen choice, lessen individual responsibility and choice, and push folks in one certain direction--back to a one-size-fits-all traditional Medicare fee-for-service.
We also believe that taxes should be as low as possible and that the Tax Code should be changed to put money back into families' hands, which would allow them to purchase their own health insurance. We are opposed to increasing taxes and using that money to pay for a big government one-size-fits-all model.
Madam President, I look forward, as do all of my Republican Senate classmates--Senators THUNE and BURR, DEMINT, MARTINEZ, ISAKSON, and COBURN--to continuing this discussion, continuing this debate. As I said at the beginning, I believe virtually all of America agrees that the American health care delivery system is badly broken, that we are in desperate need of not just tinkering around the edges but bold, dramatic reform. So we want to come forward and lay out those conservative and market-based principles that we believe are the right type of change, the type of reform Americans want, reform that empowers the individual, that respects that individual doctor-patient relationship, and that maximizes choice and creates incentives, and not the wrong choice that grows big government, that lessens choice, that increases mandates, that pushes individuals in a certain direction rather than allowing them to understand what best meets their needs.
Next week, Madam President, we will continue the discussion as another of my Republican Senate classmates takes to the floor to talk about another issue in this important debate, and I look forward to listening and participating in that discussion.
Madam President, I yield the floor, and I suggest the absence of a quorum.