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Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, last week and again this morning, my good friend, the majority leader, came to the floor and said he wants to work with Republicans on health care reform. I welcome his comments. As a step in that direction, I would point out one of the major concerns Americans have about health care reform is the pricetag.
Last week, we learned the Federal deficit is now more than $1 trillion so far this year for the first time in our Nation's history. To give people an idea of how dramatically the Federal deficit has grown in just the last several months, I would note the current deficit for this year is $800 billion more than it was at this point last year--$800 billion more than at this point last year. So the need for fiscal discipline could not be greater than at the current moment. Yet all the Democratic proposals we are hearing on health care would only increase our Nation's already staggering debt without even addressing the full extent of the problems we all agree should be addressed as part of a comprehensive reform. Americans do, indeed, want health care reform, but they don't want to see their children and their grandchildren buried deeper and deeper in debt without even solving the problem.
Every proposal we have seen would cost a fortune by any standard. Even worse, some of these estimates are totally misleading. In some cases 10-year estimates are based on proposals that wouldn't even go into effect for 4 years. In other words, what is being sold as a 10-year cost would actually cost that much over 6 years.
We also know from our experience with Medicare that cost estimates on health care often prove to be wildly inaccurate. When Medicare Part A was enacted in 1965, it was projected that in 1990 it would spend $9.1 billion on hospital services and related administration. As it turned out, spending in 1990 totaled almost $67 billion, more than seven times the original prediction.
Today, Medicare is already paying out more than it is taking in and will soon go bankrupt. So if history is any guide, the actual cost of reform could be far greater than the estimates we are getting now--estimates that are already giving Americans serious sticker shock.
Also troubling are some of the proposals we have heard to pay for these so-called reforms. The advocates of government-run health care have been searching frantically for a way to cover costs, and they seem to have settled on two groups: the elderly and small business owners in the form of Medicare cuts and higher taxes.
As for Medicare, it is my view any savings from Medicare should be used to strengthen and protect Medicare, not fund another government-run system that is all but certain to have the same fiscal problems down the road Medicare does. Raiding one insolvent government-run program to create another is not reform; it is using an outdated model to solve a problem that will require a fresh approach and new ideas.
As for higher taxes, advocates of the government takeover of health care have set their sights on small business owners to help pay for the proposals. It should go without saying that this is precisely the wrong approach in the middle of a recession. Small businesses are the engine of our economy, and they have created approximately two-thirds of all new jobs in the last decade. At a time when the unemployment rate is approaching 10 percent, we need to help small businesses not hurt them. Yet according to news reports, Democrats in Congress are considering doing just that.
In recent congressional testimony, the President of the National Federation of Independent Business said some of these proposals could destroy more than 1.5 million jobs. Aside from killing jobs, these so-called reforms could actually cause millions to end up with worse care than they already have, and they could come at a higher cost to individuals and families in the form of higher premiums.
Some have also proposed raising income taxes and limiting tax deductions for charitable giving. Others are reportedly considering an increase on the employee Medicare tax which would take money out of the paychecks of American workers, a new national sales tax, and taxes on soda and juice boxes. These proposals would hit low-income Americans especially hard. All of these are bad ideas, but it is unlikely they would cover the long-term cost of the proposal we have seen so far in any event. The rest would simply be added to the national debt.
In his comments last week, the majority leader said health care reform is not a partisan issue. That is why some of us have for weeks put forward ideas that should be pretty easy for everybody to support, such as reforming medical malpractice laws to get rid of junk lawsuits, encouraging wellness and prevention programs such as the programs that help people quit smoking or overcome obesity that have been shown to cut costs, and increasing competition in the private market.
Americans would like for the two parties to work together to reform health care--to cut costs without sacrificing the things Americans like about our current health care system. Embracing the ideas I have mentioned and finding responsible ways to pay for health care reform is an obvious and commonsense place to start.
Mr. President, I yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum.
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