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HEALTH CARE WEEK VII, DAY I
Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, Americans are eager for health care reforms that lower costs and increase access. This is why many of us are proposing reforms that should be easy for everyone to agree on, such as reforming our medical liability laws, strengthening wellness and prevention programs that would encourage people to make healthy choices, such as quitting smoking and losing weight and addressing the needs of small businesses without imposing new taxes that kill jobs.
The administration is taking a different approach to health care reform, and the more Americans learn about it, the more concerned they become. So it is good the President plans to spend a lot of his time in the days ahead discussing the administration's plan for reform because people need to know what the administration's plan is.
Specifically, Americans have concerns about losing the care they have and spending trillions of dollars for a so-called reform that could leave them with worse care than they have now, especially if it is paid for by seniors and small business owners.
One prospect Americans are extremely concerned about is that they will be forced off of their current plans as part of a government takeover of health care. Despite repeated assurances from the administration to the contrary, the independent Congressional Budget Office says that just one section of one of the Democratic proposals we have seen would force 10 million people off their current health plans.
Americans do not want a government takeover, and they certainly do not want the government to spend trillions of their tax dollars to pay for it, especially if the care they end up with is worse than the care they already receive, and especially if the money that is spent on these so-called reforms only adds to the national debt.
The President has repeatedly promised that his reform would not add to the debt. Yet both the House and Senate reform bills we have seen would do just that. This is why even Democrats have started to backpedal from the administration's plans.
One reason Democrats are having second thoughts is because the Director of the Congressional Budget Office has sounded the alarm over the administration's claims that its reforms would cut long-term overall health care costs. On the contrary, he said the administration's reforms would actually lead to an increase in overall costs. Concerns like these about costs and debt have been building slowly for weeks.
Another growing concern even among Democrats is the impact these higher costs would have on States in the form of higher Medicaid costs. At a time of tight budgets, this is something that Governors from both political parties are not very happy about.
For example, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson has said, and I am quoting him directly:
I'm personally very concerned about the cost issue, particularly the $1 trillion figures being batted around.
Expanding Medicaid might look like an easy way to expand access, but it will actually mean massive spending increases for both Federal and State taxpayers. This could be a devastating blow to States such as Kentucky and many others which are already struggling to pay the Medicaid costs they currently owe.
The administration's efforts to pay for its plans are not the least bit reassuring. The two main groups they are targeting are the last two that should be expected to pay for it: seniors, through Medicare cuts, and small business owners, through higher taxes.
To me, it is just common sense that in the middle of a recession the last thing--the last thing--we should be doing is raising taxes on small businesses. Yet both bills we have seen would do just that. Indeed, under the House bill, taxes on some small businesses would rise as high as roughly 45 percent. This means in order to pay for health care reform, Democrats would increase the tax rate on some small businesses to about 30 percent higher than the rate for big corporations. Taxes would go up so much, in fact, under the House proposal that the average combined Federal and State top tax rate for individuals would be about 52 percent--52 percent, Mr. President.
Let's consider that figure for a moment. To repeat: In order to pay for a health care proposal that would not even address all the concerns Americans have about access and cost--and which might even increase overall health care costs--Democrats in the House would raise the average top tax rate in the United States to about 52 percent.
The chart behind me was created by the Heritage Foundation and appeared last week in the Wall Street Journal. It shows that the House bill would raise the top U.S. rate above even France. Of the 30 countries the OECD measures, only Belgium, Sweden, and Denmark have higher rates, and five U.S. States would have tax rates even higher than both Belgium and Sweden.
The United States is in the middle of a recession. We have lost more than 2.5 million jobs since this January. Families are losing homes. The last thing they need is a government takeover that kills even more jobs, adds to the ballooning national debt, increases Americans' long-term health care costs, and leaves Americans paying more for worse care than they now receive. The proposals we have seen are not just incomplete, they are indefensible, particularly at a time of spiraling debt and ever-increasing job losses.
Maybe this is why the administration has started to insist on an artificial deadline for getting its reform proposals through. We certainly do not need to rush and spend $1 trillion to enact this flawed proposal by the August recess. The American people and members of both parties in Congress are calling on us to slow down and take the time to get it right.
Health care reform is too important to rush through and get it wrong. We saw what happened when some rushed and spent $1 trillion on an artificial
deadline with the stimulus. The American people do not want the same mistake to be made. Instead of setting a 3-week deadline on legislation that would end up affecting one-sixth of our economy, the administration should focus on meeting existing deadlines.
The Mid-Session Review of the administration's earlier predictions about unemployment, economic growth, government spending, and the outlook for the Federal deficit has traditionally been released in mid-July.
Yet now we are hearing the administration may not release its midsession review until August, after Congress has adjourned and after the administration's artificial deadline for a Senate bill on health care.
The administration is also struggling to meet its decision to close Guantanamo by January 2010. The administration's task force on detainee policy has said it will miss its deadline for making recommendations. It seems premature to announce a closing date for Guantanamo without knowing where these detainees may be sent. The most recent delay is even more reason for the administration to show flexibility and reconsider its artificial deadline for closing Guantanamo.
Americans want Republicans and Democrats to enact real health care reform that reduces costs and makes health care more accessible. They don't want a government takeover of the health care system that costs trillions of dollars, is paid for by seniors and job-killing taxes on small businesses and that leaves them paying more for worse care than they currently have. Before the administration rushes to spend another trillion dollars, it needs to slow down and focus on fixing our economy and addressing the issues it is already falling behind on.
I yield the floor.
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