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National Defense Authorization Act For Fiscal Year 2010--Continued

Floor Speech

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Location: Washington, DC


NATIONAL DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION ACT FOR FISCAL YEAR 2010--Continued -- (Senate - July 21, 2009)

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

HEALTH CARE REFORM

Mr. DeMINT. Mr. President, I wish to speak for a few minutes about health care and the need for health care reform in the country today. I think most Americans would agree we need to do everything we can to make affordable health insurance available to every American and, hopefully, that is what this health reform debate will be about.

Unfortunately, we are seeing a pattern develop here that has been going on all year--since the President took office--that has many Americans alarmed at the rapid pace we are spending and borrowing, imposing new taxes, and taking over various aspects of the American economy. I know a lot of Americans are alarmed and some are outraged. More than any other comment, I am hearing Americans say: Why don't you slow down and read the bills before you continue the expansion of government.

Now we are talking about health care, and we see that same pattern of crisis and rush and it ``has to be done today, hair's on fire'' type of mentality here in Washington so that we almost have to call this a ``son of stimulus'' health care bill. Because certainly the last time the President tried to ram a massive bill through Congress before we had a chance to read it, we ended up with this colossal stimulus failure that has actually resulted in the loss of jobs in America and a burden of debt on our children that is almost unimaginable. It makes no sense for us to follow that same pattern with health care--nearly 20 percent of our economy--to have a government takeover with a bill we haven't even completely seen yet, that is supposed to be passed in the next 2 weeks, even though the bill wouldn't take effect until 2013. What is the rush? The whole purpose of the Senate is to be the place where the legislation comes to cool down, where we deliberate, we look at the details. The President himself has admitted he is not aware of the details of the bill he is out selling every day.

We do have serious problems in health care that we need to fix. The unfortunate thing is I have no confidence that the President actually wants to make health insurance affordable and available to all Americans because when he was in the Senate, Republicans proposed a number of alternatives that would have done that. Yet in every case--every opportunity he had to make health insurance more available and affordable to Americans--he voted no. Let's review some of them, because I think we have to recognize that the point of this health care debate is not to make sure every American is insured, but to make sure the government is running our health care system. The most personal and private part of our lives they are talking about turning over to bureaucrats at the Federal level. This makes no sense.

What we could do is be fair to those who don't get their health insurance at work. If people get their health insurance at work, as we do here in Congress, your employer can deduct the cost of it and the employee is exempt from paying taxes on those benefits. That is equivalent to about a $5,000 a year benefit to families who get their health care or health insurance at work. Why can't we offer that same fairness to Americans who don't get their health insurance at work? It is something I actually proposed here in the Senate while President Obama was a Senator, that we would give fair tax treatment; at least let them deduct it from their taxes. He voted no, as did I believe every Democrat, and they killed the bill in the House. This was basic fairness to make health insurance a little more affordable to people who didn't get it at work. The President voted no.

We hear a lot of talk about how we need a government plan to make the private plans more competitive. Why not make all the insurance companies compete with insurance companies all over the country instead of what we do now? A lot of Americans don't know that the reason we don't have a competitive private health insurance market is that the Federal Government makes it impossible. You have to buy your health insurance in the State where you live, so a few insurance companies basically have monopolies in every State of the country. What if someone such as myself who lived in South Carolina could look all across the country, find a policy I wanted at a better price, and buy it? Why can't we do that? Well, I proposed we do that. We introduced it on the Senate floor. It would have created a competitive health insurance market and allowed people to buy all over the country. Barack Obama voted no, as did all of the Democrats, to kill the bill. Now they are talking about: Well, we need a government option to create some competition, to have a real competitive market. He voted against it.

What about allowing Americans who put money in a health savings account, or their employer puts it in there for them--their own money--why not let them use that money to pay for a health insurance premium if they don't get it at work? It sounded like a good idea to me, to make it a little bit easier, a little more affordable to have your own health insurance, so I proposed that bill here in the Senate. Barack Obama voted no, as did all of the Democrats, and they killed the bill.

What about the idea of allowing a lot of small employers--I was a small businessman for years. It was hard to buy health insurance as a small employer, but I did. It cost me a lot of money, a lot more than the big employers. But what about allowing a lot of small employers to come together and form associations and buy health insurance so they could offer it to their employees less expensively? Well, it is a good idea that was offered right here on the floor of the Senate by Republicans. Barack Obama voted no, as did most of the Democrats, and they killed the bill.

There is a long list here I could go through, but every single bill, every single health reform idea that has been proposed here, the President, when he was in the Senate, voted against. Everything that would have made health insurance available and affordable to the average American who doesn't get their insurance at work was voted no by this President.

Now he is saying, We need the government to take it over because it is not working. The reason it is not working is we won't let it work. The part of health insurance, the health care system that works the best today is when you have your own health insurance and you pick your own doctor and you and your doctor decide what kind of health care you are going to get. It is not a perfect system, and insurance companies have a lot of work to do to make things work better because I have to argue with them a lot myself. But the part of the health care system that doesn't work is the part that the government runs, Medicaid and Medicare, the SCHIP and TRICARE. Some of the people who get those benefits such as our seniors say Medicare works fine, but, unfortunately, doctors don't want to see them coming because Medicare and Medicaid don't cover the cost of even seeing a patient. So many physicians are closing their practices to our seniors because they have government health insurance. Government health care does not pay enough for the physician and the hospital to see the patient, so they shift the cost over to the private market.

The worst part of all of these government plans is they are trillions of dollars in debt--debt that our children are going to have to pay back. These programs are broke. Yet they want to expand these programs. They want to take the part of health care that is not working and essentially force it on every American. They want every American to have a Medicaid plan where doctors don't want to see us coming because we are not paying enough of their costs.

As I look at this whole health care reform debate--and I am glad to see the President out taking shots at me for saying we have to stop him on this, because we have been on a rampage since he took office, passing one government program after another, expanding spending and debt at levels we have never imagined in this country. It is time to slow down and take stock of where we are. Other countries that have to lend us money to keep us going are beginning to wonder, Can we pay our debts? We have doubled our money supply by the Federal Reserve, and that means big inflation, higher interest rates. Yet we are moving ahead with this health care plan that is going to expand our debt as a nation, raise taxes on small businesses that create the jobs. It looks as if we are going to penalize Americans who don't decide to buy health insurance, and we are moving again toward a government program that we know won't work. There is not one Federal program that has worked as advertised, that has worked to the budget we said it would be to. This week we have had announcements of what we have already passed as far as stimulus over the last year is going to mean trillions of dollars--trillions of dollars--we are going to have to borrow and that our children are going to have to pay back.

I appeal to my colleagues: We don't need to rush through a bill in the next 2 weeks before we go on our August break that affects one-fifth--20 percent--of our total economy, that gets the government to effectively take over the most personal and private service that we ask for as Americans. We don't need to pass a bill such as that, that we won't even have time to read. What the President and I think a lot of the proponents of this bill are afraid of is if we are able to go home on the August break and we take this bill and we put it on the Internet where people can read it, and radio talk shows and bloggers all around the country are able to tell the American people what this bill is and what it will do, and get past this utopian rhetoric that we are hearing from the President and look at the nuts and bolts, because everything he is saying this bill is going to do the Congressional Budget Office and other experts are saying, No, it isn't going to work that way. It isn't going to save us money, it is going to raise our taxes, it is going to cost jobs in America, and it isn't going to fix health care.

We need to go back to the basics, including some of what I have mentioned already, that would reform health care and make private health insurance work better, make it more affordable, and get it into the hands of more Americans. Why should we give up on freedom and move to a government plan when we haven't even given freedom a chance to work in health care?

I know the government can't run health care and I don't want them running my plan. One of the best ideas I have heard in this debate is whatever we pass, Congressmen and Senators ought to have to take that health plan. I am going to have an amendment to that effect if they try to get this on the floor before August.

But I appeal to my colleagues: Let's listen to the American people. Let's stop this rampage toward bigger and bigger government. Let's take our time and look at this bill and, for once, do something right. Our health depends on it.

Thank you, Mr. President. I yield the floor.

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