Mr. McCONNELL. Madam President, over the past few months, the American people have been sending us a clear message on health care. They want reforms that make health care more affordable and more accessible, that increase choice, and that keep government out of their health care decisions. What they don't want are so-called reforms that cut seniors' health care, force Americans off private health plans they have, cost hundreds of billions of dollars, raise taxes, and put government bureaucrats in charge of health care. But that is exactly what they would get under the plan released by the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee just yesterday. So while I appreciate the hard work of the senior Senator from Montana on this legislation--and he certainly has spent enormous amounts of time on it--I am extremely disappointed that it does not reflect the concerns Americans have been expressing for weeks about health care reform. That much is very clear.
Now it is time to let the American people study the bill themselves. Before we bring any legislation to the floor, we need to make sure the American people and all of our colleagues, every single one of them, have the time to carefully read it and evaluate its potential effects on our health care system and the economy in general. Americans got rushed on the stimulus. They will not be rushed on health care--not on an issue that affects every single American. Before we discuss or vote on any plan, we need to know what it does, how much it costs, and how it will be paid for.
Here is what we know now about the Finance Committee plan.
First, the Finance Committee proposal would cut hundreds of billions of dollars from seniors' Medicare benefits to pay for new government programs. America's seniors want us to fix Medicare, not take money from it to pay for a new, untested, trillion-dollar government program. This bill would also break the President's promise to seniors that they will not be required to change the coverage they have. Right now, 11 million seniors are enrolled in Medicare Advantage, a program that gives them more options and choices when it comes to their health care. Ninety percent of these seniors are satisfied with their plan. The Finance Committee bill would make massive cuts to Medicare Advantage and force some seniors to give it up, something that even one of our Democratic friends just yesterday called ``intolerable.''
Senators from both sides of the aisle are concerned about the new burdens this bill would impose on States in the form of Medicaid expansion. Unlike the Federal Government, many States are constitutionally--in fact, I think virtually all of them are constitutionally required to have balanced budgets. This means that if politicians in Washington force them to increase spending on Medicaid, they very likely will have to cut services or raise taxes right in the middle of a recession.
The Finance Committee bill would kill jobs by forcing employers to provide insurance, regardless of whether they can afford it. While advocates of the bill say it does not contain an employer mandate, their claims just do not square with the facts. If you tell an employer that they either have to provide insurance or pay a penalty, that is a mandate.
The Finance Committee bill contains approximately $350 billion in new taxes, and some of these taxes, such as those on medical devices ranging from MRIs to Q-tips and new taxes on insurance plans, will drive up insurance premiums and make health care even more expensive for American families. If there was one thing we thought everybody agreed on, it was that any reform should not make health care more expensive. Yet this Q-tip tax would actually increase health care costs. That is why Senators from both parties have warned that it would put thousands of jobs in jeopardy and actually deter innovation.
The Senate Finance Committee bill also contains a co-op, which is just another name for a government plan. It still gives the government far too much control over our health care system. It cuts seniors' benefits, spends hundreds of billions of dollars, and raises taxes to pay for another trillion-dollar government program. And it still does not contain the kind of commonsense reforms the American people support and Republicans have consistently recommended, such as meaningful reforms to get rid of junk lawsuits against doctors and hospitals and reforms to level the playing field when it comes to taxes on a health care plan.
There is no question that Americans want health care reform, but they want the right reforms and they want us to take the time we need to get it right. During the month of August, the American people sent us a clear message on health care. I am disappointed that many of my colleagues apparently were not listening.