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Public Statements

Health Care Week XIII, Day 1

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, when we started the debate over health care reform, we knew what the American people wanted. First and foremost, they were telling us health care costs are too high and any effort at reform would have to focus on driving down those costs.

This meant our measure for success would be fairly simple: Would our reform proposals lead to lower premiums and lower costs or would they not? That is why an analysis of the Finance Committee bill over the weekend by PricewaterhouseCoopers should give us all pause.

The report showed that the Finance Committee proposal that is being voted on today would increase health insurance premiums dramatically. It said this bill would cause health care costs to go up--not down--for millions of Americans who currently have health insurance. This report confirms what many of us have feared: that the bills we have been debating will not reduce costs for the American people, but will actually drive costs up--an outcome that is fundamentally opposed to the original purpose of health care reform as we all understood it at the outset of the debate.

Specifically, this report shows that premiums for a family policy will rise to about $26,000 in the next decade under the plan proposed by Senator Baucus--about $4,000 more than they would under current law.

One of the reasons for this is that new taxes on health insurance plans, pharmaceutical companies, and medical device makers will be passed on to consumers--something many of us, including the independent Congressional Budget Office, have been saying all along.

The bottom line is this: Americans were asking for step-by-step reforms, of the kind I have called for in nearly 50 floor speeches since June. The administration's failure to present such a commonsense plan is the primary reason that Americans overwhelmingly oppose its plans for health care reform.

Americans wanted lower costs and greater access. They never wanted the administration or Democrats in Congress to vastly expand the government's role in people's health care decisions, to slash Medicare, to raise taxes and health insurance premiums, as well, and to limit the health care choices Americans now enjoy.

The American people are not happy with any of these things, and they are not happy with the process they are seeing here on Capitol Hill. Americans are understandably unhappy that a handful of Senators and White House staffers are about to put the finishing touches on the Democratic proposal behind closed doors, especially after the President pledged to broadcast negotiations on C-SPAN.

The administration did not particularly like what PricewaterhouseCoopers had to say about the Finance Committee bill. It hastily dismissed this report, just as it dismissed commonsense Republican proposals and the concerns of ordinary Americans throughout this debate.

Indeed, the administration and its allies seem to view any opposing viewpoint in this debate as hostile. It is perfectly obvious why. The administration does not want to hear criticism because it does not want people to know what its proposals will actually do.

At a time of nearly 10 percent unemployment, Americans do not need higher taxes and higher health insurance premiums. Yet one thing that is perfectly clear about the administration's health care proposal is it promises higher taxes on virtually everyone in America.

Here is the breakdown: Under this legislation, if you have insurance, you are taxed; if you do not have insurance, you are taxed; if you use a medical device such as a hearing aid, you are taxed; if you take prescription drugs, you are taxed; if you are a business owner who cannot afford to provide coverage for your employees, you are taxed. And the Joint Committee on Taxation and the CBO have both said that many of these taxes will hit the middle class hardest, at a time when unemployment stands at a 25-year high.

Add all these up and you get a bill that raises taxes, raises premiums, and leads to more government control. You can call this many things, but it is not what the vast majority of Americans would consider reform.


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