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Public Statements

Health Care Reform

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, certainly in a country of 300 million people there are differences of opinion, and you will see them on full display in the Senate on this monumental 2,074-page scheme that would expand the reach of government deeper into our lives, raise taxes, increase health care premiums, and cut Medicare for seniors.

On the other side are the American people. We know, from all the surveys we have seen, the American people are opposed to this bill. They are astonished that we are trying to pass a bill that is clearly opposed by the American people in every survey that has been published.

Americans do support reform, but this isn't the reform they were asking for, and it is not the reform they were told they could expect. In fact, it is pretty clear by now that the American people were sold a bill of goods when the administration and its allies in Congress said their health care bill would lower costs and help the economy because the plan that has been produced, that is before the Senate, will not do either.

The debate is no longer about improving care by reducing costs. We are past that. This plan will raise costs on American families, and it will make an already struggling economy even worse. The only question now is how we got to a point where we are actually considering spending trillions of dollars on a brand new government entitlement at a time when more than 1 in 10 Americans is looking for a job and when our debts and deficits are well past the tipping point.

For many, the answer to that question is quite clear. We know that some here in Washington have wanted government-run health care for many years. It is hard to escape the conclusion that these same people saw the current economic crisis as their moment. Earlier in this year, some in this administration said that ``a crisis is a terrible thing to waste.'' Americans are hoping this bill is not what they meant, but they are concerned that it is.

Americans already know this bill will make our economic problems worse, not better, without even addressing the serious health care problems we already face--and they would be right. That is why they want us to start over and accomplish the real mission of lowering costs.

That is precisely what the McCain amendment would allow us to do. The McCain amendment would send this bill back for a rewrite. It would send it back to the Finance Committee with instructions to give us a new bill that does not include $ 1/2 trillion cuts to Medicare. It would send the bill back to committee; send us a new bill without $ 1/2 trillion cuts to Medicare, one that does not pay for the bill on the backs of seniors; that is, if you pass the McCain amendment.

Here is a program, the Medicare Program, that is already struggling, a program that needs help. Yet, in order to finance their vision of reform, our friends on the other side want to use Medicare as a piggy bank to create an all-new government program that is bound to have the same problems as Medicare. As written, their bill would cut nearly $ 1/2 trillion from Medicare--not to make the program stronger but to fund more government spending. In the process, millions of seniors would lose benefits. Literally millions of seniors would lose benefits.

The McCain amendment would not let that happen. The McCain amendment tells the committees: Don't cut hospitals. The McCain amendment tells the committees: Don't cut hospice. The McCain amendment tells the committees: Don't cut home health care. The McCain amendment tells the committees: Don't cut Medicare Advantage. It would allow us to focus our efforts, instead, on the prevention of waste, fraud, and abuse, which we know to be rampant in this program. It would ensure we are not cutting one government program just to create a new one. That is what a vote in favor of the McCain amendment would be, it would be a vote to preserve Medicare, not weaken it. That is the message America's seniors want to hear in this health care debate, that improving health care in America doesn't have to come at their expense.

Some may argue that they need to cut Medicare to create a new government program. That is their call. But it is not the call Americans are asking us to make. I haven't gotten a call yet from anybody in Kentucky or around the country saying: Please cut Medicare so you can start a new program for somebody else--not my first call.

The American people want us to start over from the beginning and craft a bill they can actually support, and we know they don't support this bill. All the surveys indicate that. Then we could start over and end junk lawsuits against doctors and hospitals that drive up costs, something the majority didn't find any room for in their 2074-page bill--not a word about controlling junk lawsuits against doctors and hospitals. Then we could encourage healthy choices such as prevention and wellness programs, something the majority somehow couldn't squeeze into their 2074-page bill. Then we could lower costs by letting consumers buy coverage across State lines, something the majority must have overlooked in their 2074-page bill. Then we could address the rampant waste, fraud, and abuse, something our friends didn't think was important enough to seriously address in their 2074-page bill.

The McCain amendment would allow us to vote with seniors. That is what the McCain amendment is about. It would allow the Senate to say we are not going to finance a new government program on the backs of seniors, we are not going to use Medicare as a piggy bank to fund a new government program. It would allow us to vote with the American people. Most important, it would allow us to start over and get this right.

I yield the floor.

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