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Service Members Home Ownership Tax Act Of 2009 - Continued

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. CHAMBLISS. Mr. President, I thank the Senator from Nevada for yielding. Senator Graham and I do have an amendment we have filed today with respect to reforming the health care system in a real, meaningful way. It is an amendment that deals with tort reform, and it is a true loser pays system. We are going to talk about that in a few minutes.

Before I get to that, I wish to go back to some of the points the Senator from Nevada has talked about. I particularly appreciate his work on the mammogram issue, especially since this has been highlighted over the last couple weeks with regard to the recommendation that has come out of the independent board that advises HHS. I thank him for his work on that issue.

He is dead on. All of us know our wives are told every year, when they reach a certain age, they need to have a mammogram to make sure. Just like we do every year, go in and get a physical, they need to get their mammogram. The Senator talks about those kinds of checkups providing you with the kind of preventive health care that is going to hold down health care costs. I am a beneficiary of that. During a routine medical examination in 2004, it was determined I had prostate cancer. I was very fortunate it was picked up when it was, at an early stage. Instead of having to go through a lot of expensive procedures I might have had to go through, we were fortunate to be able to treat it. We are working on getting cured.

Senator Ensign is exactly right, this is the kind of test we need to make sure we encourage females to get and not put barriers in front of them.

Medicare is such a valuable insurance policy and program that 40 million Americans today take advantage of it. Mr. President, 1.2 million Georgians are Medicare beneficiaries. Again, I am one of those who is a Medicare beneficiary. So this is particularly important to me.

More importantly, in addition to these 40 million Medicare beneficiaries who are in the country today, there are another 80 million baby boomers who are headed toward Medicare coverage.

We have an independent Medicare Commission that was established by Congress years ago that is required to come to Congress every year and give Congress an update on the financial solvency of the Medicare Program. The purpose of that bipartisan Commission is to allow this body, along with our colleagues over in the House, the benefit of the work they do every year in looking at the amount of revenues that come in, in the form of the Medicare tax, and the outlays that go out, in the form of payments to medical suppliers for our Medicare beneficiaries.

In the spring of this year, 2009, the independent Medicare Trustees Report reported back to Congress and said that unless real, meaningful reforms are made in the Medicare system, Medicare is going to start paying out more in benefits than it takes in in tax revenues in the year 2017.

Mr. President, what that means is that in 2017, Medicare is going to be insolvent, and it is just a matter of time before Medicare goes totally broke. And those individuals who are baby boomers, who have been paying into this program for 40 years, 50 years, or whatever it may be, are all of a sudden going to reach the Medicare age, where they expect to reap the benefits of the Medicare taxes they have been paying for all these years, and guess what. Not only are benefits going to be reduced, but unless something happens, unless there is meaningful reform and it is done in the right way, there is not going to be a Medicare Program.

I want to go back to something the junior Senator from Illinois said a few minutes ago. In talking about this issue of cuts in Medicare, he said this bill we have up for debate now that was filed by Senator Reid does not have cuts in Medicare. He could not be more incorrect. And that is not a Republican statement. It is not a statement by anybody other than the Congressional Budget Office. I refer to a letter that has already been introduced during the course of this debate--a letter dated November 18--to the Honorable HARRY REID, the majority leader. I would refer the Senator to page 10 of that letter in which the Director of the Congressional Budget Office says this in reference to provisions affecting Medicare, Medicaid, and other programs:

Other components of the legislation would alter spending under Medicare, Medicaid and other Federal programs. In total, CBO estimates that enacting these provisions would reduce direct spending by $491 billion over the 2010-2019 period.

Then the letter goes on, on this page alone, to delineate three areas where Medicare provisions are going to be reduced or cut, and I would specifically refer to them, but first is a fee-for-service sector, and this is other than physician services. It is going to be reduced by $192 billion over 10 years. The Medicare Advantage Program--a program that literally thousands of Georgians take advantage of today and millions of Americans take advantage of--is going to be reduced by $118 billion over 10 years, over the period 2010 to 2019. Medicaid and Medicare payments to hospitals--what we call disproportionate share payments, DSH payments--are going to be reduced or cut by $43 billion over 10 years.

What does a reduction in these benefits mean to each individual community or each individual State? I can tell you what it means to the local hospital in the rural area of Georgia where I live. The reduction in DSH payments is going to amount to a reduction in income at Colquitt Regional Medical Center in Moultrie, GA, by $16.8 million over a 10-year period. These cuts in Medicare are going to result in a reduction in payments to Emory Hospital in Atlanta in the amount of $367 million over a 10-year period.

So anybody who says these aren't cuts in Medicare spending simply has not read the bill and certainly has not read the letter from the Director of the Congressional Budget Office to Senator Reid dated November 18, 2009.

I want to turn this over to my colleague from South Carolina after this final statement with reference to reductions in Medicare spending.

There is a specific reduction of $8 billion in this bill over a 10-year period in hospice benefits.

Again, we have heard a number of personal stories around here, and I have a particular personal story myself. My father-in-law died when he was 99 years old. It was 3 years ago. The last 2 years of his life, he lived in an assisted-living home and he had hospice come in 2 or 3 or 4 days a week, for whatever he needed. Had he not had the benefit of hospice, he would have had to go in a hospital, and no telling how much in the way of Medicare medical expenses he would have incurred. But thank goodness we had hospice available, and he spent 2 days in the hospital. Otherwise, he was able to live in his assisted-living home, have my wife go by and spend quality time with him, which she will tell you today were the best 2 to 3 years of her life as far as her relationship with her father was concerned, because she had hospice there to take care of him. Yet here we are talking about reducing a benefit by $8 billion that saved no telling how many thousands of dollars in the case of my family, and you can multiply that across America, and it is pretty easy to see we don't need to be reducing a benefit that is going to save us money in the long run.

I would like to turn it over to my friend from South Carolina, who also has some comments regarding Medicare, and then we will talk about our loser pays bill.

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Mr. CHAMBLISS. I thank my colleague from South Carolina, Senator Graham, for his thoughtful process that we went through in thinking through the loser pays bill and the amendment we have filed. Just like you, having practiced law for 26 years before I was elected to the House, the same year you were, and then we were elected over here, I tried plaintiffs cases as well as defendants cases. I never represented a defendant in a malpractice case. I was always on the other side.

I have great sympathy for individuals who are wronged by a physician who is negligent. You and I agree that anybody who is the victim of negligent action ought to have their day in court. That is what we provide for under our bill. There is absolutely no question about the fact that anybody who is subject to negligent acts on the part of a physician, they can have their day in court, and they should have their day in court if that is what they decide they want to do.

But under a loser pays provision like we have designed, we can eliminate, hopefully, the frivolous lawsuits that add significantly to the cost of health care delivery in this country. In 2003, direct tort litigation costs in America accounted for 2.2 percent of our GDP. That is double the percentage of Canada, Great Britain, Germany, France, and Australia--all of which have loser pays systems.

The State of Alaska has had a loser pays system since 1884 and tort claims in the State of Alaska constitute a smaller percentage of total litigation than the national average.

Florida, which applied a loser pays rule to medical malpractice suits from 1981 to 1985, saw 54 percent of their plaintiffs drop their suits voluntarily.

It does make a difference on frivolous suits. In the State of Florida during that same period of time, the jury awards for plaintiffs rose significantly. Just as in our situation, anybody who had a legitimate case in Florida during that period of time had the right to have their case adjudicated by a jury. Those who made the decision to do so received more significant awards. That is the way the system ought to work.

This is a win-win situation for the cost of health care delivery. It is a benefit to the physicians--sure, because they eliminate part of their significant cost of delivering health care services. But it also is a huge benefit to those individuals in America who are subject to negligent acts on the part of physicians.

I ask unanimous consent that a letter to Senator Graham and myself from Bruce Josten at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, dated November 3, 2009, be printed in the Record, and I yield the floor.

There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the Record

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