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Public Statements

Recognition Of The Minority Leader

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. McCAIN. Mr. President, very quickly, I wish to remind my colleagues that the AARP continues to be referred to as endorsing this legislation and supporting it and opposing amendments that would have done things that they in the past have supported. So I urge my colleagues to look at this Washington article--one of my favorite sources of information and opinion, the Washington Post:

But not advertised in this lobbying campaign have been AARP's substantial earnings from insurance royalties and the potential benefits that would come its way from many other reforms.

So we have been looking into that, and guess what. The AARP endorsement of more than $400 billion in Medicare savings--according to its own financial statements from 2008, AARP generated 38 percent of its $1.1 billion in revenue or more than $414 million in royalty fees. They also obviously will--if we take away Medicare Advantage, then Medigap sales will have to go up because that provides for the services that are being taken away. So under the AARP, they would generate in their endorsements--they have generated $414 million, putting them in fifth place of all of the health insurance companies in America behind United Health, Wellpoint, Aetna, and Humana. So we have before the body an amendment that would modify any health insurer's remuneration to the same level as the salary of the President of the United States.

So I ask unanimous consent at this time that the AARP executives be added in under the effect of this pending amendment from the Senator from Arkansas.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there objection?

Mr. BAUCUS. Mr. President, I object.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Objection is heard.

Mr. McCAIN. Mr. President, I also understand that Walmart sells health insurance policies. They are based in Arkansas. I ask unanimous consent that Walmart be included in this curb on excessive remuneration that will now place them under the same level.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there objection?

Mr. BAUCUS. Reserving the right to object, to be totally candid, these are stunt amendments which we have not seen. I have never heard of the amendments.

Mr. McCAIN. It is not complicated. It is pretty simple. It is people who sell health insurance.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there objection?

Mr. BAUCUS. Reserving the right to object, because I have not even seen these amendments, I object.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Objection is heard.

Mr. McCAIN. I am sorry the Senator from Montana cannot understand that they are people who sell health insurance as well. AARP does, Walmart does. If we are going to have this kind of demagogic amendment, then we should include them, especially Walmart, that does a lot of business.

Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, I would ask the Senator from Arizona if I may ask a question. I would ask the Senator from Arizona, is this the same AARP that I recall opposed a $10 billion reduction in the rate of increase in Medicare spending back in 2005?

Mr. McCAIN. I would say to my colleague they not only opposed it, they got all of their members fired up in opposition to it. We all heard from them back in 2005. These were reductions in spending. This was not $438 billion taken out of Medicare and put in to create a new entitlement program of $2.5 trillion.

Mr. McCONNELL. Could I ask my friend one more question? Is this the same bill that back in 2005 my counterpart, the majority leader, decried as immoral?

Mr. McCAIN. As I recall, that is exactly it. I think the Senator from New Hampshire recalls that debate.

Mr. GREGG. Mr. President, if the Senator will yield, absolutely. I was chairman of the Budget Committee at the time. As the Republican leader is alluding to, we attempted to reduce the rate of growth of Medicaid by $10 billion of a $1 trillion base over 5 years, less than one-tenth of 1 percent, I believe that was. It was opposed aggressively by the AARP, and it was opposed by the other side of the aisle. Not one Member of the other side of the aisle voted for that. Do you know what that change was going to be? It was going to require that wealthy people who benefited from the Part D drug benefit would have to pay part of their premiums rather than getting them all for free. So Warren Buffett, for example, would actually have to contribute to his drug benefit, assuming he is on Part D. Maybe he isn't. Maybe he hasn't opted for it. But as a practical matter it was a very reasonable amendment.

Now we are seeing, as the Senator from Arizona has pointed out, a $460 billion cut over the first 10 years of this bill; a $1 trillion cut in Medicare, $3 trillion over the first 20 years of this bill--$3 trillion--when we already know Medicare, according to this chart, is insolvent to the extent of $38 trillion--insolvent. Yet we are going to take this money out of Medicare, as the Senator from Arizona has pointed out, and we are going to fund a brandnew entitlement.

We are going to expand Medicaid to 133 percent of poverty with this money, and we are going to create this brandnew entitlement which has nothing to do with Medicare. None of the people who are going to get this benefit probably have ever paid into the hospital trust fund, which is what funds Medicare. That seems totally inconsistent with the purposes of Medicare.

Shouldn't Medicare funds benefit Medicare recipients, I would ask the Senator from Arizona or the Republican leader? If there are going to be reductions in Medicare, should it not go to make Medicare more solvent and not to create a new entitlement?

Mr. McCAIN. One would think so. There are two doctors in the Senate; there are lots of lawyers, two doctors. Both of them have hands-on experience. I don't know if Dr. Barrasso has seen this morning's New York Times, another of my favorite sources of news information and opinion. On the front page this morning: ``Home Care Patients Worry Over Possible Cuts.''

I understand the purpose of health care reform as proposed by the other side is to reduce health care costs. Is there a way to reduce health care costs better than treating people at home than instead of in a hospital? I am curious about the Senator's experience.

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Mr. BAUCUS. Do the Senators realize and do they know that yesterday the Home Care and Hospice Association, the National Association for Home Care and Hospices, the umbrella organization for home health and hospice, wrote a letter to me, which basically says:

[F]or all of these reasons, we support the provisions of your health care reform legislation as it relates to home health care.

Is the Senator aware of that letter, the Home Care and Hospice Association's support for this legislation? Is the Senator aware of that letter?

Mr. McCAIN. My response is, I don't know what deal has been cut in Senator Reid's office, as the deal was cut with the pharmaceutical companies and the deal was cut with the AMA and the deal was cut with the hospital association. But I know what the effect is. I know what the effect is. The bill would slice $55 billion----

Mr. BAUCUS. This is not on my time because he is going to filibuster over there.

Mr. McCAIN. The House bill would slice $55 billion over 10 years for projected Medicare spending on home health services while the Senate bill would take $43 billion. I know that. But I don't know the details of the deal that was cut over where the white smoke comes out. I don't know what the deal was. I know what the deal was with PhRMA. I know what the deal was with PhRMA. They told them they would oppose drug reimportation from Canada, and they told PhRMA they would not allow competition for Medicare patients.

So I don't know the deal that was cut that bought them, but I know deals have been going on, and I know they are unsavory. I know people, such as the lady who was just referred to, Bertha Milliard, are not too interested in seeing their home health care cut.

Mr. BAUCUS. If the Senator will yield, with time being equally divided on both sides for this colloquy.

Mr. McCAIN. I don't know what the deal was----

Mr. BAUCUS. I can tell the Senator the deal. I am going to tell the Senator the deal.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Arizona has the floor.

Mr. McCAIN. I don't know what the deal was, but we will find out, just like the deals that were cut with all of these other organizations.

Mr. BAUCUS. I will tell the Senator what the deal was.

Mr. McCAIN. This place is full of lobbyists. I can't walk through the hallway without bumping into one of their lobbyists. If the Senator keeps interrupting, he is violating the rules of the Senate. He needs to learn the rules of the Senate.

Mr. BAUCUS. Will the Senator yield to know what the deal was?

Mr. McCAIN. I would like to finish my answer to you, if I may; that is, I don't know the deal that was cut with them, but we will find out. I know Bertha Milliard was not there when the deal was cut that generated that letter. That is my answer.

Mr. BAUCUS. Will the Senator yield for another question?

Mr. McCAIN. I will yield for one more, but we have other Senators who wish to speak.

Mr. BAUCUS. Does the Senator know that the so-called deal was that whereas MedPAC and the administration and the House wanted to make domestic cuts to home health care, but rather we went to the home health care industry, worked with them, and took two of their major suggestions about fraud and abuse as well as outliers, so we modified so that the home health industry thought this was fair and reasonable?

Does the Senator know that was the agreement that was reached?

Mr. McCAIN. My quick answer is, I don't know what the deal was, but I know the people who are in the home health care business, who will see $43 billion in cuts to their business, the funding for their business, were not there when the lobbyists showed up.

We have already heard the stories of the meetings you and the majority leader have had with these people saying: Get on board or when we shape the final parameters of this bill, we are going to hurt you.

We know they have been threatened.

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Mr. McCAIN. I do not understand it. Perhaps my other colleagues can explain it better.

I also want to return for a second to the question of the Senator from Montana. The AMA is a classic example. When I go back to Arizona and talk to doctors and providers, they say: What is going on? You made a deal with the lobbyists. That is my answer to you. You made a deal with the lobbyists--not the home health care providers, not the nurses, not the doctors, the people who are the users of pharmaceuticals who, this year, have seen an 8- to 9-percent increase in the cost of prescription drugs--because your deal is going to protect them. My answer to you is, I don't know what you bought that letter for, but it was probably a pretty high price.

The Senator from----

Mr. BAUCUS. Will the Senator yield? I can answer the Senator's question.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Arizona has the floor.

Mr. McCAIN. I know the answer to it. I just gave you the answer.

I yield to the Senator from Wyoming.

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Mr. McCAIN. Thanks to our crack staff who are a good example of the success of work release programs, I remind my friend from Montana, a Rollcall article as of June 11:

Top aides to Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus called a last-minute, pre-emptive strike on Wednesday with a group of prominent Democratic lobbyists, warning them to advise their clients not to attend a meeting with Senate Republicans set for Thursday.

Russell Sullivan--

Whom I don't happen to know--the top staffer on Finance, and Jon Selib, Baucus' chief of staff, met with a bloc of more than 20 contract lobbyists, including several former Baucus aides.

Who have made a nice transition.

``They said, `Republicans are having this meeting and you need to let all of your clients know if they have someone there, that will be viewed as a hostile act,' '' said a Democratic lobbyist who attended the meeting.

``Going to the Republican meeting will say, `I'm interested in working with Republicans to stop health care reform,' '' the lobbyist added.

Again, PhRMA, the New York Times, again my favorite. Tauzin, the $1.5-million-per-year representative of PhRMA said:

``We were assured: `We need somebody to come in first. If you come in first, you will have a rock-solid deal,' '' Billy Tauzin, the former Republican House member from Louisiana ..... said. ``Who is ever going to get into a deal with the White House again if they don't keep their word? You are just going to duke it out instead.''

They cut a deal. That is, again, in answer to the Senator from Montana, that is probably how they got the letter, the same way Tauzin wrote his letter.

The majority leader--the minority leader, hopefully majority leader soon.

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Mr. McCAIN. Madam President, I thank the Senator from Massachusetts. This has been a vigorous debate. I see my prime adversary, the Senator from Illinois, on the floor, whom I look forward to doing battle with additionally, as well as my friend from Massachusetts. The fundamental point, I would say to my friend from Massachusetts, is that I never envisioned, nor do I believe the American people ever envisioned, we would be ``cutting'' benefits or, as the Senator says, making savings in order to transfer that to a brand new entitlement program. That is what the debate is about, whether we are going to take a failing system that in 7 years is going bankrupt, according to the Medicare trustees, and then take all this money, no matter how these savings are made--and I believe they are cuts of huge magnitude--and then fund a brandnew entitlement program.

That is what this real debate is about.

I thank my friend from Massachusetts for his courtesy. I look forward to the rebuttal from the Senator from Illinois, as well as the Senator from Montana. Thank you.

I yield the floor.

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