SERVICE MEMBERS HOME OWNERSHIP TAX ACT OF 2009 -- (Senate - December 04, 2009)
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Mr. DeMINT. Mr. President, I appreciate the comments of the Senator from Minnesota, who brought out a lot of important issues as far as the rising costs of health insurance, and I certainly knew that as a small businessman. There is only one problem: The bill we are going to vote on does not solve those problems. In fact, as CBO basically tells us, insurance will continue to increase at the same rate it does now, and for those with individual insurance policies, it is very likely to go up.
Mr. President, we are here on a Friday evening being told we are going to work through the weekend, maybe next weekend, all the way up to Christmas Eve, with the intent to rush through a bill that many have called--and I agree--one of the worst pieces of legislation and one of the biggest threats to health care we have ever seen here in this country. Apparently, the majority wants to rush this through and hopefully intimidate the minority into allowing it to go through by keeping us here on weekends over the holidays. But I am proud Republicans are standing together against this bill and standing with the American people to stop the Democratic government takeover of health care in America and to stop them from paying for it by cutting nearly $500 billion from Medicare and raising taxes on millions of Americans.
I heard from one of our constituents, who was talking about Medicare and the cuts in Medicare, explaining very simply that Medicare is something he had paid for his entire 40 years of working out of his payroll taxes, and now he could not believe we were considering taking any money out of Medicare in order to pay for a new government program.
Americans work and pay for Medicare so that when they retire they will have benefits that give them the coverage they need. I think the majority must think Americans are not paying attention or maybe even they are not real smart, that you can take $500 billion out of a program that is already bankrupt and expect the benefits to stay the same, when already we know we are not paying doctors enough to see our seniors and more and more physicians are not even willing to see Medicare patients.
If there really is waste and fraud in Medicare--and we know there is some--we should find it and put that money back into the Medicare system so we can keep our promises to seniors.
Every Democrat in the Senate has already voted for a government takeover of health care, to cut Medicare to pay for it, and to raise taxes. Some of them said they were just moving the debate forward. But I ask you, what debate? Will there be any serious consideration to take this government-run plan out of this bill? There will not be.
We have already seen there is no serious consideration to stop taking money out of Medicare to pay for it. In fact, we have had a lot of debate about what this is going to do: to cut from Medicare, what it is going to eventually do to benefits, cut Medicare Advantage. Now we are talking about cutting home health, which is so important, particularly in rural communities and for the more elderly constituents we serve.
There is no way you could take this money out of Medicare without hurting the programs. Instead, as we look ahead at more people retiring than ever in history and Medicare being bankrupt, we need to be looking at ways that we can shore up this program so it will be there for generations to come.
Every Republican voted no. Every Republican in this Senate has stood with the American people and said no to a health care bill that takes over the most personal and private part of our lives. I am proud of our party and our leadership.
Americans have been asking to see the differences between the Republican and the Democratic Parties. I think now more than ever on this issue they are going to see the Democrats standing with government-controlled health care, cuts in Medicare, increased taxes and on the other side Republicans who are going to stay here through Christmas and New Year's or whatever it takes to stop this bill and to sit down and really reform this system in a way that will lower costs and improve care to all Americans.
We need to continue to talk about these bigger issues, particularly how it affects Medicare, and we will be doing that over the weekend. But I think we owe it to the American people to begin to open this bill and explain what is in it. I can almost guarantee you, there is not one Member of the Senate who has read it yet. We are going to try to fit this in Santa's sleigh this year so it will be delivered to every American.
I have the first part here--1,000 pages, small print, front and back--and have started going through it, putting tabs on different pages, so we can talk about the different things because sometimes they sound so extraordinary, people do not really believe they are in there. I am not sure we will ever get through the whole thing, but I just want to take a couple parts tonight and just start talking about what is really in this bill.
On page 17, in section 2713 that is titled ``Coverage Of Preventive Health Services,'' which is really our jargon for rationing, it says:
A group health plan and a health insurance issuer offering group or individual health insurance coverage shall provide coverage for .....
evidence-based items or services that have in effect a rating of ``A'' or ``B'' in the current recommendations of the United States Preventive Services Task Force.
We heard from this task force a few weeks ago. This may sound harmless enough, as you look at it, but let's see what the really means: ``evidence-based ..... `A' or `B'.'' What is not A or B? Well, just 2 weeks ago, we found out something that was not A or B. Mammograms are a C rating. And the task force came out and said it should not be covered on anyone under 50 years old. That is in the bill, that it would not cover mammograms for folks under 50 years old because it is not A or B. Because of the outcry, we had an amendment from the other side to give themselves a little bit of cover on that one medical procedure, mammograms. We passed it with some fanfare yesterday. But the fact is, there are going to be many C ratings that are not covered.
What are we going to do here in Congress over the next several years when we find constituents are not covered for things they need in retirement from Medicare? Are we going to pass bills to try to cover those individual things? What we should really do is throw out the bill that is causing the problem. We should not be rationing care to our seniors.
Let's look at another page. And I know this is not as interesting as talking about theoretical stuff. But on page 33, section 2719 is called the ``Appeals Process'':
A group health plan and a health insurance issuer offering group or individual health insurance coverage shall implement an effective appeals process .....
[to] provide notice to enrollees, in a culturally and linguistically appropriate manner. .....
Now, what do we think that means? Well, in fact, in 2001--this term has been used before--the Department of Health and Human Services reported that the Department had spent $10 million to figure out what that phrase means. And we still do not know. It says: ``Health care services that are respectful of and responsive to cultural and linguistic needs.'' But what this really means to us, according to the 2000 census, is there are at least 20 languages spoken by at least 200,000 Americans in this country, and what we are putting out there is a liability for every insurance company that does not have every aspect of their plan in those 20 languages. It may sound like a simple thing, but every page of this bill, almost--as you read it, you realize it is increasing the complexity and the cost of the system here in America.
I will just cover one more of these because I hear my colleagues in the background urging me to finish. But I do think we owe it to the American people to begin to talk about what is really in this bill.
On page 39, it says, under a funding category:
Out of all funds in the Treasury not otherwise appropriated, there are appropriated to the Secretary $250,000,000 to be available for expenditure for grants under paragraph (1) and subparagraph (B).
Those subparagraphs are to track the trends in premium increases of health insurance once this bill goes into effect. Mr. President, $250 million to do what the Congressional Budget Office has already told us are going to be increases. But this kind of spending and this type of bureaucracy and complexity we are creating is not going to make health care more accessible and more affordable for Americans. It is creating a complex bureaucracy with tens of thousands of workers and bureaucrats to tell doctors what to do and hospitals what to do and for us, how to manage our health care.
The Congressional Budget Office has already released a report finding that those purchasing insurance through the health insurance exchanges that are in this bill could pay up to 16 percent more for health care than we do today. Yet we are moving ahead with the bill.
I will continue throughout this weekend, and every time I get a chance to speak, to talk about more of these things that are in this bill. But, folks, this is not a bill we should deliver to the American people for Christmas this year. This is a bill that we should throw out so we can start over and have a step-by-step approach to make health insurance more affordable and available to every American.
With that, Mr. President, I yield back.
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