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Public Statements

Service Members Home Ownership Tax Act Of 2009

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. COBURN. To answer the Senator's question, No. 1, as we already know, the Oklahoma State employees' health insurance plan, in 2013, will be considered a Cadillac plan. That is every State worker in the State of Oklahoma. And they can hardly afford their copays and their premiums in that plan today. So what we know is, we are going to tax all the Oklahoma workers. Many of those are schoolteachers who happen to be my patients, and they are struggling today.

So this disconnect between when the taxes are----

Mrs. HUTCHISON. I ask the Senator from Oklahoma, you are saying that a schoolteacher is probably not making $200,000 or more?

Mr. COBURN. Not at all.

Mrs. HUTCHISON. Yet we were promised there would be no taxes, no harm to people making under $200,000. Remind me if there is a teacher in Oklahoma--because I know there is not one in Texas--making over $200,000.

Mr. COBURN. Well, our teachers wish they made what the teachers in Texas make, but they do not. But they do not make anywhere close to $200,000. It does not just affect the Department of Human Services workers, it is also going to impact the premium increases that are going to come about before this plan is implemented. We are going to see premium increases. So the small businesses that are now covering people are going to have massive premium increases. The individuals who are buying insurance in the open individual market themselves are going to see premium increases. The fact is, that is all going to happen before the first benefit, the first real benefit--other than preexisting illnesses--before anybody sees any benefit to that.

The other thing that is not talked about is, with the skewing of this and with the relatively low tax on not complying with it, our youngest, healthiest people are going to say: I don't want any insurance because all I have to do is pay, in the first year, $250--or even less--up to $750, and I can save thousands of dollars every year by not buying insurance, and buying it when I get sick.

So we are going to see everything skewed in the insurance market. That is what is going to drive up the premiums.

My constituents, plus my patients, are not happy about the delay. If we are going to make this, what I believe, is a fatal mistake for our country in terms of the quality of health care, then we ought to at least match the revenues with the expenses.

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Mr. COBURN. Will the Senator yield for a question?

Mr. BAUCUS. Yes.

Mr. COBURN. One of the reasons I want this, is it not his belief that the American people ought to get to see this for 72 hours as well and that it ought to be on the Internet and that everybody in America, if we are going to take one-sixth of our economy, ought to have the time to truly read--we are going to have a managers' amendment, and that is actually what mine is focused on.

Mr. BAUCUS. Sure.

Mr. COBURN. But to be able to truly not just read the managers' amendment but then go into the bill where it is going to fix the bill.

Mr. BAUCUS. I think that is a good idea. I think it is going to happen.

Mr. COBURN. But the Senator will not agree to it by unanimous consent?

Mr. BAUCUS. I cannot at this time but, again, saying it is my expectation it will be available for more than 72 hours.

Mr. COBURN. I appreciate the sincerity of the chairman's remarks.

Mr. BAUCUS. I thank the Senator. I object.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Objection is heard.

Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, I have another unanimous consent request. The following consent request would be associated with a Coburn amendment that would certify that every Member of the Senate has read the bill and understands it before they vote on the bill. The reason I ask unanimous consent that amendment be agreed to and accepted is that is exactly what the American people expect us to be doing.

So we do not have a bill right now. We do not know what is going to be in the bill. The chairman has a good idea what is going to be in the bill, but he does not know for sure. Only two sets of people--Senator Reid and his staff and CBO--know what is going to be in the bill. I suspect somebody at the White House might.

But we ought to take and embrace the idea of transparency and responsibility, that the American people can expect every one of us to have read this bill, plus the amended bill, and certify that we have an understanding for what we are doing to health care in America with this bill.

I ask unanimous consent that be accepted.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there objection?

The Senator from Montana.

Mr. BAUCUS. Mr. President, reserving the right to object, I certainly agree with the basic underlying import that we should know what we are voting on here. But I must say to my good friend from Oklahoma, I cannot certify that Members of the Senate will understand what they are reading. That presumes a certain level of perception on my part in understanding and delving into the minds of Senators that not only have they read but they have taken the time to understand. And what does ``understand'' mean? Understand the second and third levels, the fourth level of questions? I think it is a practical impossibility for anybody to certify that any other Senator has fully understood. They may read, but they may not fully understand for a whole variety of reasons. So I cannot certify that.

Mr. COBURN. Could I clarify my request?

Mr. BAUCUS. I have to object.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Objection is heard.

Mr. COBURN. Let me clarify my request that the individual certify themselves. I am not asking some group of Senators to certify some other Senator. I am saying that Tom Coburn tells his constituency: I have read this puppy. I have spent the time on it. I have read the managers' amendment, and I, in fact, certify to the people of Oklahoma that I know how terrible it is going to be for their health care.

Mr. BAUCUS. The Senator is always free to make any representations he wants. If he wants to certify he has read it and certify that he has understood it, that is the Senator's privilege.

Mr. COBURN. But the Senator won't accept that we as a body, on one-sixth of the economy, ought to say we know what we are doing?

Mr. BAUCUS. I can't certify that every Member of the Senate has done anything around here. Neither can the Senator from Oklahoma. That is an impossibility. But if the Senator wants to certify he has read it, that is great, and understands it fully, that is great, on any measure--not just this measure but any measure. But I can't certify that for 100 different Senators, on any measure. That is up to the individual Senators and that is up to their mental capacities and up to their initiatives and imaginations and conscientiousness and so forth. I can't certify to that.

Mr. COBURN. I thank the chairman.

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