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Mr. COBURN. Well, I would answer my colleague from Tennessee. As a practicing physician, what I see as the historic mistake is we are going to allow the Federal Government to decide what care you are going to get. We are going to compromise the loyalty of your physician so that no longer is he or she going to be a 100-percent advocate for you, he or she is going to be an advocate for the government and what the government says. Because in this bill--even the one that is going to come--there are three different programs that put government bureaucracy in charge of what you can and cannot have. It doesn't consider your personal health, your past history, or your family history; they are going to say here is what you can and cannot do. That is called rationing. That is in the bill. That is coming. That is a historic mistake because it ruins the best health care system in the world in the name of trying to fix a smaller problem in terms of access, and it ignores the real problem.
The real problem is health care in this country costs too much. We all know this bill doesn't drive down costs, it increases costs. So your premiums go up, your costs go up, your care is going to go down because the government is going to tell you what you have to have.
I think that is a historic mistake and we have not addressed that. I wonder what my colleague from Wyoming thinks.
Mr. BARRASSO. Madam President, I agree completely. As a practicing physician taking care of people in Wyoming for 25 years, I have great concerns about this bill, what we know for sure is in it, which is $500 billion of cuts in Medicare to our patients who depend on Medicare, and that is a system that we know is going broke. That is why there is a front-page story in one of the Wyoming papers: ``Doctors Shortage Will Worsen.'' It is going to be harder on rural communities and others around the country if this goes through, and we know that because the folks who have looked at the parts of the bill we have seen have said that one-fifth of the hospitals in this country will be--if they are able to keep their doors open--operating at a significant loss 10 years from now. That is not the best future for health care in our country.
I had a telephone townhall meeting. People from all around the State of Wyoming were calling in and asking me questions, and they asked: What is in the bill? What is coming to the Senate?
We don't know yet. We haven't seen it.
They said: Well, when you find out, come home and let's have some more townhall meetings so we can have some input.
That is what we ought to do as a Senate. We ought to know what is in the bill and then let us go home and share it with our friends so they know. Because right now what the American people have seen of this bill, the 2,000-page bill, they rightly believe this will increase the cost of their own personal care.
Mr. COBURN. Madam President, if my colleague would yield, yesterday I asked the chairman of the Finance Committee to agree to a unanimous consent request that, in fact, for at least 72 hours the American people would get to see this bill; the Members of the Senate would get to see this bill; that there be a complete CBO score so we can have an understanding. He denied that request.
That comes back to transparency. The American people expect us to know exactly what we are voting on. They expect us to have read what we are voting on. His explanation was: I can't guarantee that. It presumes a certain level of perception on my part, an understanding of delving into the minds of the Senators that they could actually understand. What does understand mean? That is the kind of gibberish the American people absolutely don't want. They want us to know what we are voting on when we get ready to vote on this bill.
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Mr. COBURN. I say to my colleagues that one of the things President Obama said he wanted to have was transparency. There has been no transparency in the process. That is why at least if there is not going to be transparency in the process, we ought to at least have it transparent to the American people for 72 hours. This is a quote from the chairman of the Finance Committee:
I think it is impossible to certify that any Senator will fully understand.
We are going to have a 2,000-plus page bill, and the chairman of the Finance Committee says he thinks it is going to be impossible to certify that any Senator will fully understand this bill. That is the best reason I know not to pass this bill, because if we don't understand it, you can bet the American people aren't going to understand it.
Mr. McCAIN. When more Americans begin to understand it, they don't want it. That is thanks to the efforts made all over this country to educate the American people about what the impact of the bill will be.
Mr. BARRASSO. Following along what the Senators are saying, that is why the support of the American people for the bill is at an all-time low. It is at the lowest level of support ever. According to this NBC poll, fewer than one out of three Americans support this bill. They don't know all that is in it, but they don't like what they see so far, because they believe, in overwhelming numbers, that the cost of their own care will go up, that this will add to the deficit, it will hurt the economy, and their health care would actually be better if we pass nothing.
So why would the American people support a bill that is going to cost them more personally and when their health care will get worse? That is not the value the American people have ever wanted.
That is what I hear from patients at home, and it is what I hear on telephone town meetings. That is what we are hearing in all of our States. This is what the American people continue to say: Do not pass this bill.
As our leader said, we do need health care reform, and Dr. Coburn certainly knows that. But it is not this reform that we need.
Mr. ALEXANDER. We come to the floor every day and point out the problems with the bill. We don't have a bill now, we can't read it, and we don't know how much it costs or how much it affects the American people. It raises taxes and premiums. It will increase the debt, because it doesn't include things such as the physicians Medicare reimbursement. It cuts Medicare by $1 trillion over 10 years once it is fully implemented.
We point out what we think should be done. My colleagues have talked about it many times. Instead of wheeling in another 2,000-page bill, we should focus on the goal of reducing costs, and we should take several steps toward doing that. The Senator from Arizona talks about one of those things, which is reducing the number of junk lawsuits against doctors. I don't think that is in the bill, unless it is secretly being added in the back room today.
Mr. McCAIN. Well, I don't think that is being added today. Again, I also point out that Americans are now against passage of this legislation. But in that polling data, it is very interesting, also, the majority of seniors, by much larger numbers--the actual beneficiaries of Medicare--are turning against it, and the intensity of Americans against it--which is harder to gauge in a poll--is incredible.
If the responses that our efforts are getting are anything close to indicative of the mood of the American people, and the intensity of it, it is probably as great as I have ever seen in the years that I have had the privilege of serving in the Congress of the United States.
This polling data says more Americans now believe it is better to keep the current health system than to pass President Obama's plan. That is a message being sent, and the intensity is higher than any I have ever observed in my years of service. I thank them for that.
There is a chance that we can stop this, and we start in January. We would be willing to come back and sit down and negotiate, with the C-SPAN cameras on--as the President said or committed he would do as a candidate. We would sit down together here, at the White House, or anywhere, and we can fix this system that we all know needs fixing.
As the Senator from Oklahoma said, it is the cost that has to be addressed, not the quality.
Mr. COBURN. I want to bring up an example. We are going to see this time and time again if the bill goes through. We had the U.S. Preventive Health Task Force put out a recommendation on breast cancer screening through mammography on the basis of cost. They said it is not cost effective to screen women under 50 with mammograms, because you have to screen 1,900 before you find 1 breast cancer. On cost, they are right; but over 50, you have to screen 1,470.
So what we had was a decision made on cost, not on quality, not on patients, but based on cost. We fixed that as part of an amendment to this bill. We actually fixed that. There are three different agencies within this bill that are going to do the same thing. Every time they make a ruling based on cost, not on clinical outcomes and what is best for patients, are we going to fix it? No. We are transferring the care of the American patient to three bureaucracies within the Federal Government, and they are going to decide what you have to do. If you think about it, this week the wife of a Member of this body was diagnosed with breast cancer. She was diagnosed through a mammogram. Under that task force's recommendation, she would not have gotten that mammogram.
Mr. McCAIN. I ask the Senator from Oklahoma, would that aspect of this bill come to light if it hadn't been for the recommendation that was made by another similarly acting policymaking body? In other words, that is what triggered the investigation of what was in this bill, which would have had exactly the same effect. So if we hadn't had that information of a recommendation by another government policymaking bureaucracy, we would not have known about this until the bill would have taken effect.
Mr. COBURN. So there is no transparency. What we do know is that we are going to have three organizations, the Medicare Advisory Commission, the Cost Comparative Effectiveness Panel, and the U.S. Preventive Health Task Force that will tell everybody in America what they are going to receive.
Mr. McCAIN. This example wouldn't have been known if it hadn't been for the actions of the bureaucracy. Doesn't that bring into question what else is buried in this 2,000-page piece of legislation?
Mr. COBURN. What are the unintended consequences of this that they don't know? What we do know is there are 70 new Government programs that will require over 20,000 new Federal employees, and there are 1,690 different times when the Secretary of HHS will write rules and regulations about your health care in America--the Secretary, not your doctor; your doctor isn't going to write the regulations. The Secretary of HHS is going to write the rules.
Mr. McCAIN. Let me point out again that we don't know what the CBO estimate is, because we know the majority leader keeps bouncing proposals back and forth to CBO. That is why we haven't had CBO information now for many days. But there is the Commission for Medicare and Medicaid, which clearly points out that this legislation would increase taxes dramatically, increase costs dramatically, decrease care, and it would have the effect of forcing people not only out of the system, but even if they are in the Medicare system, they would not have physicians to provide the care, because more and more physicians would fail to treat Medicare patients.
Mr. COBURN. So we go back to the 72 hours. We are going to get a new bill, but we will not have the opportunity to amend it. We are not going to be able to read it and study it, nor are the American people. What do you think the outcome of that will be?
Mr. McCAIN. I think we know what the outcome will be. We will either be able to reflect the feelings and intense feelings of the majority of the American people about this legislation and say let's go back to square one and all commit to a bipartisan approach to this issue or we will see jammed through on Christmas Eve legislation that will have the most far-reaching effects and devastating effects, I think, not only on our ability to provide much-needed medical care to all of our citizens, but also an impact that would be devastating on the debt and deficit, upon which we have laid an unconscionable burden already.
We have two choices--to go back to the beginning and enact many reforms we can agree on--and there are many we could agree on immediately on a bipartisan basis; as the Senator from Tennessee pointed out, there has never been a fundamental reform made in modern history that was not bipartisan--or we are going to see jammed through, over the objections of a majority of Americans, legislation that they have never seen, read, or understand.
That is the choice we have. That is what it is boiling down to. I think that, frankly, the American people should be heard, not a majority over on the other side.
Mr. BARRASSO. The American people are saying: Don't cut my Medicare, don't raise my taxes, don't make things worse than they are right now, and this bill cuts Medicare, raises taxes, and for people depending on a health care system in this country this makes things worse.
Mr. McCAIN. By the way, could I mention, if you live long enough, all things can happen. I now find myself in complete agreement with Dr. Howard Dean, who says we should stop this bill in its tracks; we should go back to the beginning and have an overall bipartisan agreement. Dr. Dean, I am with you.
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