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Public Statements

The Question Of Health Care

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Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. THOMPSON of Pennsylvania. Well, first of all, I want to thank my good friend from Missouri for providing the leadership for this evening. It is just so important.

The American people, I have to tell you, I am very proud of the American people on this issue. During this past 15 months, I think they fulfilled the responsibility that our Founders intended. Our Founders have to be smiling right now, because the American people have woken up and are paying attention and engaging on this issue.

When it comes to health care, I think the large majority of Americans share the same perspective I do, and it is a perspective I developed as a health care professional. I started out as a therapist over 30 years ago, and for 28 years I was a health care manager, licensed as a nursing home administrator, worked in all areas of health care, in nonprofit community health care.

The four principles I have always led my professional life by have been the same four principles that have guided me in my role working for the people as a Member of Congress, and it is the same principles that I see the people agreeing with when it comes to health care. They want to improve our health care system, not throw it out, not create some government-run system.

My principles that I have always led my life by, and I think they are principles that are important in this debate, let's do what we can to make sure that we lower the cost of health care for all Americans. The bill that is coming at us at light speed from the Senate raises costs for most Americans. It doesn't address real cost reduction.

The second principle for me is increasing access, improving quality, and making sure that we strengthen that decisionmaking relationship between the physician and patient. We don't need the government or a bureaucrat making those decisions.

The bill that is coming at us, in particular I will just talk about one aspect. I started at that last principle of strengthening the decisionmaking relationship between the physician and the patient. This bill creates a health care czar, and this czar is going to have the ability to impose not just health care prices and controls, but that czar is going to dictate what kind of benefits we should get and not get. And just as my good friend from Texas was talking about, we will wind up paying for procedures, such as abortions, something that we would never use, that we certainly, based on my faith, would be very much in objection to.

So that type of imposition of a czar making decisions, inserting themselves between the patient and physician, is just absolutely wrong.

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Mr. THOMPSON. I think that comes close. Actually, I believe that the health care issue is more like a leaky faucet. And what my good friends on the Democratic side of the aisle are choosing to do is to burn the house down versus just--

Mr. AKIN. So remodeling the kitchen--

Mr. THOMPSON. They're burning the entire house down and taking it from a system that has been a model for the world, actually. I give you one example. One of the issues we talk about--and we agree we need to improve access to quality health care. I would have been much happier if this whole debate, when we started it--in fact, I came to Congress thinking that we would have that debate--how do we improve access to quality health care. No. What are we debating? Health insurance. Not even the right topic.

I want to put it in the perspective of probably an example that I think touches all the colleagues here on the floor. I'm from a very rural district. I have probably almost 24 different rural hospitals in my congressional district. Those hospitals, in addition to the economic engines, they're incredibly important to those communities. They're the source of positions. They're really good jobs. They purchase resources. They're good neighbors. They purchase resources in the community. So they're good for the community. But beyond that, having those in those rural communities provides access to quality health care.

You never want to see a hospital close. I don't believe that. But if you close one in the city, probably within about a six-block radius you're going to find another hospital that's going to be able to provide you access to lifesaving care.

You close a hospital in my congressional district, and what you wind up with is a commute that makes the difference between life and death. We're talking hours to get the same type of, or any type of, access to health care. So here's the rub when it comes to this bill that's being proposed, $500 billion cuts to Medicare. And my good friend already talked about the fact that Medicare only pays maybe 80 to 90 cents for a dollar's worth of care that a hospital or a physician provides. So Medicare is already underfunded.

We've talked about how that is one of the contributing factors to why commercial health insurance is so expensive. Commercial health insurance nationally pays 135 percent of costs. The Federal Government only pays 80 to 90 percent of costs. So what are we going to do? What's the solution to that obvious problem? Let's cut more Medicare. Let's throw in $500 billion in cuts.

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Mr. THOMPSON of Pennsylvania. Mr. Akin, I want to come back to the chart you have there. It is a perfect capture of bureaucracy. Bureaucracy, one of the things that we talked about. We are all committed to lowering the health care costs for every single American. That is a principle that we all should be doing the right things towards. And there are solutions out there that we have worked on and introduced. The Putting Patients First Act is just one of them that would bring the cost of health care down for everyone.

But I want to talk about the consequences of that chart, of this Senate bill which is being shoved like a freight train through Congress and on the American people. Over a hundred different mandates, well over a hundred different new bureaucracies are being created in health care. I will just come back to one that was created, and the practical impact of that, under President Clinton: the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, HIPAA.

Everyone wants privacy when it comes to health care. It is a very intimate subject. That is why we don't want a bureaucrat involved in our health care. The portability part, I have to say, if that worked back in the 1990s, we would all be better if we could take our insurance with us where we went. But it didn't; it failed. But what it did do is put a layer of bureaucracy in our health care system that has just piled tons and tons of layers and money, money that is required to be spent to implement and execute that bureaucracy.

And you know where that money comes from? It comes from direct care. That is money that goes into--and when they talk about waste in health care, government mandates are a tremendous waste. That is how I got involved in public policy, actually, out of frustration, because I saw what the Medicare regulations, many of them, were doing to add cost and decrease access to cost-effective health care.

Mr. AKIN. So what you are talking about isn't exactly a surprise to us. You've been there, and what you are saying is health care is just what you expect. When the government does it, it is inefficient and it is a tremendous waste. And so to try and say, Now we have got Medicare and Medicaid that have gone bankrupt, and so give us the rest of health care to take over, there is a problem with that line of reasoning somehow.

Mr. THOMPSON of Pennsylvania. Absolutely. And what we are talking about today goes well beyond Medicare. I thought Medicare and Medicaid were complex. This new proposal, this Senate bill that is being pushed at us, HIPAA, the impact of costs on health care just from HIPAA were significant. If you multiply that times a hundred new Federal mandates on health care, and you multiply that by 150 new bureaucracies within the health care system, the ultimate cost of what this will cost our country, our citizens, and our health is just devastating.

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