Senate Amendments To H.R. 3590, Service Members Home Ownership Tax Act Of 2009, And H.R. 4872, Health Care And Education Reconciliation Act Of 2010--Continued
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Mr. FRELINGHUYSEN. Mr. Speaker, at the outset, let me be very clear: I support health care reform. I just do not support Speaker Nancy Pelosi's version of health care reform.
With respect to controlling costs for New Jersey's families, changing insurance company practices and making coverage more available to more Americans, the status quo is simply unacceptable. We can, and we must, do better, but not at the expense of millions of American families who are worried about a government takeover of their health care decisions!
With that said, the health care package before the House today is wrong on both process and policy.
On process, the American people know instinctively that a change as historic as this will only be successful with full engagement of the American people and bipartisan support in Congress. However, from the beginning, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid adopted a `go-it-alone' strategy and refused to consider Republican ideas in any significant way. Indeed, the Majority today is even refusing to listen to the very valid concerns of the American people.
In addition, this legislation, and all the versions that preceded it, were drafted behind closed doors at the White House or in Capitol backrooms, with no transparency whatsoever as to which organizations were participating and benefitting! In fact, the Majority had to be `shamed' into releasing the contents of the bill 72 hours before a vote to allow Republicans and the American people to review its contents.
To add insult to injury, the President and Speaker Pelosi decided to use the budget 'reconciliation' process solely to deny the Senate Minority the ability to use its traditional practice of the filibuster to block passage of harmful legislation such as this.
Madame Speaker, the process the Majority has used is shameful, but the policy they seek to impose is downright harmful.
Once again, I state without hesitation that I support health reform. However, I cannot support this proposal.
First, this package contains over $523 billion in job-killing, higher taxes. I cannot think of a worse time to tax families and small businessmen and women than in the middle of a serious recession.
The American people need to understand the destructive nature of this bill: $17 billion in new taxes on Americans who do not obey the bill's requirement that individuals must buy health insurance whether they want to or not, and $52 billion in new taxes on employers that do not provide health coverage deemed ``acceptable'' or ``affordable'' by Washington-based government bureaucrats. This provision alone may force the IRS to hire another 16,000 agents and auditors to enforce compliance with the new law.
In addition, the bill contains new taxes on capital gains, dividends and interest that will further stifle economic growth and job creation. The Medicare tax on capital gains, dividends, and other investment income gets bigger, magnifying the destructive power of the tax. The bill increases the tax from 2.9 percent to 3.8 percent and for the first time, this tax will be extended beyond wages to include interest, dividends, capital gains, annuities, royalties, home sales and rents. This new tax will be particularly damaging to New Jersey's seniors, many of whom depend on such income to survive.
Second, this package contains over $569 billion in total cuts to Medicare.
These reductions include $202.3 billion from seniors' Medicare health plans, including massive cuts targeting the extra benefits and reduced cost-sharing seniors receive through Medicare Advantage. 148,000 seniors in New Jersey, including over 35,000 in my Congressional District enjoy the benefits of this innovative program. The Congressional Budget Office predicts that three million seniors nationwide currently receiving health benefits through these Medicare plans will be dropped.
But the Medicare cuts go deeper. The bill slashes $156 billion from hospitals, including long-term care hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, Ambulatory Surgical Centers, hospice, ambulances, dialysis facilities, labs and durable medical equipment (DME) suppliers.
The package also contains $40 billion in cuts to home health reimbursements and $22 billion in additional cuts to hospitals by slashing reimbursements designed to assist hospitals that serve low-income patients. In addition, $65.7 billion in money will be taken from seniors in the form of higher premiums.
My colleagues, I am also shocked that the Majority has not protected our men and women in uniform, military retirees and veterans who could be affected by the new law. The Senate-passed health care bill omitted protections for military health plans that were included in the House bill.
Specifically, the Senate language does not appear to give the Department of Veterans' Affairs (VA) health care system specific protection from interference by other government agencies administering the various authorities contained in the massive bill, as it pertains to ``minimum essential coverage.''
Further, the final bills would leave it up to bureaucrats at the Department of the Treasury to determine whether TRICARE meets the minimum standards under the bill's individual health insurance mandate. If that bureaucrat decides against TRICARE, service members and their families would have to buy some other health coverage or pay a penalty.
Our men and women in uniform, and our veterans, have earned the best health care available. They need to know that they will continue to receive this same level of care. It is truly regrettable that, in a bill stuffed with `backroom' deals and special `arrangements', this group of American heroes is denied the consideration they earn on the battlefield each and every day.
Mr. Speaker, this bill is also notable for what it does not contain. There is no medical lawsuit reform. It fails to promote portability of coverage. It does not allow insurance companies to sell their policies across state lines. It fails to recognize the value of Association Health Plans, which permit small businesses to pool their risk in order to secure lower insurance rates. The bill does not expand Health Savings Accounts which millions of families use to provide protection against catastrophic illness or injury. The package also does very little to enhance medical training for doctors, nurses and technicians. If we are going to expand coverage for tens of millions of Americans, we need to increase graduation rates in these critical medical professions.
I would also add that this bill completely ignores the ongoing crisis in Medicare reimbursement rates for doctors. My colleagues, the question is not whether you can choose your doctor under the Pelosi health care proposal, but whether your doctor will choose you! Many doctors in New Jersey are already questioning their participation in the Medicare program, putting in greater jeopardy our seniors' access to care. Does the Majority actually believe that the pending 22-percent reimbursement reduction will not cause more doctors to `opt out' of Medicare?
Mr. Speaker, I end this statement where I started: I support health care reform. The status quo is unacceptable and I would welcome the opportunity to work with anyone who will work with me to draft and pass single, individual bills that promote portability of coverage, allow individuals to buy health care across state lines, cover people with preexisting conditions, improve access to Health Savings Accounts, and enact `junk lawsuit' reform, among other actions to bring down the cost of coverage for New Jersey families and businesses.
We can do better than this process and this package. America's future economic and security freedoms depend on it.
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