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The Repeal of Health Care

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. COURTNEY. Thank you, Mr. Welch.

In actually following the Congresswoman's comments about Texas' participation in various parts of the program, I wanted to focus for a minute on one of the really strong pro-employer provisions of this bill.

We heard a lot of talk on the floor today about job-killing health care laws. I mean, the fact of the matter is, since President Obama signed the measure into law in March, over 1 million private sector jobs have been created in this country. I would contrast that to the day he was sworn into office, January of 2009, when the U.S. economy had lost 800,000 jobs in 1 month alone. So, clearly, you know, on just a simple data basis, this claim really doesn't pass the test of the facts.

One of the pro-employer measures which Texas is now participating in, along with the other 49 States, is a provision called the Early Retiree Reinsurance Program. In 1986, over 60 percent of America's employers had a retiree health insurance plan so that people hitting age 55 or 60 could retire, and their benefits would be extended. In 2009, that number had fallen to below 30 percent.

What this bill did is it created a reinsurance fund, which is like a government backstop for private employment-based health insurance plans, similar to the same type of reinsurance plans that we have for terrorism insurance, flood insurance, and the nuclear energy industry. These are types of property and casualty coverage which would never be written in this country if the government did not act as a backstop. We set up a similar fund and basically opened the doors to employers across America who had, again, employees who were over age 55.

What have we seen?

Over 4,700 employers have enrolled in this program. Over half of the Fortune 500 companies in America have signed up for this program. I mean, you can just go down the list: GE, General Dynamics, Coca Cola, Pepsi, AT&T, Comcast, Ford, GM, Walgreens. The list goes on and on.

Again, all 50 States have enrolled for their State employee health plans, including States that are suing the Federal Government to try and blow this law to smithereens.

The fact of the matter is is that they're voting with their feet in terms of whether or not this is a good law or not. If this was not a good program, they wouldn't enroll in it. But they understand that stabilizing early retiree health benefits is a way of making sure that people who are 55 years old and are teaching or police officers or working in corporate America are going to retire, and that will create elasticity in the labor market so that young Americans can actually fill those positions. I mean, this is even truer in terms of physical labor occupations. And again, Taft-Hartley plans, laborers, iron workers have all signed up for this reinsurance program, again, as a way of stabilizing 55- to 65-year-old Americans' health benefits and creating more opportunities for younger Americans so that people will follow that natural path of retiring.

When you take that measure and combine it with the small business tax credit--$40 billion of tax relief for small employers--this is a pro-jobs, pro-employer law. And again, quick example, I was at a roundtable on health care in my district. There was a family doctor that was there who was talking about the new Medicare changes and how excited she was about getting tools to better serve her clients. And she said, I'm getting killed on my own employee health plan, it's like $14,000 a year for four or five employees. And I said, well, did you check out the small business tax credit? She said the small business what? So she went on that tax calculator--it's smallbusinessmajorityÐ.org--and called me back a couple of days later. She's going to save $4,000 on her health insurance premium because of that tax credit.

By passing this law today, the Republican majority raised the taxes of small businesses all across America at exactly the same time that today they are figuring out their tax returns for 2010. I was a small employer before I came to Congress a short time ago. That's what you do in January and February, you start pulling your papers together to do your taxes. And they just voted today to blow up that tax credit to help the real job creators in America's economy.

Ms. JACKSON LEE of Texas. Just a quick point.

Number one is the benefit you just mentioned in a State like Texas, this retiree program. And we have a very quixotic or very complicated retirement program for teachers. And I will just say in closing, State legislators are beginning to go back to their capitals to try and understand how they're going to face these enormous deficits. I can't understand why we are burdening now States, by this vote, with extra responsibilities when they are all in crisis. The bill we have saves jobs, creates jobs, and provides benefits for people who need it and States who are in trouble.

Mr. COURTNEY. And quickly to conclude, I'm glad you mentioned teachers because as we now begin a great debate in our country about trying to reform America's schools, the one thing I think everybody agrees is getting young teachers who understand technology, who are enthusiastic, that young students can identify with a little better than some of the older teachers that are in the classrooms. We want them in the classrooms. But older teachers who are afraid that they're going to lose their benefits if they retire are going to continue to work for their benefits. And this fund, this reinsurance fund is a way of trying to loosen the labor market and get new blood in occupations all across our economy.

Thank you, Mr. Welch, for your great presentation.

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