FAA Air Transportation Modernization and Safety Improvement Act
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Mr. McCAIN. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent to engage in a colloquy with the Senator from Wyoming, Mr. Barrasso.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
Mr. McCAIN. Mr. President, obviously we rise in support of the amendment put forward by the Republican leader for repeal of the health care bill. As we know, the House of Representatives has already acted in an overwhelming fashion. Neither the Senator from Wyoming nor I intend to go through all of the arguments we went through for nearly a year here on the floor of the Senate. In the years I have been here, I have never spent more time on any single issue, by far, than on the health care issue on the floor of the Senate.
One of the most important parts of this debate has been the overall cost--either savings or loss--if this legislation is repealed. Of course, the highly regarded Congressional Budget Office has determined that there would be an overall increase in the cost of health care in America if the bill were repealed. I think it is very important for us to recognize the valuable work the Congressional Budget Office does. They are really one of the most important parts of the decisions we make on legislation. But I think it is also very important to point out that the Congressional Budget Office makes decisions directly related to the input and the parameters and the details of legislation they are sent. The Congressional Budget Office, most appropriately, does not decide on policy; they are simply there as a budget office. So what I am saying is, garbage in, garbage out. If you are given a certain database on which to make judgments of costs, then of course you are going to come out with basically predetermined results and analysis.
One of the numerous aspects or parts of the legislation that was not taken into consideration by the CBO because of the way the legislation was written is the so-called doc fix. The doc fix, as we all know, is in compliance with a reduction in Medicare payments to doctors that was mandated several years ago. Then we found out that doctors would stop treating Medicare patients if they were deprived of the Medicare payments they needed in order to make up for the costs of the treatment they provided to Medicare enrollees. We know that every single year we have had to do the doc fix, which has not allowed the previously legislated reductions in Medicare payments to physicians. So that is an additional $208 billion over 10 years--that alone is $208 billion. Nowhere is that put into the equation.
Then we have, of course, the so-called CLASS Act, which is a poorly designed Federal long-term care program. It was inserted at a point in the debate that was never in the original bill passed through the HELP Committee.
I ask my colleague, it is a program for long-term care where people pay into the system in order to be eligible for long-term care benefits, but over time that money comes back out--not in the timeframe that was given to the CBO. There are a number of other provisions.
I ask my colleague from Wyoming what his assessment of the costs were taking into consideration the doc fix, the CLASS Act, the envisioned Medicare cuts by $500 billion, and others, which are simply not going to happen. I would be interested in the Senator's total of the costs that actually would be saved by repeal of this legislation.
Mr. BARRASSO. What we are trying to do is actually provide people with the care they need, the doctors they want, at a cost they can afford. Yet, when we look at this health care law that--remember, it was written behind closed doors in spite of the promises. That is why people were so offended and are still opposed to this. We had votes in the middle of the night, and there were all those special deals cut for Senators to get that 60th vote.
What I hear most about as I travel my State are the proposed cuts to Medicare. As the Senator mentioned, it was $500 billion. You talked about the President having a commission to look at the debt. What that commission said is that if you are going to take money from Medicare, which this law does--$500 billion--it doesn't do it to help strengthen Medicare or lengthen the life or the vitality of Medicare; it does it to start a whole new government program. It takes $155 billion from hospitals, $202 billion from the 11 million seniors on Medicare Advantage, $15 billion from nursing homes, $40 billion from home health agencies, and $7 billion from hospices.
As my colleague from Arizona said--he mentioned the CLASS Act, which has been called a Ponzi scheme that Bernie Madoff would be proud of. The President's own debt commission says repeal that because, with the way that is set up in terms of taking the money in first so they can count that as coming in, the obligations 10 years and beyond will bankrupt this country. Everyone on both sides of the aisle realizes that. The bipartisan President's debt commission realized it to the point that they put it in one of their recommendations. To hear our colleagues and the last speaker talk about the fact that this may actually help with the deficit and with the debt, anybody who looks at this over the long term and the nature of our country knows this will bankrupt the country.
I worry about the jobs in this country. We are at 9.4 percent unemployment. I know both of us as Senators are working to try to find ways to make it easier and cheaper to create private sector jobs in America. This health care law makes it more expensive and harder to create private sector jobs.
Mr. McCAIN. Nowhere during the debate, I ask my friend, did I understand that there would be a very large use of ``waivers'' for different companies, including unions, businesses, et cetera, and already we have had well over 700 waivers granted to unions and others who have sought relief from this legislation.
I am told that only entails about 1 percent of America's economy, but isn't that quite a remarkable repudiation of this legislation? I would have liked to have heard during the debate: By the way, the Secretary of Health and Human Services is going to have to give well over 700 waivers for people so they won't have to comply with this law. And the only reason you give a waiver, obviously, is because the implementation of the law would be harmful to them. I am very interested in hearing my colleague's comments about this so-called waiver business.
Along with that, the Governor of my State has written to the Secretary of Health and Human Services to give the State
of Arizona a waiver. I hope that, since the Secretary of Health and Human Services is in that business, she will grant that to my home State.
Mr. BARRASSO. I would like to see every citizen in this country get a waiver. I would like every State to have an opportunity to get waivers because last week the Secretary of Health and Human Services gave another 500 new waivers. The total now is
729 waivers. You can find them on the HHS Web site. It covers 2.2 million people.
It is interesting because before this bill was passed through in the middle of the night, labor unions publicly supported this health care law. Now there are 166 union benefit funds that are exempt and have gotten the waivers. They got the waivers. Unions now have 860,000 out of the 2.2 million waivers. Unions now have 40 percent of all the waivers even though they are only 7 percent of the private sector workforce in this country.
My question to my colleague is, if this law is so good, why do so many people who supported it in the first place now say they don't want it to apply to them? Is it, as Nancy Pelosi said when she was Speaker of the House before the election--before the election that repudiated this health care law and the way it was crammed down the throats of the American public--didn't Speaker Pelosi say that first you have to pass it before you get to find out what is in it?
It seems to me, and I ask my colleague from Arizona, that as people know more about what is in this law, it is less popular on a daily basis. Yesterday, 58 percent of Americans, in a Rasmussen poll, said they would like to have it repealed, and the numbers of people who thought all of us ought to be able to get waivers was even higher than that.
Mr. McCAIN. I thank my colleague for his enormous contribution to this debate and his knowledge and background in the medical profession.
There is one other issue I want to mention. Of course, I was pleased to hear the President, in the State of the Union Message, say that we ought to look at the issue of medical malpractice reform. I can't tell the number of times we have tried on this floor to have at least the beginning of some kind of meaningful medical malpractice reform. I said to the Secretary of Health and Human Services at a hearing the other day that I hoped she would be making some proposals to us, to the Congress, so that we could obtain some kind of medical malpractice reform.
As we all know, sometimes as much as 20 to 30 percent of the cost of health care is accrued because of the physician's prescription for unneeded and unwanted and unnecessary tests for fear of the physician finding himself or herself in court trying to defend the treatment of a patient. That, of course, is a huge portion of the additional costs in health care in America today.
I was pleased to hear the President of the United States say he wanted to examine and visit the issue of medical malpractice reform. I know my colleague stands ready to work with him on that issue.
Mr. BARRASSO. The President said the same thing in June of 2009 when he visited and spoke to the American Medical Association. So when that issue didn't really come to the floor, as a number of us would have liked, in this health care law that was written, as I say, behind closed doors, they asked Howard Dean, then-chairman of the Democratic National Committee, why they don't include it, and he said: We can't stand up to the trial lawyers--who have such a remarkable influence on the party on the other side of the aisle.
I am hoping that the President, in his statement in his State of the Union Address, was sincere because it clearly did not follow through what he said in June of 2009 when he met with doctors from all across the country.
Mr. McCAIN. I thank my colleague. I thank the Senator from Maryland for her patience.
I yield the floor.
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