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Mr. PALLONE. I want to continue this debate on the Medicare issue because I do believe, from looking at the Republican budget, that they do intend to end Medicare, it's quite clear. And, you know, the irony of this is that, when the Democrats were in the majority, we were trying to expand health care options, provide everybody with health insurance. And now what we see is just the Republicans, when they take the majority, are trying to get rid of, really, the best health insurance program that the Nation has ever seen, and that's Medicare.
No one would argue that Medicare has not been successful. The fact of the matter is that before we had Medicare--which, as my colleague from New York mentioned, was a Democratic initiative--what would seniors do? Well, seniors couldn't get health insurance because, as you know, when you get to be over 65, or if you are disabled, people don't want to give you health insurance because it costs too much. You are in the hospital too much. You have too many health care needs. And so seniors basically couldn't find health insurance. They were really at the mercy, if you will, of whatever they could find, or if they got sick, they had to go to a hospital or they had to go to a doctor and pay out of pocket in many cases.
And so when the Democrats came along and Lyndon Johnson said, look, this is something that we need because seniors can't get health insurance, well, they initiated Medicare. And the fact of the matter is that almost every Republican voted against Medicare then, and they have never liked it because they know it's a government program. They don't like government programs.
So if anyone on the other side of the aisle is trying to tell me, I don't know that they are, but if they are trying to suggest that if somehow by voting for this budget that ends Medicare that they didn't really mean it, I would say look at their history, look at the history of opposing Medicare, of opposing Medicaid, of opposing even Social Security when Franklin Roosevelt and the Democratic Congress put it together.
Now, I want to point out what happens when seniors don't have Medicare anymore and they have to go buy insurance on the private market. Well, basically, what that does is it puts the insurance companies back in charge again. And that's no surprise. This is what the Republicans want. They always stand with the special interests--Big Oil, big banks, Wall Street and, of course, the insurance companies.
And the insurance companies don't like Medicare because they can't make any money. They want to be able to make money. They want to take, cherry-pick, if you will. If you're over 65 and they figure you're in good health, then maybe they'll give you insurance if you want to go and buy it because they figure you might be a good risk and they can charge you a lot of money and they can give you a barebones policy that doesn't cover anything.
Remember that Medicare not only provides a guaranteed insurance policy that you can buy, that you get, I should say, from the government when you are over 65 regardless of your health status or of your income, but you also get a pretty generous insurance plan that covers a lot of things. You put the insurance companies back in charge, and not only will they not offer insurance to a lot of seniors at a decent price, but for those who they do sell the insurance to, it's not going to be a package that covers what most seniors are going to need. So it's not only that Medicare is important because it guarantees you coverage, but it also guarantees you a pretty generous coverage which you need when you're 65 or when you're disabled.
Some of the Republicans I hear say, well, don't worry senior citizens, we may be ending Medicare, but it's only going to be ending for those who are now 55. If you're 65 years old, you can continue to have it. But if you're 55 or under, when you get to be 65, it's no longer going to be available. So if you're a senior citizen now, don't worry about it. Well, I don't know too many seniors who think that way, because I know they worry about everybody including not just themselves, but their children and their grandchildren.
But besides that, I would also point out that this Republican budget eliminates two other things. First of all, we, as Democrats, when we were in charge of the House, we put in place a program to close the prescription drug doughnut hole. So that if you reach the doughnut hole now, as of January 1, 50 percent of your costs are covered, and eventually you are going to have no costs in the doughnut hole. It's going to be eliminated completely.
Well, the Republican budget repeals that. So it goes back to leaving this gaping hole; whereas, if your out-of-pocket drug costs in the course of a year are $2,500 or more, then you're not going to get your prescription drugs covered. So, also for current Medicare holders, senior citizens, it opens up that doughnut hole again so you are going to pay all this money out of pocket.
In addition to that, it repeals a Democratic provision that's now law that says that you don't have copays for preventative care. So if you're a senior or disabled and you need a mammogram, you need a certain kind of testing done, you don't pay a copay. The Republican budget also abolishes that. This is devastating for senior citizens, current and future.
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