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Mr. HOYER. I want to speak about this bill, but I also want to respond to the chairman of the Republican Conference, who apparently fails to realize that we've created 4 million jobs, 3.96 million to be exact, over the last 24 months. We've had 10 quarters of growth in America. As opposed to losing 786,000 jobs the last month of President Bush's term, we added 257,000 last month in the private sector.
So to say that the President's program is not working is simply inaccurate.
Now, ladies and gentlemen, this is a wolf in sheep's clothing. They don't like the health care bill. That's what the chairman of the conference just said. He wants to vote to repeal that. We understand that. They want to pick it apart piece by piece.
Let me talk about it. Two years ago, we passed a comprehensive health care reform package that is already lowering costs, expanding access, and contributing to deficit reduction. The Affordable Care Act was a significant moment when Congress once again took bold action to constrain the growth in health care spending and make insurance more accessible and affordable for all Americans. As the wealthiest country on the face of the Earth, we ought to make sure that people can get insurance and have affordable, accessible health care.
Insurance companies can no longer deny coverage to children with preexisting conditions. I bet they think that's a benefit, a protection that will be extended to all Americans by 2014. I've had a lot of people talk to me about that provision. They like it.
Insurance companies can no longer drop Americans from their policies when they get sick or impose arbitrary and unfair caps on coverage. You buy insurance to make sure when you get sick you have coverage. If you get very sick and need more coverage, it says you can't cancel because you're really sick. I think Americans like that.
Since the Affordable Care Act was signed into law, over 32 million seniors on Medicare have access to free preventative services. The Medicare part D doughnut hole is on the path to close completely by 2020. Seniors who fall into this coverage gap are right now getting a 50 percent discount on their brand drugs. They like that.
Now 360,000 small businesses have already taken advantage of tax credits that are helping them provide more affordable coverage to over 2 million workers. Lifetime limits on over 105 million Americans with private insurance have been eliminated. Over 2,800 employers have already received financial assistance that helps them provide affordable insurance to 13 million retirees who are not yet eligible for Medicare.
The CBO continues to project that the Affordable Care Act will reduce the deficits by tens of billions of dollars by the end of this decade.
Despite all of these benefits, today Republicans will take yet another vote to repeal part of the Affordable Care Act. But what they want to do is repeal the act. That's what the chairman said of the conference. I take him at his word. I appreciate his honesty.
Today their focus is on the Independent Payment Advisory Board, or IPAB, which couldn't be a less timely issue. IPAB is a backstop mechanism to ensure that the Affordable Care Act's savings and cost-containment provisions will be achieved. But CBO has already said they don't expect it to be triggered at all over the next decade. That's because the Affordable Care Act's cost-containment provisions are already having a significant impact on slowing the growth of health care and Medicare spending.
This proves that the Medicare spending can be constrained without turning Medicare into a voucher program as the chairman has said. That forces seniors to spend more and ends the Medicare guarantee. Americans don't want that.
The Republican plan does exactly that and tries to mask the end of Medicare as we know it by talking about choices and competition.
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Mr. HOYER. But both competition and choice already exist in the Medicare program.
Of beneficiaries, 99.7 percent have access to at least one Medicare Advantage plan, and in the majority of counties, they have an average of 26 private plans to choose from. In spite of all these choices, about 75 percent of all seniors still choose to remain in traditional Medicare.
The Republican budget, released just yesterday, paints a clear picture of their priorities, showing once again they stand for ending the Medicare guarantee, shifting ever-increasing costs on to our seniors and repealing all of the Affordable Care Act's patient protections.
I stand behind the cost-containment provisions, the delivery-system reforms, the improvement to Medicare, and the new benefits and protections that were enacted under health reform. And I stand with my fellow Democrats and America's seniors in support of preserving the Medicare guarantee and ensuring that Medicare remains available and affordable for generations to come.
I appreciate the ranking member's leadership on this issue and all of those who were critically responsible in ensuring that Americans have access to affordable quality health care.
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