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Public Statements

Protecting Access to Healthcare Act

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. KIND. I thank the gentleman from Michigan for yielding me this time.

Madam Chair, I rise in opposition to H.R. 5.

Two years ago, the Affordable Care Act was passed, and I was a proud supporter of that legislation. Not because I thought it was the perfect bill, but because I thought it gave us the tools and the potential to reform a health care system that was in desperate need of reform, of putting things in place that could deliver better quality of care that is given for a better price, and also increasing access to health insurance throughout the country, and to finally address the 52 million uninsured Americans that we have living in our own communities.

Yet the ultimate verdict on whether health care reform works or fails for everyone in this country is whether we can figure out creative ways of bringing down those costs in health care.

One thing I do know under the health care reform bill that has been enacted is that in my congressional district in western Wisconsin, this year alone 4,200 young adults are able to stay on their parents' health care plan; whereas, before they couldn't. What a relief that has been to those families, making sure that those kids, many of whom are in school, can stay on the family plan.

Of the 5,800 seniors this year who have fallen into the doughnut hole, they are seeing a cost savings of roughly $610 apiece because of the 50 percent price discount they now get under this legislation. That's not peanuts in western Wisconsin. There are 86,000 seniors now that are able to go and get preventive care services without copays, without deductibles, without out-of-pocket expenses. We want them to go in and get those tests so something worse doesn't happen to them, which will inevitably drive up the cost for everyone in the Medicare system.

There are 15,000 small businesses in western Wisconsin that now qualify for tax credits for providing health care to their employees to make it more economically feasible for them to do what they want to do, and that is provide health care coverage for their workers. That 35 percent tax credit goes up to 50 percent in 2014, when we're able to move forward on the creation of the health insurance exchanges. And 39,000 children in western Wisconsin who have a preexisting condition can no longer be denied healthcare coverage in their lives.

This is the right thing to do, and yet we have to figure out some cost-containment measures to make sure that it's sustainable and affordable in the future.

The Independent Payment Advisory Board is a backstop in that effort. It's not the first thing we go to in order to find cost savings, but if costs do exceed target growth rates, the Independent Payment Advisory Board is able to come forward--with Congress--with recommended cost savings that will be implemented only if Congress refuses to act ourselves. And that has been the problem around here for too long. We get recommendations from MedPAC and other entities on where we can find cost savings, but because of the inability of Congress to stand up to some powerful special interests, quite frankly, it's very difficult for this institution to act by itself in order to implement those cost savings.

I find it a little bit humorous that my colleagues on the other side are so fearful of this payment advisory board making some decisions when it comes to the rising health care costs when they feel perfectly comfortable turning these decisions over to private insurance companies who are motivated by profit and trying to maximize their margin of gain by providing health care coverage. I think that's nonsensical.

Ultimately, if health care reform is going to work, we have to change the way health care is delivered in this country so that it is more economical in how we pay for it, so that it is value- and not volume-based anymore.

I come from an area of the country with health care providers that have models of care that are highly integrated, they are very coordinated, they are patient-focused, and they are producing some of the best results in the Nation. Yet a Medicare recipient in La Crosse, Wisconsin, receives on average about $5,000 a year compared to $17,000 in Miami. Yet the results in La Crosse are much better than the results in Miami, and there are studies out there showing there is over-utilization in the delivery of health care, which is driving up costs for everyone.

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Mr. KIND. I thank the gentleman.

The studies show that one out of every three health care dollars is going to tests, they are going to procedures, they are going to things that don't work. They're not improving health care. And oftentimes, because of the over-utilization that patients are receiving, many of these patients are being left worse off rather than better off. So we've got to reform the delivery system, which the Affordable Care Act puts in place. But ultimately, we have to change the way we pay for health care. We need to end and destroy the fee-for-service system, which is all volume-based payments, and move to a value-based reimbursement system. The IPAB commission can help us get to that promised land.

And this has been a bipartisan issue for a long time. Dr. Frist has been talking about payment reform that's value-based for as long as I can remember. My own former Governor, former HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson, has said repeatedly that if we do anything, make sure that we change the payment system so it is value- and not volume-based anymore. Mark McClellan, President Bush's CMS Director, the same thing. So there's been bipartisan recognition that we have to do it. IPAB gives us an opportunity to do that, but it's not the final say. They merely come forward with their recommended cost savings and challenges the Congress to come up with an alternative cost savings.

So, folks, this is gut-check time. This is whether we are serious about trying to bend the cost curve. Their plan would get rid of Medicare. It turns it into a private voucher and a voucher that's inadequate to address the costs that seniors face. They don't reform the way health care is delivered. They're not reforming how we pay for health care. They're merely changing who pays for health care under Medicare, and those costs are going to be shifted on the backs of our seniors. That's no way of reforming a health care system that's in need of reform, that only address the Medicare portion within our budget.

What we need to be working on and what the Affordable Care Act gives us the tools to do is to reform the entire health care system, both public programs and private programs. And that's something that we fundamentally have to do to get our economy back on track, creating good-paying jobs. Because if you just repeal it now, we go back to the status quo, which means more uninsured, higher costs, and our businesses are less able to compete globally. I encourage my colleagues to reject H.R. 5.

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