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Public Statements

Addressing the Fiscal Cliff

Floor Speech

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Date:
Location: Unknown

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Mr. WELCH. Thank you. This is such an important issue about the future. We can get a deficit deal. The President is committed to doing it. It's got to be balanced. Balanced means there's got to be revenues. Our taxes, especially from the high-income, are at historic lows. We have to have health care reform, and that can get the cost of health care down, bring that rate of growth of spending down.

In Vermont, that's what we're trying to do. We're a single-payer State. We're trying to move towards a single-payer. And the reason is that it's the best way to get our arms around health care so you can continue the access. And we know that there are reforms that we can make in Medicare. Just for example, if we purchase drugs wholesale, why do we pay retail? In the VA and in Medicaid, the government is a big purchaser and it negotiates price discounts with the pharmaceutical companies that are quite eager to sell their prescription drugs to Medicare.

Mr. GARAMENDI. If I might interrupt you for a moment. Under the current law, the U.S. Government Medicare program, it is prevented by law.

Mr. WELCH. It's illegal to be a smart shopper. That's exactly right. You can't make that up. It's illegal. It would be like telling you, if you went into CVS to buy some aspirin, and you knew you were going to use them for a year--you had a family, if you wanted to buy the bottle that had 100 and the per unit price is one-third of what it is if you're going to buy the bottle of 20, it would be illegal for CVS to be able to sell it to you at a lower price per unit. That's what we have in Medicare.

Everybody understands you've got to pay for what you're going to get. But the fundamental debate here--and this is what was reflected in the Ryan budget with the voucher plan--is: are we going to try to address what are obvious failures in the system of the delivery of health care, like not allowing for prescription drug price negotiation? That would save $165 billion, and it wouldn't cut a single benefit. Or, are we going to go allow that system that makes no sense continue and instead take $165 billion worth of benefits out of Medicare so that if you go to the doctor, they may treat you for a broken wrist but not a broken forearm. It doesn't make sense. And it certainly doesn't make sense to start talking about benefit cuts before you have the system reform and can get savings that are literally right on the table in front of you.

So we can deal with this debt situation that we have in this country. It is serious. Democrats understand that. The President understands it. It's a serious problem. It's a solvable problem. But to solve it we have to have a significant contribution from revenues. The top 2 percent can afford have their taxes go up to the Clinton year rates. That's number one. And number two, we can have reforms in health care that would benefit not just Medicare sustainability but health care expenses, whether you get your health care at work through your employer or whether you're a private-pay person.

The nice part of this is that we are all in it together. Thank you for doing this. We can solve this problem. And let's do it.

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