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Public Statements

American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Ms. EDDIE BERNICE JOHNSON of Texas. Mr. Speaker, recently the Senate came together on a bipartisan basis to address our looming fiscal crisis. I appreciate the statesmanship of President Obama and Vice President Biden to make every effort to avoid the most harmful effects of the "fiscal cliff.''

Last night's vote in the House was one of the hardest votes I have cast in my tenure in Congress. The agreement was not a perfect proposal, but it avoided serious damage to our national economy. One of my concerns about the measure is that it did not generate nearly enough revenue. I am afraid that the haste and the lack of detailed effort will ultimately translate to a series of tax hikes and spending cuts in future years that will negatively impact the middle class and the poor.

I have serious reservations about any attempt to cut benefits in Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. I am committed to evaluating the impact of the funding used to pay for the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR or "doc fix''). I strongly oppose cuts to services for diabetes, end stage renal disease, and other illnesses disproportionately impacting my constituents. As a non-practicing registered nurse, I know how devastating these cuts would be for medical services in undeserved communities.

Another worthy program that is very important to my constituents is the Qualifying Individual (QI) program. The program allows Medicaid to pay the Medicare Part B premiums for low-income Medicare beneficiaries with incomes between 120 percent and 135 percent of poverty. Under current law, QI expired December 31, 2012. The agreement extends the QI program until December 31, 2013.

Mr. Speaker, I have five major hospitals in my congressional district that not only serve my constituents, but the entire North Texas population. The measure states that qualifying low-volume hospitals receive add-on payments based on the number of Medicare discharges. To qualify, the hospital must have less than 1,600 Medicare discharges and be 15 miles or greater from the nearest like hospital. This provision extends the payment adjustment until December 31, 2013. The Medicare Dependent Hospital (MDH) program in the bill provides enhanced reimbursement to support rural health infrastructure and to support small rural hospitals for which Medicare patients make up a significant percentage of inpatient days or discharges. This greater dependence on Medicare may make these hospitals more financially vulnerable to prospective payment, and the MDH designation is designed to reduce this risk. This provision extends the MDH program until October 1, 2013.

I am pleased to see that the Senate approved a one-year extension of unemployment insurance benefits, providing necessary support for those looking to return to work as the economy recovers. I am also pleased to learn that deep cuts for many important programs that support the most vulnerable and provide pathways to prosperity for millions of Americans, including Head Start and WIC, were delayed. I would have preferred to see a long term extensions to these critical provisions.

Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned before, I do not agree with many of the details of the compromise, but I cast my vote for the bill for the greater national interest. I will continue to mitigate any negative impact of cuts on communities of color and other vulnerable populations in the ongoing negotiations on sequestration and the debt ceiling.

We must ultimately find a way not to fall into a deep economic crisis, and to further strengthen our middle class. I hope all of my colleagues as well as the Leadership continues to work on these issues and that it ultimately reflect solid bipartisan collaboration for the incoming 113th Congress.


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