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Ms. STABENOW. Mr. President, I will be speaking off of the time on the resolution for a moment and then deferring to Senator Mikulski in yielding time to her, as well as our great colleague from Minnesota, Senator Klobuchar, and others who wish to speak as we proceed with the debate on this resolution.
Let me take a moment and say that today the House has passed their budget called the Ryan Republican budget, and it effectively rolls back health care for women in this country. Our budget does exactly the opposite. We protect and strengthen access to health care for women.
Under health care reform, which we strengthen and support in our budget, health insurance plans, as we know, are required to cover women's preventive care, things such as annual wellness visits, domestic violence screenings, and contraception, without copays, coinsurance, or deductibles. The Republican budget that was passed today would take away those protections. Under the budget they passed today, 1.3 million women in Michigan alone could lose their health care.
Insurance plans are now--under what we have passed--not allowed to discriminate against women. That is part of health reform. Being a woman is not a preexisting condition anymore. You cannot charge higher rates, you cannot discriminate in other ways against women in the marketplace when they are looking to buy insurance. And it would prohibit insurance companies from denying access to health insurance for a variety of things, such as being a domestic violence survivor. The Republican budget in the House would take away those critical protections.
Until we passed health reform, as many as 60 percent of the individual insurance plans in this country did not offer basic maternity care, which I think is shocking. I know that whenever I talk with folks about that, they cannot believe that basic prenatal care, which is so important for babies, for women, was not provided. Now it is under our definition of health care.
The Ryan Republican budget would mean that 1 million women and children would not have access to maternal or child health services in Michigan alone. It would mean that 6,000 fewer women in Michigan would get cancer screenings that could save their lives and that nearly 16,000 children would not get the vaccinations they need to remain healthy.
That is just one area of many reasons why we need to support the budget Senator Murray and our committee have put before this body. This is about focusing on women's health, on middle-class growth in terms of education and innovation, and on infrastructure investments to grow our economy. It is important that we are having this debate, and it is important that the women of the country understand that the budget we have before the Senate, the Democratic budget, places women as a priority--their health, the economy for their families, being able to balance their own budgets, and being able to provide futures for their children.
I would now like to yield time off the resolution to our great leader from Maryland, the chair of the Appropriations Committee, a person who, as we know, showed extraordinary leadership in the last few weeks on the floor in a very challenging time, dealing with the current budget, which we have now successfully passed. She also is our leader as it relates to women's health care and the provisions on women's health care in health reform that are now impacting and saving women's lives.
I yield time off the resolution--as much time as she would consume--to Senator Mikulski.
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Ms. STABENOW. Thank you very much, Mr. President. I thank my colleague, the terrific chair of the Budget Committee, who has worked so hard in putting together the budget.
I wish to speak for a moment on the amendment I will be offering in a few
moments that relates to Medicare and protecting Medicare for future generations by keeping it as an intact insurance plan. There are very different visions, as we all know, and this will be an opportunity tonight to vote on which vision we support.
The House, under the Ryan Republican plan, has eliminated Medicare as we know it and replaced it with a voucher program which only covers part of the costs, increasing costs for seniors of around $6,000 per person. They would have to go back into the private insurance market and try to find insurance that would work for them.
We very clearly say that Medicare is a great American success story. We have created a generation of seniors such as my mom and future generations who will be able to live longer, healthier lives, play with their grandchildren and great-grandchildren because of something they have paid into all of their lives called Medicare.
When we look at the choices, even the people who invented this whole idea passed by the House have said that the proposals ``lack safeguards for beneficiaries and threaten to shift costs to the elderly and disabled and force them to shop for coverage in a confusing insurance market.''
That is what the folks who came up with the Republican idea are saying. Even Chairman Ryan's own description of his plan admits: ``We are stopping the open-ended, defined benefit system.''
In other words, the Republican plan will end Medicare and end its guaranteed benefits--benefits that seniors have paid into throughout their lives, for the security of knowing they have a health insurance plan; they won't have to go out and try to figure out how to find private insurance and then have a voucher to pay for part of it.
To add insult to injury, what is most concerning is the money that is taken away from seniors, the costs that are added, the savings in the Republican budget, don't go to save Medicare, they go to give another round of tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. One more time we are seeing seniors, as we have seen middle-class families, as we have seen the vulnerable in our communities, find themselves sacrificing over and over again so the wealthiest among us, the well-connected, can get another special tax deal.
My amendment makes it very clear. If Members vote for my amendment, they are voting for Medicare. If Members vote against it, they are voting for the Republican plan that dismantles Medicare as we know it and takes the money and turns it around and gives it to another tax cut for the wealthy.
The other side of the aisle and those on the other side of the building have called the Ryan Republican plan a balanced plan. It is certainly not balanced for seniors. It is anything but balanced for the middle class. I hope when the opportunity comes we will see a very strong vote in support of my amendment to guarantee Medicare going forward for our seniors.
Thank you very much.
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Ms. STABENOW. Madam President, this is a very simple, straightforward amendment. A ``yes'' vote supports Medicare as an ongoing insurance plan. A ``no'' vote sides with what the House of Representatives has done with the Ryan Republican budget: dismantling Medicare, turning it into a voucher program, adding $6,000 on average in costs to seniors and, adding insult to injury, their budget takes the money, doesn't strengthen Medicare but provides another tax cut for the wealthiest Americans, averaging about $245,000 for those at the very top. Please vote yes. Let seniors know in this country what they have paid into their entire lives will be there for them and the great American success story of Medicare will remain strong for the future.
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