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Health Care Reform

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

HEALTH CARE REFORM -- (House of Representatives - April 27, 2009)

The SPEAKER pro tempore (Mr. Grayson). Under the Speaker's announced policy of January 6, 2009, the gentleman from Louisiana (Mr. Scalise) is recognized for 60 minutes.

Mr. SCALISE. Mr. Speaker, in the next 2 days we will be coming upon the 100 days, first 100 days of President Obama's Presidency, and the last few days we have already started to have some analysis, some discussion on those 100 days, what's happened, how does it compare to prior Presidents?

Of course, this is one of those traditions that seems to occur going back to the days of FDR. And I guess it's kind of ironic that a lot of these comparisons go back to FDR, because a lot of things that are happening today in our country have a lot of similarities to what happened back in the 1940s when FDR became President, when our country was in a depression, a depression that lasted for over 8 years. It didn't end until World War II got us out of it.

I think one of the things that seems to have symbolized the first 100 days more than anything has been the record levels of spending that's gone on here in Washington. All across our country we are facing tough economic times right now. Families are tightening their belts. Families are dealing with the problems that are existing in our economy, but they are doing it by trying to live within their own means.

I think one thing that's really symbolized this first 100 days has been the record levels of spending that's gone on with this new administration to run our country deeper into debt, adding more than 20 percent to the national debt in just the last 2 1/2 months, and record levels of spending that I think have concerned many people across the country to the point where just a few weeks ago you saw thousands, hundreds of thousands of people taking the streets in these taxpayer TEA parties where people were literally showing up all throughout communities in this country to protest and send a signal. I think that they are frustrated with the record borrowing and spending and taxing, as well as these bailouts that are not working.

And so as we look at all of this, I think it hopefully is an indication that we need to pull back and refocus our country on those things that we truly need to take care of to address the problems that our country is facing and act in a fiscally responsible way to address those problems. So I think what we need to talk about now are the ways that the next 100 days can hopefully shape us in a different direction than first 100 days.

And as we look at some of these policies, we are debating right now in the Energy and Commerce Committee a major change in our Nation's energy policy. I think our Nation is severely lacking a national energy policy. There are good alternatives that are out there.

I am a cosponsor of a bill called the American Energy Act, which takes an all-of-the-above approach to fixing our national energy crisis, and a bill that would actually open up more areas of our own country's natural resources to drilling for oil, for natural gas, for developing clean coal technologies and then using that revenue not only to create good jobs and to reduce our dependence on Middle Eastern oil, but to fund our ability to transfer into those alternative sources of energy like wind and solar power. But we also need to keep nuclear power as one of the components of a strong national energy policy.

On the other side of that, what we are seeing is the presentation of a bill called cap-and-trade. And the cap-and-trade energy tax is nothing short of that, a massive change of energy policy that the President has brought us in the first 100 days that would literally turn over our energy economy in this country to a Wall Street speculative market where companies would be limited in how much carbon they can emit in this country, but then they would have to pay taxes, in essence, on any more production that they would do.

Early estimates are this would raise $646 billion in new taxes, but it would saddle every American family in this country. Early estimates by the President's own budget director show that there would be over $1,300 a year more that every American family would pay in their own home energy bills, not in addition to all of the jobs that would be lost.

Early estimates by groups like the National Association of Manufacturers show that a cap-and-trade energy tax would literally ship 3 to 4 million jobs out of our country overseas to countries like China, India, Brazil and other nations that would not have the same kind of environmental regulations that we have today. So for people who are concerned about carbon emissions, the cap-and-trade energy tax wouldn't do anything to lower carbon emissions in the world.

What it would do is run off a lot of companies in the United States, ship those jobs, millions of jobs out to other countries like China, India, Brazil and others who will emit even more carbon. So it's a very counterproductive strategy from that standpoint but one that has a lot of support by some in Congress. And then hopefully there will be enough of us on this side to not only defeat that bill but then bring our alternative plan, like the American Energy Act, a plan that would put a comprehensive national policy in place to get our economy back on sound footing, but also to reduce our dependence on Middle Eastern oil, something that has been a problem for a long time, something that hasn't been addressed by Congress adequately, but one that can be.

And so while we are talking about and evaluating these first 100 days, there are a lot of things that we can do to look at how to move us to a better place in our country. And if you will look at what has been happening with the budget, one of the interesting conversations that we hear about is how much debt was run up in prior administrations.

Frankly, I was not a supporter of the debt back then. I surely am not a supporter of the debt that's being added to our children and grandchildren right now.

And if that debt was bad, which I agree it was, then these proposals, in fact, the President's own budget that's going to be coming up on a vote here on this House floor probably later this week, would double the national debt, double the national debt in just 5 1/2 years.

And so just about a week ago the President had met with some of his economic advisors and his Cabinet, he pulled in his Cabinet and he said, I want you to go out and find--in a $3.5 trillion budget, he called all of his Cabinet members in and gave them the task of cutting $100 million. Now, I think we can all find ways to cut $100 million in the budget.

But to bring all your Cabinet members as a task to figure out how to go and cut $100 million, just to equate that to an average American family, that's like a family of four who makes $35,000 saying, let's sit around the table. We have got tough economic times. We need to cut our budget. A
family of four making $35,000, if the best they could do is come up with a way to cut $1, that would be the same equivalent of the President's challenge to cut $100 million out of a $3.5 trillion budget.

So I don't think any family would be celebrating after they found that $1 amongst all of their expenses, $1 they could cut out of their entire $35,000 budget. That's, so far, the best that this administration has been able to come up with.

I think we can do better. I think the American people are challenging us to do better. Some people that are here will talk about ways that we can do better and have some good ideas of their own.

Dr. Gingrey from Georgia is one of them, and, Mr. Speaker, at this time I would like to yield to Dr. Gingrey of Georgia.


Mr. SCALISE. Well, I thank the gentleman and the doctor from Georgia. As you said, I am not a doctor, and I don't play one on TV, but I do enjoy serving with you on the Energy and Commerce Committee, where we do deal with the policies that actually address the health care issues in our country, which are very important.

One of our newest Members, somebody who I am proud to serve with in my State delegation, a new Member from Shreveport, Louisiana, who happens to be a doctor and a very able student on these issues, is my friend Dr. FLEMING, who I am going to yield time to now.


Mr. SCALISE. I thank the gentleman from Georgia, and I think your concerns about a government-run system are very heartfelt. Obviously, we've got many other countries that have gone down that road and then have had the very bad experiences to show for it. I know what you all are doing here is a great service to be talking about alternative solutions, a better way to fix and to reform our health care system.

Mr. TIM MURPHY of Pennsylvania. Will the gentleman yield?

Mr. SCALISE. I will yield to the gentleman from Pennsylvania, Dr. Murphy.

Mr. TIM MURPHY of Pennsylvania. I thank the gentleman.

I wanted to just take a moment to illustrate what Dr. Gingrey was saying as to the effect of the inefficiency of government-run health care.

The New York Times, just a couple of weeks ago in an article written by Julie Connelly, talked about a growing number of physicians--it's an article entitled ``Doctors Are Opting Out of Medicare''--particularly internists, who are dropping out of Medicare all together because of low reimbursement rates and the burden of paperwork and, I might add, because of some of the ridiculous policies sometimes.

It's noted in a Texas Medical Association survey that 58 percent of Texas doctors accepted new Medicare patients, but only 38 percent of primary doctors did so. Think of some of these absurd principles in some of these government-run plans.

For some patients, they might need home infusion therapy, that is, they may need antibiotics; but the strange thing about this is that the person has to come to the hospital to get them. They're sick. Instead of being at home and having a nurse or someone in the family trained to give some home infusion, they've got to get up, leave the house and go somewhere else. I know my colleague, Representative Eliot Engel, and I are working on a bill to allow a part D drug benefit to cover some of these home infusion drugs because, right now, when you are denied access to home infusion therapy and are being forced into receiving infusion therapy in hospitals and in skilled nursing facilities, it's significantly higher in cost.

There is one other example I wanted to talk about, too. I've talked to some oncologists who have pointed out, when patients come in for chemotherapy, they need to be evaluated at that time to see if they're healthy enough or in the right condition--that they're not sick at that moment or have the flu or something else which would cause serious problems if they received chemotherapy. Yet what happens is, when they get to have those results and to have those tests and to have that treatment done, you have to do certain lab work, and they don't get reimbursed for that. So the medical practice eats that cost, once again, to supplement the Medicare and Medicaid plans.

I point that out as some of the many examples of how, anytime someone says Medicare and Medicaid are much cheaper, of course they're cheaper. They don't pay for treatments; they discourage comprehensive medical care, and they place the burden back on the patient and back on the States. That's not how we want to run a health care system; and I believe, in many cases, it leads to more difficult care.

God bless the doctors and hospitals who do the right thing and give of their time anyway.

With that, I yield back.

Mr. SCALISE. Before our committee just a few weeks ago, Louisiana's Department of Health and Hospital's Secretary, Secretary Levine, was testifying about exactly that problem about a Medicaid-type model being followed and used by Congress to replicate that throughout the country and the devastating impact it would have because, clearly, as you pointed out, there are serious drawbacks from having a Medicaid system. The lack of access to health care physicians is a big disincentive that many consumers would have if they found out that they were being shifted over to a system like Medicaid that's very broken right now, to have that system replicated for the entire country.

Again, I appreciate you pointing out these dangers, because before we go down that road, these are important things to lay out.

Somebody else that's going to help lay that out is our colleague, a doctor from Tennessee, Dr. ROE.


Mr. SCALISE. The chart you showed gives us a good indication why we have the physician shortage in this country. It is a crisis in health care, and in part because of not only the high cost of medical education, but then when so many get out, they realize that these types of payment methodologies actually inhibit their ability to make that back and ultimately be able to pay back those student loans. And so these types of programs have very dangerous consequences that we're seeing today.


Mr. SCALISE. And Dr. BROUN, I think the strength of the American system is the fact that the patient and the doctor, the two of them get to decide what their health care decision is going to be, not some outside party, some government bureaucrat like we saw in the stimulus plan where they set up this health care czar, literally a Federal bureaucrat that would be able to interfere with the relationship between the doctor and the patient. Definitely the wrong road to go. That is why I think it is so important that you are bringing up this point.

And I will yield for one moment.


Mr. SCALISE. And reclaiming my time, that is why these policy changes can be so dangerous because they have serious ramifications if they are not done properly.

I want to go back for a moment to Dr. ROE before we wrap up with Dr. GINGREY.


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