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Public Statements

Medicare Cuts

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, D.C.

Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, at the moment, the final details of the Democratic health care plan are largely unknown to the American people. That is because those details are being worked out in private by a handful of senior Democrats and White House officials, but we do know the basics.

The Democratic bill will be about 1,500 pages long, it will cost $1 trillion, it will raise insurance premiums and taxes, and it will slash Medicare for seniors by about $ 1/2 trillion over the next 10 years. This much we know.

We also know where some of these cuts will be made. More than $120 billion in Medicare cuts for hospitals that care for seniors; more than $130 billion in cuts to Medicare Advantage, a program for seniors; more than $40 billion in cuts to home health agencies; and nearly $8 billion in cuts to hospice care. These are major cuts with serious consequences.

Just yesterday I heard about some of these consequences when I met with a group that represents hospices across Kentucky, including Phillip Marshall, from my hometown of Louisville, who explained the situation. He told me these vital facilities depend on Medicare for most of their costs and that they make up most of the rest through charitable giving and through the generosity of many dedicated volunteers. He also told me he has been following the debate in Congress, and he is concerned the proposed cuts he is hearing about would have a serious effect on hospice care. He is not alone.

Last month, I received a letter from Brandy Cantor with the Kentucky Association of Hospice and Palliative Care.

She told me about the tremendous emotional and spiritual support hospice care workers provide each year to thousands of Kentuckians at the end of their lives, and she also told me that the cuts to these programs would have a devastating effect on the good work these facilities do.

I got another letter last month from a Kentucky nurse named Victoria Scarborough. She started out by telling me she supports health care reform, as we all do, and she wrote, with evident pride, about the excellent care the caring people who work in her facility are able to provide. To prove it, she related some of the comments she has received from patients. One hospice patient wrote that she didn't know what she would have done without hospice. Another said she had been treated ``with the utmost care, love, and concern.''

This is the kind of care everyone deserves and which we all hope our loved ones would receive during a serious illness. But according to Ms. Scarborough, the hospice cuts currently being proposed would have a serious adverse effect on care.

I know the bill writers support the compassionate work that is provided by hospice care across the country. By mentioning these letters, I don't mean to imply otherwise. But I do believe we need to be aware of how these cuts will affect real people, and these are just the cuts to hospice care, which represent only a fraction of the cuts that are being proposed.

Some of my colleagues will speak today about the dangers of these Medicare cuts. They will also talk, as I have many times, about the wrongheadedness of using Medicare as a piggy bank to fund a further expansion of government health care. We need to strengthen Medicare and preserve it for today's seniors and future generations, not slash it to create more programs that are bound to have the same fiscal problems Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security already have.

I understand the problem of the bill writers. It is not easy to raise $1 trillion, particularly at a time when Americans are clamoring for a reduction of our record deficits and ballooning debt, but slashing Medicare is not the way to go.

Republicans have suggested another way, and that is commonsense, step-
by-step reforms that address the problems at hand without raising premiums, raising taxes or cutting Medicare. Unfortunately, those proposals have been rejected.

As a result, the threat of these massive cuts to Medicare remains. This is not the kind of health care reform America's seniors bargained for.

I yield the floor.

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