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Public Statements

Health Care Reform

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, the last 2 years haven't been easy ones for the American people. Millions have lost jobs and homes, and many have had the bitter experience of watching years of savings disappear. Unemployment stands at a 25-year high, and in many States it is worse. Just to take one example, in Kentucky unemployment rose in all 120 counties from June 2008 to June 2009. A lot of Americans are hurting. A lot of them have been struggling for a long time. And despite the occasional piece of good news, the situation doesn't seem to be getting a whole lot better for most people.

This is the situation now, and this was the situation when the White House announced its plan to undertake health care reform. Throughout this debate, the need to do something about the economy has never been far from our minds.

Indeed, from the very outset of this debate, the administration has rested its case for reform on the need to do something about the economy. The economy was in bad shape, the argument went. And reforming health care would make it better.

All of us agree that health care costs are unsustainably high, and alleviating the burden of these costs on American families and businesses is something we should work together to do. But somewhere along the way, the administration got off track. The original purpose of reform was obscured. And now we are hearing from one independent analysis after another that a bill which was meant to alleviate economic burdens will actually make these burdens worse. And the most significant finding is this: A reform that was meant to lower costs will actually drive them up.

Americans are scratching their heads about all this, and rightly so. Business owners can't believe a reform that was meant to help them survive will end up costing them more in higher taxes. Seniors can't believe a bill that was meant to improve their care will lead to nearly half a trillion dollars in cuts to their Medicare. And families can't believe that they are going to have to pay higher health care premiums and taxes at a time when so many of them are already struggling to make ends meet.

Higher taxes, higher premiums, cuts to Medicare. These are three of the major blows this legislation would deal to the American people. And any one of them would be bad enough on its own. But let's just look at one of the unexpected consequences of the Democrat health care plan for a moment--let's look at the tax hikes.

The Senate bill we've seen targets individuals and businesses with a raft of new taxes, fees, and penalties. It imposes a 40-percent tax on high value insurance plans for individuals and families. It imposes billions in fees on health plans that will inevitably be passed along to consumers. It imposes fees on the costs of medical devices and life-saving drugs, fees that would be paid by consumers.

Millions of taxpayers managing chronic conditions and facing extraordinary medical expenses will be faced with even higher out of pocket costs because the bill makes it more difficult to deduct these expenses. And small businesses with as few as 50 employees would be required to buy insurance for all workers whether they could afford it or not, or pay a substantial tax for each of them.

Taken together, the health care plan we have seen would impose roughly half a trillion dollars in new taxes, fees, and penalties at a time when Americans are already struggling to dig themselves out of a recession. What's worse, an independent analysis by the Joint Committee on Taxation suggests that nearly 80 percent of the burden would fall on middle-class Americans.

So a reform that was meant to make life easier is now expected to make life harder. If you have insurance, you get taxed. If you don't have insurance, you get taxed. If you're a struggling business owner who can't afford insurance for your employees, you get taxed. If you use medical devices, you get taxed.

This is not the reform Americans were asking for, Mr. President. And that's precisely why more Americans now oppose this health care plan than support it.

The administration didn't listen to the American people when it put this plan together, but it can listen now, and the message it is going to hear is this: Put away the plan to raise premiums, raise taxes, and cut Medicare. Get back to the drawing board and come up with a commonsense, step-by-step set of reforms. That is what people want, and that is what they should get.

Mr. President, I yield the floor.

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