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Public Statements

Health Care Reform

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, the American people are paying close attention to the ongoing debate over health care, and they have noticed a worrisome trend. The longer this debate goes on, the further Democrats in Congress seem to drift from the original purpose of reform.

At the outset of this debate, the American people were told reform would lower costs, a goal all of us supported. The administration is right when it says the rising cost of health care in this country is unsustainable. Costs must be reined in. But the proposals we have seen so far don't address that problem. In fact, they make it worse. Instead of reining in costs, the proposals they have advanced are expected to drive costs even higher, costs that will then be shifted onto families and small businesses.

Yesterday, I pointed out the absurdity of the situation we are in. Reform that was meant to lower costs is now independently confirmed to make health care more expensive. Reform that was meant to make life easier is now expected to make life harder for families, businesses, and seniors from one end of our country to the other.

Let's focus on Medicare a moment, a program tens of millions of America's seniors rely upon. How is this program doing financially? It is not a pretty picture. Medicare started running a deficit last year, and the Medicare trust fund is expected to run out of money in less than a decade. Looking a little further ahead, Medicare is slated to spend nearly $38 trillion that it doesn't have. Simply put: Medicare is broke. For the sake of our seniors, we need to fix it.

But the advocates of this legislation look at Medicare and they see something else. They do not see a problem to be fixed, they see a giant piggy bank. Rather than fix it, they want to use it to fund an entirely new set of government-run health care programs.

Medicare was an attractive target for the people who wrote this bill. They
were in a bind. At a time of shrinking government revenues, nearly 10 percent unemployment, and record deficits and debt, the bill writers looked around for the money to cover the cost of their health care plan and they couldn't find it. So they decided on massive cuts to Medicare, cuts that will have serious consequences for millions of American seniors.

I am sure they didn't want to resort to cutting Medicare when they started out, but the fact is they are now proposing massive cuts that will inevitably lead to fewer services. Here is what they plan to cut: $8 billion from hospice, more than $40 billion from home health care agencies, more than $130 billion from Medicare Advantage, and more than $130 billion in Medicare cuts to hospitals that care for seniors.

At the outset of this debate, all of us knew Medicare faced significant challenges that needed to be addressed. A program that is already spending more than it is taking in, a program that is expected to be insolvent in just 8 years, should be fixed, not raided. Just about every day I receive letters in my office from Kentuckians who have Medicare. They are counting on this program. They are worried about its future. We have an obligation to our seniors, an obligation to keep our promises.

At some point, the majority will have to work with Members to address this problem. When they do, we should focus on a solution to out-of-control entitlement spending that Americans will embrace.

Forty-four years ago, when President Johnson signed Medicare into law, he vowed that we would never refuse the hand of justice to those who have given a lifetime of service and wisdom and labor to their Nation. We have an obligation to fulfill that vow. We have an obligation to work together on solutions that both parties and the people for whom this vital program was created--seniors--will support.

The health care plan we have seen is deeply flawed. Far from fulfilling the original goal of lower cost, the Democrats' bill would drive costs even higher--an outcome that has most Americans scratching their heads in confusion and disbelief. What is worse, the plan slashes Medicare, too, as a way to pay for new government programs.

Clearly, the effort to reform health care has gotten off track. Higher taxes, higher premiums, and cuts to Medicare is not the reform Americans are looking for. They want commonsense, step-by-step solutions, not a health care experiment that makes existing problems worse. While some may want to move this bill as quickly as possible, Americans have a different message: They would like for us to start over.

I yield the floor.


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