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Health Care For Women In America

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, D.C.

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Mrs. BIGGERT. I thank the gentlewoman from Tennessee, and thank you for having this tonight.

You know, I was just thinking; I've got four children and eight grandchildren. So I think as a mom and a grandmother, I've always been very concerned about health care, and I want to make sure that my family has the best that's possible.

When I was raising the children, all we had was Dr. Spock. We didn't have all the technology and all the wonderful drug therapies and the health care that we have now in the United States. I am always concerned about the quality of health care. Sure, we need reform, but we want to make sure that there's that quality of health care that we have now. We've got moms, doctors, nurses, caregivers, taxpayers and women that really play a critical role in the health care debate. Eighty-five percent of women are the primary health care decision-makers in the home, and that's why we take this so seriously.

The U.S. Census Bureau reports that 82 million adult women are moms, and 32 million women have a child living in their homes. So women are overwhelmingly supportive of health care reform, but they want to know that this reform will improve the quality and affordability of their current health care. For many women and their families, higher health care cost means the difference between receiving care and going without. Unfortunately, the Pelosi health care bill empowers government bureaucracies and undermines a woman's ability to make the best health care decisions for her and her family.

I have got a letter that one of my constituents sent. It's from Maryanne, and she writes to me:

``As a registered nurse and mother of a severely disabled child, I beg you to seriously consider the long-and short-term effects of the new health care proposal. I am horrified to think that medical decisions will be determined by our government. I have seen this fail in many countries. I happen to be of the opinion that the precious commodity of life far exceeds the almighty dollar.''

You know, one of my daughters lives in London. And when this health bill came up, I said to her, Seriously, tell me what is the health care like in the U.K.? What is it like versus here?

And as a matter of fact, every time my daughter brings my three grandchildren home for a visit, she takes them to see the pediatrician that I took her to see just to make sure that they're in the best of health that they can be and make sure that somebody from the United States is looking after them.

And she said, Well, now, in London it's a different system. It started out where doctors don't have this high debt. They don't have the high cost of the medical school that we have here. It's paid for. So they start in the system and they're in the public system. And then some of them become private doctors. Now, my daughter has the public health care, but she also has a private doctor. And she said, Well, in emergencies you're well taken care of. But it's the long term, and she gave me the example, let's say you have a rash on your arm, you go and they say we will make an appointment for you, but the appointment is 9 months later. She also said that if you go on and check on the current wait list in London--for example, the current wait list at the time that I checked was 11 months for a knee replacement, 10 months for a hip replacement, 5 months for a slipped disc, and about 8 months for a hernia operation. And these are just a few of these that they wait so long for.

Now, what that leads to also is rationing. And I had an event this morning where one of the doctors stood up and talked about his belief that there would be rationing, particularly with how many doctors are going to want to remain in a situation like this where they really become staff. You know, we think of them as professionals. I always thought, oh, if I could be as smart as the doctors. To me, it was just the profession that was so outstanding.

And so this leads not only to rationing for these procedures, but also we've had a debate about the end of life and how 80 percent of the costs really are then. And I think as women, when I read in the first bill, and that has changed a little bit to be voluntary rather than mandatory counseling there, in my former life I was a probate attorney and I did estate planning, and what was always so important was to counsel families on aging and to make sure that they had the decision of the family, the decision of the elderly in what they wanted to happen.

So there was always this durable power of attorney that we did so that their wishes would be addressed and a cousin or somebody would say, oh, no, we can't do anything. But the durable power of attorney, the living will, and the do-not-resuscitate, if that's the wish of the person who would become ill in the end of life. And it's so important, but it's important to do it before you ever reach that time. And this bill focuses on that they're doing it as you have already aged. So this is something that should not be put into statute. This is something that families should address, and this is their choice and not some bureaucrat making it happen.

Mrs. BLACKBURN. Reclaiming my time, I just want to expound on this point for just one moment because the point you're making is so relevant to this debate.

The bill that is before us now, the 1,990-page bill that Speaker Pelosi has brought forward, and we hear tomorrow there will be a manager's amendment that will be dropped or also added to this; so it's going to be more than 2,000 pages by the time we get to the end of the week, but in that bill there are the provisions that mandate that end-of-life counseling.

Mrs. BIGGERT. Well, I think that because of the concern and the outrage really of so many of the American people on that and particularly the seniors that were really put off by that, they have changed it to voluntary, and so it's a little bit better. But still that is something that shouldn't be in statute. If a family wants to go to the doctor and ask what are the things that we should do, but then to have the durable power of attorney so that the hospital, let's say somebody is in the hospital, they know what the wishes are of the patient as well as the family knows what the wishes of that patient are. But this should be done long before we get to that situation.

Mrs. BLACKBURN. Reclaiming my time, that's one of those decisions that families make, that husbands and wives make, that parents and children make. It is not one that should be addressed with a ``shall'' or a ``may'' in a Federal statute. And we all know that this bill has over 3,400 new mandates in it.

I yield to the gentlewoman.

Mrs. BIGGERT. It is so important and it has really been something that has really hit the fan, and there has been a lot of rhetoric on this. But just take it as this is a decision to be made by the family, the children and the patient; and it should be done early in life.

We have to make plans like that. It's not that something is never going to happen, but let's not mandate it or make it something that a doctor has to do and is paid to do as part of his job. The doctor as a counselor is fine, but the family should come to them and request that, not to say it in statute.

And I'm concerned about the rationing. It makes you think of, well, you're going to float out on an iceberg or something when the end of life comes. And what we want is to have quality of care throughout everybody's life and to make sure that we have the ability to do that. The doctors are the ones that do deal with these issues, but they need to have the map as to what the family wants in that regard.

So I think that women as the caregivers are the ones that have to make those decisions. And it's a tough decision to make, to bring up a subject early on that you really might not want to talk about; but it's something we all need to do, but to do it by our choice and not by a government-run plan telling us to do that.

So with that let me just say a couple of things about women, and there's been a new poll out. In this poll that was released on October 28, in short, women believe that their current health insurance is better for them and their families than what the Pelosi plan has proposed. And while a majority of women view health care reform as an important issue, only 42 percent are satisfied with the proposal that is brought before Congress and only 38 percent would like to change their own insurance to a public option. In fact, while 48 percent of women want slight changes to health care generally, 75 percent of women want few to no changes to their own health care.

That's kind of interesting. You talked about how I was on the Education and Labor Committee. And while we were marking up the bill, I had an amendment that said if you like the health care plan you have now, you can keep it, and that was voted down by the other side of the aisle unanimously.

Women are also very concerned with costs. You know, women care about affordability, and they are concerned with the costs. And only 5 percent of women believe that Congress should spend over $1 trillion on health care reform, which is the cost, and 45 percent of women would be less likely to support a candidate that votes in favor of such a costly health care bill.

Women believe that health care reform is moving too fast, that Congress should slow down. Only 9 percent of women want reform legislation in the next few weeks. And we're looking at addressing this this week. Twenty percent would like reform by the end of 2009, and 43 percent believe that Congress should pass a reform bill only when quality legislation is developed even if it means no deadline.

So I think we have got a health care plan that if everybody thought it was a great plan, we would be passing it and we would have passed it in July. But this is now July, August, September, October, and now we are into November, and there still are such concerns by the American people on this.

So I hope that we can slow down and really have a dialogue, a debate on this, and find common ground to find a bill that people would all get behind.

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