BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Ms. STABENOW. Mr. President, I am very proud to be here with colleagues of mine who have today joined me on the floor. Senator Merkley from Oregon and Senator Mark Begich from Alaska are such strong, passionate voices for people in this health care debate, for what we need to do to stop the insurance abuses and to save lives and save money. I am so pleased they are both here with me. Let me take a moment before turning it over to them to talk about what this is really all about for us.
Right now, the bill in front of us basically saves lives and saves money. We save lives through making sure that the 47,000 people who lost their lives last year because they couldn't find affordable health insurance to be able to see a doctor--making sure we change that; by focusing on prevention, also, so people have early detection and people can find out earlier when they have cancer and get the treatments they need to save their lives. There are so many ways in which this bill in front of us literally will save lives.
We save money. We save money for individuals and small businesses that are currently having a difficult time finding affordable insurance. If you have your insurance through an employer, as do about 60 percent of the people in my State, and if you are a large employer, then you can get a better rate because you have a large group plan. If you are a small business, you don't get that same treatment today. If you are an individual, if you are, like many people today, operating out of your home as a businessperson, a single entrepreneur, or maybe you are creating that next great invention in your garage and you are trying to find health insurance as a single individual for yourself and your family, you can't do that right now in a very affordable way.
So we want to fill in the gaps in a system that has worked well for many people with employer insurance and certainly for people in Medicare and our veterans with the VA and our military personnel and others. But we have a little less than 20 percent of the public right now that is left out there without a way to get affordable insurance, so we want to bring down their costs. We want to bring down the costs for our bigger businesses as well.
We want to make sure we are stopping people from using emergency rooms inappropriately and raising the cost on everybody with insurance and instead give everyone the opportunity to see their own doctor, their family doctor, and make sure their children and their families get the care they deserve.
We know this also saves money for the Federal Government, for States, for our economy as a whole, and we know what the numbers are in terms of inaction, the fact that we need to bring down costs across the board.
This bill protects Medicare. We know we would not have the AARP endorsing the House plan and hopefully supporting ours as well--I know they are still looking through the specifics, but they certainly support health care reform, and we welcome their support. They want health care reform. They have said certain things that I think are very important that debunk what we have heard from the other side of the aisle.
We have heard over and over that health care reform will hurt Medicare. The AARP Web site has up on its site: Myth: Health care reform will hurt Medicare. And then it says--not from us but from the AARP, a champion for senior citizens in this country--Fact: None of the health care reform proposals being considered by Congress would cut Medicare benefits or increase your out-of-pocket costs for Medicare services. None of the proposals we have introduced as the Democratic majority, supported by President Obama, would do that.
Fact: Health care reform will lower prescription drug costs for people in the Medicare Part D coverage gap, or what has now been dubbed the ``doughnut hole,'' so that they can get the better, affordable drugs they need.
Fact: Rather than weaken Medicare, health care reform will strengthen the financial status of the Medicare Program--strengthen it for the future.
We know Medicare has been a great American success story, and we want to make sure it is on strong financial footing to go forward for all of us who are baby boomers and beyond, to our children. This comes from the AARP Web site. So we strengthen Medicare. We protect Medicare.
Then we focus like a laser on stopping insurance abuses. We have heard so many times, unfortunately, story after story about families who cannot find insurance because someone in the family has a preexisting condition of some kind--a child who has leukemia, someone who is a diabetic. Even for women, pregnancy has been used as a preexisting condition. We want to make sure all Americans have the opportunity to find affordable insurance. We want to make sure that if you have insurance you have paid for your whole life, you have paid the premiums, you feel confident that because you have health insurance, when somebody in the family gets sick, the companies can't drop you on a technicality.
So we have a number of areas in which we want to stop abuses and, frankly, strengthen the system. We want your children to be able to stay on your policy until age 26 if they need that. That is something I have often said that I wish had been in place a couple of years ago because I know what it is like to have a son or daughter come out of college and that first job doesn't have health insurance.
We want to make sure early retirees get the health care they need and are able to afford their health insurance with the Federal reinsurance plan, to help businesses keep costs down for people who--frankly, many have been forced to retire at age 55 or age 60 and don't yet qualify for Medicare.
So this is the bottom line: We are saving lives, we are saving money, we protect Medicare, and we stop insurance abuses.
I wish to focus for a moment on something else we are doing that is absolutely critical to me and, I know, to colleagues across the country, because this plan will also save jobs. Folks have said to us: Well, don't talk about health care; let's talk about jobs. Lowering the cost of health care is about jobs. It is about jobs. We lose jobs overseas to other countries that have lower health care costs than we do. We have seen plants--in fact, in Michigan--go across a river that you could swim across, the Detroit River, from Michigan into Canada, everything else being equal--a unionized labor force, environmental standards--everything else equal but one thing: the health care costs are less. So this is about jobs, and it is about keeping jobs in America.
We know our plan will allow big employers to save $9 billion over the next 10 years--$9 billion. What will they do with that? They will put that back in,
reinvesting in equipment, building other plants, hiring more people.
Health care reform is about jobs.
Small businesses are estimated to save 25 percent in their costs over the next 10 years with the tax credits we have in the bill--the ways we create the ability to buy through a large pool, to be able to lower costs, and with the tax cuts in the bill to small business. There are tax credits to help all the companies that don't have insurance to be able to find affordable insurance.
The bottom line is, it is estimated that if we do nothing, the costs to businesses will double, and we will lose 3.5 million jobs. We can turn this ship around and begin to bring down costs. It is estimated we can save 3.5 million jobs.
People in America understand we have to focus on jobs and the economy. They also know the one-two punch is that when you lose your job, you lose your health care. So in our bill, we specifically create policies that make sure that if you lose your job, you don't lose your health care.
We want businesses, large and small, to be able to redirect the spending on ballooning health care costs and premiums, to be able to redirect that on hiring people and doing what we know how to do best, which is making things in America and putting people to work.
This is about jobs. It is saving lives and saving money and saving jobs in this country. I will conclude by saying that what are we hearing from our colleagues on the other side is the same kind of tactics that were argued in the 1960s before Medicare. You can take some of the same arguments and lift them right from the pages of the Congressional Record and you would think it was today's debate, but it was actually back in 1964, 1965, with Medicare. We know the arguments they used then about destroying the economy, about costs going up, about people losing access to doctors, and about how this would hurt businesses--it didn't happen then. We know it will not happen now. But what we are hearing is: Just wait, wait, wait, wait--that is all we heard in the Finance Committee. Don't do it now. What is the rush?
Well, if you are not getting those premium increases in the mail, maybe you don't feel the rush. If you are not losing your job and health care, maybe you don't feel the rush. But we have been talking about this for 100 years. We are tired of waiting. The American people are tired of waiting. They are saying business as usual for insurance companies: Let the insurance companies decide whether we are going to have maternity care covered under basic insurance. That is not necessary. It is an option. Let them decide whether we are going to focus on prenatal care.
We are 29th in the world in the number of babies who live through the first year of life--below Third World countries. Right now, 70 percent of the insurance companies in the individual market don't offer maternity care as basic health care. They say let the insurance companies decide. Let them be the ones between you and your doctor. When a doctor says what he wants to do when you are sick, what is the first call they make? To the insurance company. They say that is OK, let the insurance companies be the ones deciding what you are going to pay or get, whether you are going to be able to find coverage. Let them stand between you and your doctor. We say: No, we have had enough of that.
Finally, they say higher costs for middle-class families and small businesses are OK. Higher costs are OK because they are willing to allow this craziness to continue. Mr. President, we are not.
Let me emphasize, again, the bottom line: This is about saving lives, about saving money, and it is about protecting Medicare and stopping insurance abuses. We are committed to doing those things, getting through all the misinformation. All those who make so much money off the current system are just flailing and saying anything right now to try to stop us from getting control of the system and bringing costs down and making health care available. We are committed to getting this done for the American people.
I yield the floor.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Ms. STABENOW. Mr. President, I wish to take a few moments and continue this discussion and then turn it over to the distinguished Senator from New Mexico, Mr. Udall. We are so pleased to have him. We served together in the House. We are pleased to have him as a colleague in the Senate. They are a terrific team of people who are so smart, who care so much and have such great experience. Our previous speaker, coming from Oregon as the leader in the State legislature, and Senator Begich, as a leader, as a mayor--we bring a wealth of experience of people who have been serving, problem-solving, trying to make government work, make the right decisions at various levels of government. It is wonderful to be working with them today.
I wish to take a moment because I understand that the Republican leadership, our colleagues, are currently holding a press conference talking about what we are doing is somehow rationing care. This is the same argument, by the way, used back in the sixties with Medicare. Somehow seniors would not be able to get care, it would be rationed, which, of course, is the exact opposite of what happened.
Now people hold their breath if they retire early and don't have insurance, just waiting to turn 65 so they can get Medicare and they can see whatever doctor they want, not the one the insurance company says they can see but the doctor they believe they need to see, the specialist they believe they need to see.
We know that for too many people in this country, there is the ultimate in rationing. Over 45,000 people lost their lives last year because of the ultimate rationing. They couldn't find affordable health insurance. They couldn't see a doctor. They couldn't get the care they needed. Mr. President, 45,000 people in the greatest country in the world paid the ultimate price. Shame on us. We want to stop that. This legislation will head us in the direction to stop that, to say as a matter of principle in this country that it is not acceptable that any American would lose their life, any mom or dad would lose their child because they could not find affordable insurance in this great country.
We also know that every year we push as hard as we can to increase the amount of money going to the National Institutes of Health to gather information, to do research to save lives--to save lives through research, through information. In this legislation we want to make sure as the NIH is doing more research, as we are looking at better prescription drugs or new cures, that we are giving physicians and patients the very best information.
I am not scared of information. I want information for my family, for myself. I have been in a situation--I am sure that we all have--talking to my physicians, where they said according to the latest data we now think a little bit differently about a particular procedure or a particular medicine. And they make a different recommendation. I want my doctor to have that information. That is not rationing. In fact, we specifically say in this bill, we specifically prohibit the Secretary of Health and Human Services from denying coverage of treatment solely based on research, solely based on information. But we certainly want the information.
I think it is kind of silly to even argue about whether we want medical research and information so our doctors have the very best information to be able to treat us. Right now, less than 1 percent of our health care spending goes to examining what treatments are most effective. We want to make sure the information is there for physicians. Physicians support that, by the way. This is something in the House bill, endorsed by the AMA, endorsed by medical professionals all across the country. We want our doctors to have more information to do a better job for us, not less.
We are hearing, over and over, scare tactics. We know we are going to continue to hear that until we get to the end and pass this bill. But none of the groups--doctors, nurses, family groups, consumer groups, business groups--none of those who currently support this legislation would be doing so if they thought it was in fact doing the things the other side is claiming it is doing, and certainly not if it was rationing care. The ultimate rationing right now occurs when people arbitrarily get dropped because the insurance company doesn't want to pay the bill; when people cannot get the coverage they need because of a preexisting condition; or when they lose their life because they can't find affordable insurance. Our legislation is about saving lives and saving money.
I wish now to turn the floor to my colleague from New Mexico.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT