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Medicare Physician Payment Reform Act Of 2009

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. GOODLATTE. Mr. Speaker, I rise in opposition to H.R. 3961.

Under current law, Medicare physician reimbursement rates are expected to be cut by 21 percent next year and by roughly 5 percent for each of the next several years thereafter, according to the 2009 Medicare Trustees Report.

While we can all agree that our current physician reimbursement rate is flawed, Republicans and Democrats have many different ideas about how to fix it.

Since 2003, Congress has offset the cost of averting physician payment cuts. Unfortunately, today's legislation's further exacerbates the Democratic majority's infatuation with deficit spending.

According to CBO, the full cost of H.R. 3961 is $260 billion, $210 billion of which is deficit spending by the federal government. Furthermore $50 billion will be paid for by Medicare beneficiaries in the form of higher Part B premiums.

The Democrats' health care takeover already costs over $1 trillion. In order to hide the additional costs of that bill, the Democrats separated this physician reimbursement rate legislation from the larger health care bill.

It is clear that this procedural move is simply a budget gimmick by Democrats to avoid including the full cost of this Medicare physician fix in their health care reform bill. This trickery is insulting to Americans who are tired of politics as usual and who are demanding straight answers about our nation's deteriorating fiscal situation.

This legislation also breaks President Obama's promise that health care reform would not cost more than $900 billion. Taking CBO's 10-year score of the health care overhaul, $1.055 trillion, and adding the cost of this physician reimbursement fix, the total cost of the Democrats' health care reform would be at least $1.3 trillion.

Mr. Speaker, I cannot support the deficit spending in this legislation. As I stated previously, according to the Congressional Budget Office, CBO, this bill would increase the Federal deficit by more than $210 billion with this one bill alone.

The American people know that we can't borrow and spend our way back to prosperity. The path to our economic recovery starts with fiscal responsibility in Washington. The Federal Government must follow the example set by our Nation's families.

Unfortunately, Democrats continue to ignore this reality. We have accumulated a 2009 deficit of $1.42 trillion and a national debt of over $12 trillion and Democrats seem determined to dig us deeper into this debt hole.

While my colleagues on the other side of the aisle may have concocted a scheme to enable this bill to pass today, I hope they realize that the Senate has already rejected a bill substantially similar to this one, almost identical in cost, because of its crippling deficit impact. In fact, 13 Democrat Senators opposed it.

Mr. Speaker, the Rules Committee is a very powerful committee--one that determines under what rules every bill will be brought to the House floor. In yet another strong-armed tactic, the majority has used yet another rule to limit discussion and amendments offered by Republicans. Instead of having an honest debate, the Democratic majority has decided they didn't like the discussion, so they have effectively decided to stifle alternative ideas and debate. This doesn't seem very democratic to me.

House Republicans have a better alternative. Our proposal, which was not given the light of day, much less a vote, would provide: $54 billion in savings from medical liability reform that would enact caps on noneconomic damages and lawyers' fees, encouraging speedy resolutions of claims, and limit punitive damages. This will reduce defensive medicine, protect doctors from frivolous lawsuits, and bring down the cost of health care; $5.7 billion in savings from the creation of a pathway for approval at the Food and Drug Administration for bio-similar products, with appropriate protections that continue to promote innovation while providing access to affordable drugs; and $19 billion in savings through enacting health insurance administrative simplification policies such as the creation of standardized forms and transactions.

Mr. Speaker, there is a fiscally responsible way to solve this physician reimbursement problem. I urge my colleagues to oppose H.R. 3961.

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