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Public Statements

Health Care

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. THOMPSON of Pennsylvania. I thank my good friend from Iowa for hosting this Special Order tonight at a late hour, but it is important. It is important that we use every hour this week to stop what really is just a terrible attack upon the health care of this country.

When I came here 15 months ago, I came out of health care, 28 years working in nonprofit community health care, serving people that were facing life-changing disease and disability. I came here with a commitment that there were some things we could do to improve the system we have, and I have that same commitment today. But I came here with almost 30 years of experience, 30 years of pride in the health care system that we have, how we meet the needs of the people that have needs, and people with varying amounts of means as well.

There are many processes we have just in my congressional district. We have almost two-dozen rural hospitals. We also have other great facilities such as federally qualified medical centers that meet people's needs that frankly don't have a lot of means and don't have a lot of money to put towards health care, but they have access to quality health care.

And that is one of the things that disturbed me since this debate began, because the President and the Speaker have made this debate about access to health insurance. That is the wrong debate, absolutely the wrong debate. We should be talking about and should have been talking about from day one access to quality health care. That is what Americans want. That is what Republicans are committed to. Those are the proposals that we put forward back in July.

My good friend said a very important word when it comes to health care in this country and serving our citizens, and that is ``innovation.'' The United States of America is a country of innovation when it comes to health care. The system we have allows us to find procedures, treatments, medications, even just medical equipment, new innovations that frankly help those survival rates that you referred to, many of those that contributed to those higher survival rates for cancer in the United States of America, innovations in health and recovery that, once we help people survive, help people to rehabilitate, to recover, to get back to the things that they did in their lives, to be able to return to work and return to a productive life, which is what everybody strives to do.

My background actually was specifically rehabilitation, durable medical equipment, wonderful innovations that help people live and age with dignity, help people stay in their own home settings so that they don't have to go into any kind of an institutional setting. That innovation only comes from the health system that we have.

There are four principles I've led my life by as a health care professional and have guided me in this debate in 15 months, and that is that we need to do everything possible to, first of all, lower the cost of health care for every American. We need to strive to increase the access to quality health care for all. We need to improve on the quality and the innovation that we've enjoyed in this country, but we can do better. And the fourth principle for me is to strengthen that decisionmaking relationship between the patient and the physician, not allowing the government or a bureaucrat to insert themselves in that decisionmaking process.

Yet, as I look at what was the Pelosi health care bill and what I look at now as the Senate health care bill, I see, as I tear that apart, and not as a Republican, not as a partisan, but as someone who spent their lifetime dedicated to providing health care services and meeting the needs of people facing life-changing disease and disability, my evaluation, assessment is these bills make all four dimensions of health care worse.

They drive up costs. We can talk more on that as we go on this evening. It really will limit access. It will serve to decrease quality in the long run. And certainly it will kill innovation, which has been just one of the bright spots of this health care system in this country. Frankly, it provides a wedge--and that's a government or bureaucrat between the patient and physician in terms of decisionmaking.

I yield back.


Mr. THOMPSON of Pennsylvania. Well, if the gentleman will yield, you have been here obviously serving the American people a lot more years than I have, but I have a question in this process. Obviously, we're supposed to--and I expect Friday night or Saturday we will see the Senate bill. It will be shoved at us, and we will be forced to take a vote on that. It will be a vote that we're supposed to take with a promise, under reconciliation, that all the very terribly flawed parts of this bill will be fixed under reconciliation.

My question is: Relying on your experience, what if reconciliation--if we take this and my Democratic colleagues pass the Senate bill, which they don't like, but they do it under a false promise that it will be fixed in reconciliation, what happens if reconciliation never occurs?


Mr. THOMPSON of Pennsylvania. Well, I believe that some of our colleagues across the aisle are probably looking to vote for this Senate bill that may even agree with us on abortion and how wrong that is to publicly fund, let alone to complete procedure under the promise--the promise it will be fixed through a reconciliation bill. And I just want to talk a little bit more about what the probability of that is.

We're going to be relying on the Senate to bring a bill to us, to pass a reconciliation bill to make these fixes that they're putting together, these sweeteners, these promises. Now, to the best of my knowledge right now, we've passed a number of bills in this Chamber in the past 15 months, and by my calculations, we've sent over 200 bills to the Senate that are just lingering in the Senate. They haven't taken action on them. So if there's 200 bills there already that they haven't taken action on, what is the probability, what is the chance that they'll actually do a reconciliation bill that would make these fixes?


Mr. THOMPSON of Pennsylvania. I appreciate my good friend yielding.

I appreciate Dr. Burgess sharing those Wall Street Journal statistics. There was one just a few weeks prior, a CNN poll that showed that 79 percent of independents say start over. Stop the bill that is going on now. That is independents, 79 percent of them.

I was visiting a hospital earlier today, and I talked with everyone. As I talked with the staff, I went with the physicians, the nurses, the therapists, the secretaries; that was the same message they gave me. And these are folks that understand health care. They live it every day, long days in health care. And they said stop the madness, stop this bill, and start over.

And I talked with patients, I talked with family members, and I talked with just visitors. It was kind of interesting. They had no idea who I was. And I was riding in the elevator with a couple folks, and you can tell what is on their mind. They looked at me and they said, What are those people in Washington doing to our health care? They get it. The people at home get it. We need to stop and do the right things.

I just throw in here in terms of the unintended consequences here, one of my first principles was to decrease costs for all Americans. And you mentioned tort reform. Even the President has acknowledged for those folks who buy their insurance individually, non-group, you know, he has come out and said this is going to drive their premiums up 10 to 13 percent. Ten to 13 percent. That is exactly opposite of what we should be doing.

I appreciate you leading this tonight. I yield back.


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