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Public Statements

Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act, 2011: House of Representatives

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. PALLONE. I want to follow up on what the gentlewoman from Connecticut said.

This is about Whose side are you on?

If you're with the gentleman from Georgia, you are on the side of the big insurance companies, and you'll want to make sure that they make bigger profits, that they get bigger bonuses, that they pass out bigger dividends and more money to their CEOs; or if you're against this amendment and you want to go with the health care reform bill that we have, you're with the little guy--with the consumer, with the average American.

Right now, the law says that consumers have to receive more value for their premium dollars. Insurance companies are required to spend 80 to 85 percent of premium dollars on medical care and health care quality improvements rather than on the bonuses and the salaries and the dividends for the CEOs and the stockholders.

That's what this is all about. You're going to hand back to the insurance companies control over what happens with the money that you paid in your premium so they can do whatever they want with it and make whatever profit they want. I think it's wrong.

One of the major issues that we face this year is affordability and what consumers are getting for their buck, so to speak. With health care reform, we made health insurance more affordable, and it will become more so as this kicks in further. At the same time, we wanted to make sure that when you spend your premium you get something back: you get good value, and you get good benefits. That's what we're doing with health care reform. We're not worried about the insurance companies and whether they get enough profit. They make enough profit. I'm going to give you some examples.

Let's use Aetna. Between 2009 and 2010, their profits went up 40 percent. I can use that for every one of the insurance companies.


Mr. PALLONE. Mr. Chairman, again, the question here is whose side are you on? The only people that I talk to who are against the exchanges are the big insurance companies and their representatives, because they are the only ones that stand to gain by keeping the status quo and not having the exchanges. The little guy, the consumer wants the exchange. Why? Because he can get affordable coverage, because he can get a good benefit package, because there is transparency, because he can find out what's being offered and how much it costs him. And the insurance companies don't want any of that because they want to continue with business as usual, keep raising rates.

Now, we all know how it works. The large employers, they can go out and get group coverage, but if you are an individual or you are a small business, it's very hard to do that. And that's why we set up the exchanges, because basically it's like a larger insurance pool. And now the small business, the individual can go on the exchange, they can find out what's going on, they can see what the rates are, and there's competition.

As the gentlewoman from Connecticut said, the Republicans always used to be for competition. This is the marketplace. This is capitalism. This is what we are providing here. It's a choice. More choices for the little guy. That's what this is all about. And I for the life of me do not understand again why the Republicans would not want to have the exchanges except for the same reason, they are siding with the big insurance companies. They are not worrying about the consumer and the average American.

It's also the fact that we're talking about portability. Right now, if you have a job and you're afraid to go to another job, and maybe a better job, or something that you'd like to do because you are afraid that you're going to lose your health insurance, well, now you don't do that. You can change your jobs. You can do something better. You can improve your life. You can live the American Dream because now you don't have to worry about not being able to find a good, affordable insurance policy. This is another aspect of the exchanges that are really so important.

Really, the exchanges are the heart of what we're trying to do, which is cover all Americans, provide access to good insurance coverage for all Americans, and make it at a reasonable cost. That is not the case now, and it will only be the case if these exchanges, as part of the larger health care reform, become law and continue to become law.


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