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Public Statements

SBIR/STTR Reauthorization Act of 2011

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. ENSIGN. Mr. President, I want to talk for a while on the Hutchison amendment which says that, while the health care reform bill President Obama and the majority passed last year is going through the courts, any related provisions would be put on hold until the courts decide whether the law is constitutional.

This is an important amendment because States and private companies are being forced to spend a lot of money putting programs into place that may not have to be put into place if this bill is indeed struck down as unconstitutional. During the health care debate last year, I raised a constitutional point of order against the individual mandate because, frankly, I believe strongly that it is unconstitutional. A few of the courts around the country have agreed with me and ruled that it is unconstitutional. Unfortunately, that constitutional point of order was voted down along party lines. There is still a very good possibility--and I am hoping the courts will see it this way--that this bill will be struck down as unconstitutional because there are no ``severability clauses'' in the legislation. In other words, if one part is found unconstitutional, the entire bill is unconstitutional.

The individual mandate is the place most people are focusing on. If that is struck down as unconstitutional, the whole bill will come down. Yet States, with all of the programs and exchanges they have to set up, will literally be spending hundreds of millions of dollars trying to comply with a law that may be unconstitutional. We should not have them go through that. We should actually have an expedited procedure to go through the courts and put everything else on hold so we can determine whether this law is constitutional.

Let me talk a little bit about some of the problems we are seeing with the health care bill. First of all, we know it is raising premiums. It was promised that the average premium in the United States would go down by about $2,500 per year.

I will give you one quick anecdote I heard yesterday. I was on the phone with one of Nevada's largest employers, Steve Wynn, of Wynn Resorts. He is known to be probably the most union-friendly, the most employee-friendly employer in the State of Nevada. He has been for years. His employees love him. He pays well and offers good benefits. He told me yesterday they did a study from 2005 to 2010 of their health care costs. They increased, on average, about 8 percent a year. This year, he said that, specifically because of this health care bill, their increase was 12 percent. That is a 50-percent increase in the rate of growth of their health care costs.

What did that mean to the average employee who works for Wynn Resorts? Wynn Resorts shouldered a lot of the costs, but the economy in Nevada is pretty tough right now. It is tough on employers, so they passed some of those costs to the employees. It means an additional cost of $900 a year to the average employee who works for Wynn Resorts. This is a story I have heard repeated across Nevada over and over again.

Two-thirds of our economy is driven by consumer spending. If you take $900 out of the pockets of the average employee in my State--and I am sure that is being repeated across the country--that is less money people have to spend to encourage economic growth.

We know that this bill was over 2,000 pages. Very few people, if any, have read it. If they did read it, I can guarantee you that almost no one understood it, even the people who wrote it. This bill now has over 6,000 pages of regulations which, once again, are incredibly complex. Unless you are a large company that has experts and lawyers who can search through this law to figure out what it means to you, it is very difficult to understand.

There was over $500 billion taken out of Medicare. It wasn't taken to shore up Medicare; it was actually taken out to create a brand new entitlement program. This health reform law takes $500 billion out of Medicare and puts it toward a new entitlement program instead of shoring up Medicare and making Medicare a better system.

There were also hundreds of billions of dollars in higher taxes in this bill. Sure, the majority passed it. They said it was just the health insurance companies they were going to tax, and just medical devices were going to be taxed. There were 11 new taxes in this health care bill, which is one of the reasons I opposed it.

Here is a real-life example of what those taxes mean to patients and those developing future cures. One company produces an extraordinary device for people who have uncontrollable seizures--epilepsy is a common name for that condition. One of the treatments developed by this company to treat epilepsy is an electronic device that helps reprogram the brain. It is implanted in the brain: instead of a pacemaker for the heart, it is like a pacemaker for the brain. It is an expensive device, which costs over $20,000. The company that makes this device puts most of the money they make back into research and development so they can make better devices. Because of this new tax, they are not going to have nearly the same resources to put back into R&D to develop better products and help more patients in the future. If we had not had this device in the first place, many people who have completely uncontrollable seizures would not have had this help. With this device, over half of those people are actually able to control their seizures. No other medication works for them. Half of them are able to control their seizures because of this device.

These are the types of things in this bill that are doing damage to our health care system, which is by all accounts the finest health care system in the world. The biggest problem with this health care bill is that it didn't go after the No. 1 problem we have in health care: the cost. Health care is too expensive in the United States. Even though it is of the finest quality, it is too expensive. We should strike down this bill as unconstitutional, or repeal it. Then, we should start with a health care reform bill that goes after the true problem in health care, and that is the cost.

What can we do about the cost of health care? We should absolutely do something that many States are already doing; the State of Texas is a good example of where it has been successful. We should change our medical liability laws, to rein in out-of-control trial lawyers across the country who are driving up all our health care costs. We know doctors prescribe all kinds of unnecessary tests just to cover themselves in case of a lawsuit.

When good medical liability reform bills are put into place, the true victims of medical malpractice actually get compensation because there are not as many frivolous lawsuits clogging up the courts. The other thing that happens is the cost of medical liability insurance and the cost to our health care system goes down.

The Congressional Budget Office reported that there would be approximately $70 billion to $80 billion in savings over the next 10 years if we enacted medical liability reform. I think that estimate is very low, but the number is not insignificant.

There are many other things we can do to create a health care reform bill that brings down costs. First of all, we need to put the patient back at the center of the health care universe. Today we have what is called a third-party payer system. The person receiving the care is not the person paying for the care. We need to put the person who is receiving care back with, what is known as, skin in the game. Then, they will start talking with their doctor and their doctor will talk with them. This can be done through health savings accounts.

Health savings accounts combine a high-deductible policy with a health savings account that either an individual's employer contributes to or the individual contributes to, and the individual actually negotiates with their doctors. The beautiful part about that is that they do not have to worry about a gatekeeper. Anybody who belongs to an HMO knows they have to go to a gatekeeper before getting to a specialist. If it is your money, you can go to any doctor you want, and the doctor has to be accountable to you because it is your money.

If we had over 300 million people in the United States shopping for health care, then market forces would drive down the cost of care and bring up the quality. Unfortunately, the government already controls most health care in the United States. The government pays almost 60 percent of total bills. When we add it all up, about 60 percent of the bills are paid for by the Government of the United States. The government already controls health care. That is the reason we continue to see costs in health care skyrocketing over many years, until recently when the costs are going up even faster.

This health care reform bill that passed last year--some people call it ObamaCare--is actually making the situation worse, not better, for the health care system in the United States.

I believe strongly that the Hutchison amendment, which would freeze any implementation of the health care bill until it is decided in the courts whether it is constitutional, is a vital amendment. It will make sure that States and private sector companies do not waste a lot of money complying with a bill that might be struck down as unconstitutional. This is money we cannot get back. Once it is spent, it is gone. We cannot get that money back.

We already know how many States are struggling with their budgets right now. We see what is happening in Wisconsin, Ohio, and my State of Nevada. It is happening all over the country. We need to put this bill on hold until we know whether it is going to be ruled constitutional.

I yield the floor.


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