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Public Statements

Fiscal Choices

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Ms. SCHWARTZ. Thank you very much. I'm pleased to participate in their conversation, and I just want to make a few comments, and then maybe we can talk further about really what the Republicans proposed in their budget.

We sit on the Budget Committee. We went through 12 hours in what we call here in Congress a markup, but really it was a debate and a real reflection on the contrast between what the Republicans are offering to the American people and the way to tackle what are very, very serious financial problems for the country. I think we all agree that they're serious, that we have to make sure that we take seriously the deficit and bring down the deficit over time and be able to get to a balanced budget at some point and begin to pay down the national debt. We all agree on that.

The real issue here is how do we do it? What are the choices we are making? What's on the table for discussion? And we offered up a number of suggestions and ways that we might take some of the money--you've talked about this already before I got here, about the tax breaks for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans, the tax subsidies for the five largest oil and gas companies. We're talking about literally hundreds of billions of dollars here, that instead they have chosen to protect those subsidies and those tax breaks and instead to make real cuts in what we believe are some real priorities for us. So budgets are all about choices and priorities.

I want to particularly talk about not just the spending cuts and where else we might be able to take spending cuts. We're interested in everything being on the table and looking at the Department of Defense, for example, which some Republicans agreed with us on.

But one of the changes that they are making--and many of us refer to this as the Ryan budget, but right now it is actually the Republican budget. This is no longer your colleague from Wisconsin's ideas, but it is really the Republican budget that was passed. It was announced by the Republicans last night and will be on the floor potentially next week. And there are dramatic changes for our seniors in this country. Dramatic changes.

We have said to our seniors and our future seniors that when you get to be 65, there's going to be security for you in terms of payment for your health care. They have changed that for future seniors. There will no longer be guaranteed benefits for future seniors. They will instead be offered a voucher. It will not be the whole cost of buying private insurance. They have said that. It will be support for the premium, not the whole thing. And then seniors will have to go--and I think Paul Ryan mentioned this yesterday--shopping in the insurance marketplace for the best insurance they can get.

When I think about that, maybe that sounds okay. You know, you go shopping. You've got a voucher in your pocket. It sounds like a coupon. You can go to the store, and you're going to be able to get 80 percent of costs paid.

However, this is health insurance, and what we already know is that the insurance industry was not inclined, before the Affordable Care Act, to cover insurance for sick people. They didn't want to cover sick kids. We had to pass a law that said you can't discriminate against children. You have to let them buy

health insurance and cover that illness. And they certainly don't want to cover sick adults.

Well, when I go talk to a group of seniors, and I can be at a senior center or any number of places we've all visited as Members of Congress, and we'll have a group of 50, 100 people, and I ask, Do any of you take any medications?

And they all laugh: Of course, I take medication.

Do any of you take two prescription medications?

Of course.

Do any of you take three or four?

These are a healthy group of seniors. They look healthy to me. You know, they're out and about and they're listening to a Member of Congress. And I ask, Well, how are you going to go out and buy insurance that's going to be affordable for you?

What we know and what seniors tell us is that they know that if they go to a voucher program and they're no longer guaranteed, they will no longer have guaranteed benefits, that their voucher will become less helpful over time as expenses go up, that there will be no controls on how their taxpayer dollars will be used.

So let me just close, if I may, by saying that seniors know that privatizing Medicare--and that's what this is, it's privatizing Medicare--will limit their benefits, will be obstacles to care and on certain reimbursements, that copayments for primary care or copayments for specialty care could be quite significant, that there could be exclusions for certain services that they need, that there could be discrimination based on income and age and illness, and there's more uncertainty if they face a serious illness going forward.

So I just wanted to show two charts that maybe we will want to talk about as we go forward. One of them is, to just follow up on what I said about choices, here we are faced with a choice that the Republicans have made, which is to give tax breaks to the wealthiest Americans. It's going to cost about $800 billion, and instead they are going to dismantle--this is the case of Medicaid, which is really about seniors in nursing homes, frail elderly in nursing homes, costing about $771 billion. That's a decision they've made.

We can talk more about how we've bent the cost curve, if we can use that language, on Medicare. We have already taken some serious action.

I'm happy to have further conversation with my colleagues about what this Republican budget means to seniors across this country.


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