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Public Statements

2012 Budget

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. DEUTCH. Tomorrow, my Republican colleagues will bring a 2012 budget to the floor of the House, a budget that rolls back generations of progress and, quite simply, ends Medicare as we know it.

Fifty years ago, before Medicare and Medicaid were signed into law, Americans preparing to retire faced tremendous uncertainty. Private health insurance was simply out of reach. Savings put away during years of employment could barely cover those bills, if they could cover them at all. Seniors were forced to rely on their own children, many of whom were struggling to raise families of their own, to pay for medical care.

When the financial support of family and relatives was not an option, elderly Americans found themselves with the choice of a life without the care of doctors or a life of destitution. This was the status quo before Medicare and Medicaid were signed into law, and the American people found it unacceptable.

We believed then, as we believe now, that we have a responsibility to ensure that seniors, children, and the permanently disabled, the most vulnerable in our society, have access to quality health care. It was this sense of shared responsibility that Congress codified in 1965 through the creation of Medicare and Medicaid.

As President Lyndon B. Johnson said as he signed this historic legislation, ``No longer will older Americans be denied the healing miracle of modern medicine. No longer will illness crush and destroy the savings that they have so carefully put away over a lifetime so that they might enjoy dignity in their later years.''

Today, 45 million seniors depend on Medicare's guaranteed quality benefits. Now this year, as in every year, we find ourselves in the middle of a budget debate. At times, both Republicans and Democrats can be accused of hyperbole. However, it is no exaggeration to say that the Republican budget headed to the House floor tomorrow abandons America's seniors and does away with the concept of guaranteed Medicare benefits. It is no overstatement to say that it hands Medicare over to the private health insurance industry, and it is no lie to say that this plan ends Medicare as we know it.

This budget is no Path to Prosperity; for seniors, it is a path to the poor house. You can call it premium support; you can call it a voucher; you can call it a coupon; you can call it the golden ticket if you'd like; but changing the name won't change the fact that this Republican plan will force America's seniors to hand over most of their income to America's insurers. Maybe instead of ``premium support,'' this plan should be called ``insurance company profit assistance.''

By the time the Republican plan begins distributing coupons to seniors in 2022, most retirees will be unable to afford health care. After all, these coupons will be worth only 32 percent of the insurance bill. According to the nonpartisan analysts at the Congressional Budget Office, in less than two decades a private health insurance plan as good as Medicare will cost about $30,000. Unfortunately, the Republican voucher that will be sent out under this budget plan will only be worth $9,700. This means that there will be an insurance bill worth about $21,000 sitting in the mailboxes of America's seniors.

The Republican budget plan is no work of genius; it just shifts the burden of rising health care costs from the Federal Government to seniors and calls it a day. Through Medicare, Americans made a moral commitment as a people to ensure that seniors are not bankrupted by a hip replacement or diabetes medication. Likewise, with Medicaid, we made a moral commitment to ensure that elderly nursing home patients, impoverished children, the permanently disabled, and the neediest in our society can afford basic care. In fact, two-thirds of all Medicaid spending goes to caring for older adults and people with disabilities. The cost of long-term care, like in rehabilitation centers and nursing homes, is prohibitive. Medicaid serves as a lifeline for these individuals. And it is not an expensive program. In fact, compared to private sector health care costs, Medicaid is cheap, growing half as fast.

The GOP plan cuts Medicaid when physicians and hospitals can barely afford to treat these patients because of such low reimbursement rates. It is no mystery why Medicaid is beginning to strain State and Federal budgets. With so many Americans out of work, enrollment in Medicaid has skyrocketed as more and more families come to rely upon this safety net.

I have said it before and I will say it again: Medicaid is not too expensive. People are too poor. That's why we should be focused on creating new jobs. One hundred days into this new Republican Congress and not a single jobs bill.

Madam Speaker, this plan is not a price that I'm willing to pay. We can do better. We will do better. America's seniors are watching.

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