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GOP Doctor Caucus

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. DesJARLAIS. Thank you, Dr. Roe. I appreciate you leading this discussion.

I rise tonight in support of my many physician and other health care colleagues that are in the Chamber tonight to discuss what I agree should be a bipartisan issue. It has been so disturbing to me after being in Congress just 5 months to see some of the disrespect that goes on across the aisle on the floor back and forth. But when it comes to our seniors' health care and health care in general, it's something I take very personally.

I think I can speak for all of my physician colleagues, nursing colleagues, our dental colleagues, that are in the Doctors Caucus, that none of us went to medical school or nursing school or dental school to become politicians. We went into those fields because we care about people, and we're now here for that exact same reason. And to sit in this Chamber and listen to accusations about this plan of Paul Ryan's to help save Medicare is just more than I can stand to not get up and at least share my thoughts. Because the bottom line is, as some of my colleagues have mentioned tonight, the CBO states that the cost of doing nothing is that Medicare will be broke in 9 years.

We've also heard that 10,000 new Medicare recipients are entering the pool each and every day. We also have talked about the fact that the average age of a Medicare recipient in 1965 in terms of life expectancy was 68. So, at that time, you were expected to be on Medicare, Dr. Roe, for approximately 3 years. Well, thankfully, due to advances in medicine, men and women are both living on average at least 10 years longer.

And I think Dr. Bucshon mentioned that the average couple pays in about 100,000, or 109,000 into Medicare taxes but are extracting 343,000. So it doesn't take a mathematician or CPA to figure out that this program has been severely mismanaged.

So when we step up as a conference and as conservatives to help save the Medicare program but yet we watch, one after another, Members from the other side of the aisle get up and use scare tactics on our seniors saying that this plan is cutting their Medicare, that's

just simply untrue, and I think that we need--and we need to set the record straight and people deserve to hear the truth as has been spoken here tonight.

So I join you in my concerns that these are patients we're talking about. These are people. And seniors deserve to know the truth that if they are 55 and older, this plan does not affect their Medicare.

I know that the message has been unclear because I conducted a tele-town hall just last week before the Memorial Day weekend, and we had over 20,000 people call in. And the majority of the questions that we were asked was, Why is my Medicare being cut?

So I think that we need to reiterate the fact that, if you're 55 and older, there are no changes. If you're under 54, we're taking steps to make sure that your Medicare will be preserved and saved and protected for future generations. Anything else would be simply irresponsible.

Another claim that was disturbing to me was the special election in New York. Some claim that the reason that the conservative candidate lost was because of our attempt to save Medicare. And it was spun as that cutting Medicare is something you just don't touch politically. But I know a lot of us, including yourself, Dr. Roe, didn't come here to play politics. We came here to do the right thing, and the right thing is to tell the American people the truth. And what we're trying to do is protect that plan.

The plan that is going to cut Medicare that has been mentioned already is the ObamaCare plan. And that seems to have been pushed to the back burner, and that's a dangerous thing. The IPAB bill that you sponsored, and I'm proud to cosponsor, is a great example of that.

So we need to speak boldly and let the people know the truth so our seniors are not afraid and scared by political tactics. I'm proud to join you tonight in this discussion.

Mr. ROE of Tennessee. Will the gentleman yield?

Mr. DesJARLAIS. Yes, sir.

Mr. ROE of Tennessee. Let's go back to what you were saying, Dr. DesJarlais, just a moment ago. We've discussed tonight this Independent Payment Advisory Board in some detail, about what it does. We've also discussed the Ryan plan, about what is in the future.

Well, why are we having that discussion? Well, we're having that discussion because we see Medicare as it is being unfundable in 2024, 13 years from now, and that could be a moving target and change. So we want to sustain this--I think both sides want to sustain Medicare as it is.

So we know that people are 55 and older--if you're 70 years old now, nothing changes. My mother is 88 years old and nothing will change for her. But if you're 54, what happens to you? And why do we think that will work?

Well, what happens to you at 54 is you're offered exactly the same health care plan that I have and you have right now. Maybe you have. I have Medicare part A. I would like to still have the plan I had. But you'll have exactly the same plan that Dr. DesJarlais has. And what plan is that?

Well, basically what the premium support is is that a person just looks--when you turn 65, you'll look at your health care plan as if--say the Federal Government is your employer. They pay that part of your premium and you pay some other. Now, a higher-income senior like you or myself, we're going to get a bigger chunk of that. So it's going to be indexed based on what your income is. If you're 65 years of age and you're--let's say you have multiple health problems and you're going to have a more expensive plan, you'll pay less than that.

If you are a low income senior, you will pay less than that. Why do we think that will work? We've heard all these things about insurance companies. Why do we think that will work? Well, the one single plan that has ever come in under budget that the Federal Government runs that I know of in health care is Medicare part D.

Now, whether you believe in doughnut holes or not doughnut holes, but in the 10-year budget estimate, Medicare part D, which is the prescription drug plan, was estimated to cost about $630 billion or $640 billion over 10 years. It came in about $337 billion, a 41 percent decrease. So when patients have choices, and people can go and it is not one shoe fits all, one size fits all, people have choices to be able to go out and pick out what kind of health care plan is best for them--for me, I like a health savings account. Someone else may pick another plan with a 20 percent copay. But those patients, those Medicare recipients at age 65 will be able to make that choice, not some nameless board deciding what kind of care you get.

Now, I will say that we do need to help control the costs. That's why we're having this discussion. But again, I believe who should be making those decisions are patients and their families and their doctors.

I want you to stick around for a minute because I've got some more questions. But right now I would like to yield to Ann Marie Buerkle, a great new member of our Health Caucus, a nurse, and an attorney. I won't hold that against her. She is from New York, and welcome to the meeting tonight.

Ms. BUERKLE. And I thank you. Thank you for this time.

Mr. Speaker, I rise here tonight, along with my colleagues and other members of the Doctors Caucus, with such concern about what is being proposed in the health care bill and what is now law. I think we need to have a frank discussion with the seniors, Mr. Speaker, because of the demagoguing and the fearmongering that has gone on by proponents of this health care bill.

The fact is this health care bill, Mr. Speaker, is law. If it goes on without being interfered with, Medicare as we know it will be decimated. Five hundred billion dollars in cuts. That's going to affect the seniors. That's the law, and that's what's in place right now.

What we are proposing on the Republican side is that: it is a proposal. But it is a place to begin the discussion about how we are going to save Medicare. And we must say over and over again to our seniors this bill will not affect you if you are 55 years and older. You will retain the exact same benefits that you have now. But we as health care providers, we as those who went into health care as advocates because we care about people, we want to protect and preserve Medicare. That's what this proposal is that the Republicans put forth in the budget.

I think, Mr. Speaker, the irony in all of this is those who pushed this health care bill, organizations who pushed it on seniors and said this is a great bill, and vote for this health care bill, they now have waivers from the health care bill. They now are saying, well, it's good for all of you folks, but it's not so good for us. That should raise red flags.

So I am so pleased to be here tonight with my colleagues to be able to have this conversation with the seniors, Mr. Speaker. They need to know the truth. They need to know that we want to preserve Medicare. We want to make Medicare better for us, for our children, and their children. And that's what this is about.

I thank you for this time.

Mr. ROE of Tennessee. I thank the gentlelady.

Who more than anyone than the Health Caucus and the physicians caucus wouldn't want to maintain Medicare? And one of my frustrations that I have had in this body is, how can you solve a problem if you can't discuss it? And right now we're not even able to discuss in a logical way how we reform Medicare. And those Medicare changes, we've only mentioned a few of them I might add. There are many others in here. In 2012, that will be just next year, there will be Medicare cuts to dialysis treatment. Medicare cuts to hospice begin in 2012. And on and on.

And it's one thing to have a problem. It's quite another to not even be able to discuss the problem. So let's just summarize it briefly here, and then I will yield to you that are still here. We had a problem in this country with health care costing too much and a group of people that couldn't have access to care and a liability crisis. We did nothing with this ObamaCare bill to curb the costs.

How we helped pay for the Affordable Care Act is we took money out of Medicare. And to control spiraling Medicare costs, we set up a board, this bill set up--not we, but this bill set up a board called the Independent Payment Advisory Board. Most people, including many physician friends of mine, don't have any idea what this is. It is a very bad idea. It's not a good idea in England, where it's being used. That's where the group that wrote this bill got it.

And you know why they want this? Why the people that signed this, the Senate and others? Because they don't have to be accountable. They can blame somebody else when needed care isn't given. Oh, it isn't my fault. This board did it. Well, it is our fault. If we give up that right, it's our fault if those cuts occur to our seniors and we cannot provide the care that they need.

So why we are having this discussion is we have got a budget problem. We have got a $1.6 trillion budget deficit in this country we have to close. And how do we do that? We look forward and see where are the costs going forward? As I mentioned, when the President of the United States is 65 years of age, 15 years from now, four things will take up every tax dollar that we take in. So it's mandatory that we begin now solving this problem.

I think the plan is a great plan, the Ryan plan. It allows people to plan. It also, I believe, will allow you more choices. And I believe that that's exactly what the American people want in health care, is not someone up here in Washington making those choices for us and our

patients, but the patients and the doctors making those choices.

I will yield to the gentleman, Dr. DesJarlais, if you would like to have some comment about that.

Mr. DesJARLAIS. You are correct, and I agree with everything you said. The point that a lot of folks made on the campaign trail is there is simply too much government medicine. There are unsustainable costs. I know our colleague from New York, ANN, as an RN, probably recalls the day where she spent more time on patient care than documentation. And now most nurses will acknowledge that it's just the reverse; they spend much more time on paperwork and bureaucratic issues than taking care of patients.

And I think that it's important that we remember that just a short time ago, when the Affordable Health Care Act, more commonly known as ObamaCare, was being pushed forward, Americans vehemently opposed this bill. I don't want them to forget all the reasons why they opposed it. They didn't ask for it. We can't afford it. And we don't need it.

There were approximately 30 million uninsured people, according to the President, at the time. But yet up to 75 percent of people rated their health care as good or excellent. So we're taking a system that has flaws and excessive costs, and trying to completely turn it upside down with this Affordable Health Care Act, which we all know is going to lead to rationing of care, decreased quality of care, and increased costs. You can't add people to a system and decrease costs without rationing care.

So I think it's important that the people stay engaged and speak out and acknowledge that they want the relationship to be between themselves and their doctors, and not between Washington bureaucrats such as what the IPAB is proposing. That's exactly what we're going to see. And we need to stand firm. The American people don't need to forget why they were opposed to the ObamaCare bill in the first place.


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