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Providing for Consideration of H.R. 1173, Fiscal Responsibility and Retirement Act of 2011

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. McGOVERN. I want to thank the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Sessions) for yielding me the customary 30 minutes.

First of all, Mr. Speaker, I would urge my colleagues to vote ``no'' on this rule. One is, as was pointed out, this is not truly an open rule--there is a preprinting requirement. But there is also a cap, a time limit of 3 hours on the total debate for this bill. So if Members have an idea about an amendment they want to offer and it bumps up against the 3-hour time limit, they're out of luck.

I would remind my colleagues that this is an important issue. This is about long-term care, health care, mostly for our senior citizens. This is an important subject. We should be talking about this. We should be deliberating on this, and it deserves the necessary time to do this issue justice.

I guess I shouldn't be surprised, because we can't get this leadership to bring up not only legitimate health care bills to help improve the quality of health care for our citizens, but we can't get them to bring up jobs bills. We can't seem to get this leadership to bring up anything of any consequence or any significance to the American people or anything that will improve the quality of life for the citizens of this country.

Mr. Speaker, my friends on the other side of the aisle want to portray this as a very simple debate. They want everyone to think that this is a bill that just ends, as they put it, a problematic or a failed program, a bill that says we're going to run our government more effectively and more efficiently, a bill that says that we're going to get health care right for the American people.

But, Mr. Speaker, nothing, absolutely nothing, could be further from the truth. And let me be clear: This bill is just one more example of how the Republican majority in this House stands with Big Insurance instead of the American people. It's another example of how Republicans want to rig the health care system so insurance companies can continue to discriminate based on preexisting conditions and can continue to reap big profits at the expense of our families.

Democrats stand for improving access to the best health care system in the world. We want Americans to be able to take care of themselves and to plan for long-term care should they need it.

The debate in the Rules Committee last week was a telling example of how my friends on the other side of the aisle view this critical health care issue. During that debate, one of our colleagues, Republican colleagues on our Rules Committee, compared long-term care planning to owning a swimming pool, a luxury, saying that since the government shouldn't build a swimming pool for everyone in the country, that we shouldn't be providing long-term care advice or help with long-term care planning for the American people.

Mr. Speaker, this is where the discourse on health care has landed. We talk about how to lower costs and to increase access to health care, and my Republican friends talk about swimming pools. They are in over their heads, which is why their poll numbers are sinking to the bottom. This bill may appear to be fairly simple, but it will have a devastating impact on Americans as they plan for the future.

H.R. 1173, the so-called Fiscal Responsibility and Retirement Security Act, would repeal the CLASS Act and defund the National Clearinghouse for Long-Term Care Information. The CLASS Act is a national voluntary insurance program for purchasing long-term or disabled care for things like nursing home fees. Let me repeat that: It's a voluntary program. There's no mandate, no requirement, no obligation for anyone to participate.

This bill also converts mandatory funding for the National Clearinghouse for Long-Term Care Information into discretionary funding. While they say that this saves $9 million, the truth is Americans will lose access to critical information that can help them decide what kind of long-term care coverage they may or may not want, they may or may not need, as they grow older.

We need to figure out how to best address the cost and availability of long-term care in the United States, and the reality is that voting for this bill is the same as putting your fingers in your ears or covering your eyes. Surely you may not want to be able to hear or see what is bothering you, but it doesn't mean that these problems go away.

So why are we doing this today? Why are we repealing this without any replacement, without any thought given to how we might help the American people?

Well, if you listen to the Republican rhetoric, you'd think that some unnamed and unseen person is going to send you off to a dark room in an isolated nursing home, and you have no choice where to spend your golden years. That is, of course, if you listen to their ridiculous rhetoric.

It's true that the Obama administration has suspended enactment of the CLASS Act. They have done so after carefully assessing how they could implement a long-term, financially stable CLASS program. Unfortunately, they did not see a way forward at this particular point, but that doesn't mean we should just give up, throw up our hands and walk away.

While the CLASS Act is a sound premise, it clearly needs more work if it's going to be a viable program. The problem with H.R. 1173 is that it repeals the CLASS Act. We need to fix the CLASS Act, not destroy it. We need to engage on how to solve this problem, not to walk away from it, not to turn it into yet another piece of campaign rhetoric.

But that's not how the Republicans operate in this House. Their goal, it appears, is to tear down the health care system and to prevent people from getting adequate health care. How else can you explain their actions to repeal the Affordable Care Act and to end Medicare?

Mr. Speaker, the Republicans began the 112th Congress with an effort to ``repeal and replace'' the Affordable Care Act. Well, the House voted to repeal the new health care law, but we still haven't seen their replacement. They voted for repeal without replacement.

I should also point out to my colleague from Texas, it wasn't brought up under regular order; the repeal was brought up under a closed rule--but that's not unique in this House either.

The Republicans in control of the House of Representatives have found the time for bills on abortion and guns, bills to defund Planned Parenthood and National Public Radio and bills reaffirming our national motto, as if our national motto needs reaffirming. But when it comes to improving the quality of health care for the American people, my friends on the other side of the aisle are strangely silent.

As we near the second anniversary of the enactment of the Affordable Care Act, it's important to look at the success of this law and explain why repeal, as they have advocated, would cause real harm to the American people. We know for a fact that the Affordable Care Act is lowering costs and expanding coverage for millions of Americans.

The truth is crystal clear: 2.5 million young adults gained health insurance, 2.5 million young Americans gained health insurance. More than 40,000 Americans with preexisting medical conditions gained affordable health care coverage. Three hundred fifty new community health centers were built, and nearly 19,000 new jobs were created last year alone. Americans are benefiting from greater protections from unreasonable private insurance premium hikes.

More than 2 million senior citizens saved more than $1.2 billion on prescription drugs in 2011. Again, let me repeat that: More than 2 million senior citizens saved more than $1.2 billion on prescription drugs in 2011.

They want to repeal the bill, the affordable health insurance bill, which closes the doughnut hole, and all of a sudden senior citizens will see a tax hike the next time they look at their prescription costs.

Seniors in Medicare Advantage plans saw their monthly premiums decrease 14 percent from 2010 to 2011. Millions of women, seniors, and people with disabilities accessed preventative services.

The Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Justice stopped $3 billion in fraudulent claims in 2011.

We also know that the quality of care is improving because of the Affordable Care Act. I'm talking about an expanded workforce, including primary care workers, better coordinated care for Medicare patients, and improvements in preventable hospital care and readmission conditions, just to name a few. In fact, the entire debate within the health care community is changing on how we can better keep our citizens well.

Finally, we know that the health care industry is hiring more workers because of the Affordable Care Act. In fact, 514,900 new health care jobs have been created since the Affordable Care Act was enacted almost 2 years ago. Clearly, Mr. Speaker, the Affordable Care Act is working, and benefits will continue to grow as we move towards full implementation by 2016.

But by opposing the Affordable Care Act by pursuing repeal of the bill, Republicans have made it clear that they're against protections for people with preexisting conditions, that they are against expanding coverage for 2.5 million young adults who can't get health care on their own, that they are against new community health centers, that they are against the new jobs created by the Affordable Care Act.

And with this bill today, they are announcing that they are against planning for long-term care. This makes no sense, Mr. Speaker. Americans need to think about long-term care. They need planning options for the future.

Currently 10 million Americans need long-term care, and 5 million more will need long-term care over the next decade. Yet only 8 percent of Americans currently buy private long-term care insurance. Instead of forcing people to migrate towards Medicaid, the only other long-term care option available, we should be providing Americans with the tools they need to plan for the future. That's what the intention of the CLASS Act and the purpose of the National Clearinghouse for Long-Term Care Information is all about.

I know my friends will say: Trust us; we're going to come up with something down the road. Wouldn't it have been refreshing, in the spirit of bipartisanship, if we had come up with something before they chose to just outright repeal this provision? Maybe this would have been an opportunity for people to come together. But, no, we're told we're repealing it. You know, that fits in with our campaign rhetoric for 2012: We're going to repeal it; and the American people, just trust us. Take two tax breaks; call me in the morning. That's all you need to worry about.

The American people expect Congress to work each and every day to make this country better. Like Social Security and Medicare before it, the Affordable Care Act is an example of responsible legislating that is improving people's lives. It's not perfect. We need to build on it. We're going to need to make corrections. But there's not a piece of legislation that we have ever passed in any Congress that hasn't needed to be corrected and adjusted and tweaked as time has gone on. But it is an important step in the right direction. And notwithstanding the rhetoric on the other side of the aisle, it has made a real difference in the lives of many millions of Americans who otherwise wouldn't have access to health care.
We must not and we will not let the Republicans drag us down with them on this issue. Vote ``no'' on this rule and ``no'' on the underlying bill.

I reserve the balance of my time.


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