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Public Statements

Fiscal Responsibility and Retirement Security Act of 2011

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. WELCH. We have a serious challenge here. We have people who need long-term care. We have very serious fiscal constraints. And the question before us really is, do we repeal the program altogether when there is a serious long-term program, as if by legislative magic a repeal suddenly makes the serious and acute problem vanish altogether. We know that doesn't happen. It may address a fiscal issue, but it doesn't solve the fiscal issue and enormous emotional pain that individuals who are trying to take care of their senior parents will face. So the problem doesn't go away if this legislation is passed. It simply means the pain will continue and probably intensify.

So the real challenge for Congress is that when there is a problem that we acknowledge is real and rising for the American people, and the folks who need long-term care are in red States and blue States, they're in your district and they're in mine, the real question is whether we address that as actively and as aggressively as we can, taking responsible steps to make certain that we can pay for what we promise.

The worst thing that we can do in my view is pass legislation that has almost as its predicate the notion that by repealing the commitment that this Congress made 2 years ago, the problem doesn't exist. It does, and we all know that. You've heard the statistics--10 million Americans currently need long-term care. That is a tough challenge for those families. Over the next decade, that is going to rise to 15 million. It is a rising challenge, and the longer we defer, the more difficult it will be for us to address it. Sixty-two million Americans, good Americans, generous Americans, serve as unpaid caregivers to elderly family members. How long can that be sustained?

While nearly 70 percent of Americans will need some level of long-term care in their lifetime, only 8 percent are able to buy long-term care insurance. That's where we do need a public policy program that's going to match the resources required with the need that's rising.

The CLASS Act was designed to make progress, giving older Americans and their families some sense of security. It's not perfect. The most vigorous proponents of that legislation acknowledge it's not perfect. But what that we pass on the Republican side or the Democratic side can any of us claim is perfect?

What we have to do together is try to make an imperfect bill better. But what we can't do is abandon the very serious challenge that those 10 million Americans in need of long-term care have.

I yield back the balance of my time.


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