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Public Statements

Health Care

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. CORKER. Mr. President, today I rise to speak about the subject our Nation is focused on as the Supreme Court takes up some of the constitutional provisions of the health care law that was passed a couple of years ago in this body.

Obviously, the courts will decide whether the law that was passed is constitutional. There are a number of challenges. That will take place by the end of June, according to what we hear.

Secondly, there is an election process underway where the candidates running for the Republican nomination have talked about the things they will do in the event they are elected as it relates to the health care bill.

I want to talk about the fact that regardless of the Supreme Court and regardless of what may happen in the electoral process, I have yet to meet a person on either side of the aisle--and maybe today will be the first time--who believes this bill can work as it was passed. What that leads me to say is that regardless of what happens, I think most of us are aware that the financial data that was used to put together this bill is flawed, and the fact that it is flawed, it will not work over the longer haul.

For the same reasons I railed against the highway bill for breaking the Budget Control Act we just put in place last August, I voted against this bill--the fact that we used 10 years' worth of revenues and 6 years' worth of costs, which greatly exacerbates the problem in the outyears; the fact that we took $529 billion in savings from Medicare to create this problem and yet left behind the issue we deal with in this body almost every year and a half, which is the sustainable growth rate that we deal with with physicians; and then, thirdly, the fact that we placed an unfunded mandate on States.

The State of Tennessee has actually been highly progressive as it relates to health care. In the State of Tennessee, dealing with citizens who are in need, we created a program called TennCare. It went through lots of problems but over the last several years has been functioning in a stable way. But what this bill did was mandate to the State of Tennessee that in order to keep the Medicaid funding that funds TennCare, the State has to, on its own accord, match Federal grants with over $1.1 billion in costs. So from 2014 to 2019, what this bill does is mandate that the State of Tennessee use $1.1 billion of its own resources to expand the Medicaid Program to meet the needs this bill has put in place.

This is the point of my being on the floor here today. Again, I do not know of anybody here who believes this bill will cost only what was laid out as we debated. As a matter of fact, we have had so many people--the McKenzie Group and others--who have laid out how many private companies in our country will basically get rid of their health care and put people out on the public exchange. And the cost of that is going to be tremendous.

Our own former Governor, a Democrat, who has spent a lot of his lifetime in health care on health care issues, projected that the State of Tennessee, if it decided that it wanted to put its own employees out on the public exchange, could save $160 million--by putting its employees away from its own health care plan and out on the exchanges. Obviously, I doubt that is something States are going to do. But his point is this: In a free market system, people are going to respond based on what is best for their company and what is best for their employees.

If you look at the subsidy levels that this bill lays out--up to 400 percent of poverty--they are massive subsidies. We are talking about people who are earning over $78,000 a year. So when you look at the subsidies this bill has put in place, what employers are going to quickly find, especially because we put a subsidy in place on the one hand and on the other hand, because this bill lays out the type of coverage companies have to have in place--there are attributes that cause those costs to rise, and we have already seen that happening throughout our private sector; I think that is undeniable--what is going to happen is the companies are going to say: We would be better off paying the $2,000 penalty. Our employees get these massive subsidies, by the way, that are paid for by all taxpayers in America.

What that means is that there are going to be far more people on these public exchanges than ever were anticipated when this bill was being put in place.

My point is that the bill, when it was being constructed, used 10 years' worth of revenues and 6 years' worth of cost, and that made it neutral. Anybody can see that in the outyears that is obviously going to create a tremendous problem, a fiscal problem for this government, for our country. But the problem is that when it was laid out, the amount of people who were then thought would go on the plan was much lower than is actually going to be the case.

Again, I think what you are going to see throughout our Nation, if this bill stays in place as it is, is a massive exodus by private employers from the health care business. What that is going to do is put them on these public exchanges with the subsidies, and, in fact, what it is going to do is drive up the cost even more than people ever anticipated.

So this is my point. There is going to be a Supreme Court judgment this June. None of us knows what it is going to be. We have pundits on the left who say they are confident the bill is going to stay in place.

We have pundits on the right who say they are confident, constitutionally, it is going to be overturned. We will have an election in November that may change the course of history as it relates to this bill.

Even if those two events have no effect on this bill, I wish to come back to my base premise, which is that there is no possible way this bill is going to work as it was laid out during the debate. There is no way the projections that were laid out as to what the cost of this bill is going to be are going to be what the actual costs are.

What I say is, regardless, this body is going to be pressed with replacing this legislation with something that makes common sense. There was actually a lot of bipartisanship, prior to us passing this piece of legislation, about what those commonsense measures should be. We ended up instead with something that was far more sweeping, something most Americans find offensive, something that, no question, will cause this Nation tremendous fiscal distress.

My point is, yes, we are going to be watching this June as the Supreme Court rules. Yes, we are going to pay attention to the elections in November. Regardless of those outcomes, it is my belief this body will have to come together and put into place a different piece of health care legislation that actually fits the times and the American people and allows the freedom of choice the people are accustomed to and is built on premises that will cause our country to be fiscally sound. I stand ready to work with people on both sides of the aisle when that time comes to make that happen.

I yield the floor.


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