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Mr. WELCH. I thank the gentleman.
In Vermont, we faced the challenge that we face in this Nation: We want to have access to health care, and we want it to be affordable.
When we had legislation, the Democrats were pushing access. The Republican Governor was concerned about cost. We sat down and realized we're both right. If Democrats want to achieve the goal of access to health care for everybody, we have to control cost. Our Republican Governor was right. We worked to do that. This Congress has failed to do that.
Health care costs are rising beyond our ability to pay. Whether it's the taxpayer, whether it's the business that's paying the premiums, whether it's an individual who is self-pay, you cannot have health care costs rising at 6.5 percent a year, as they have for the past 10 years, higher than the rate of inflation, profits, or the economic growth. It can't be sustained. IPAB is a tool to help us control health care costs. We have to do that for our taxpayers, for our employers and for our citizens.
It's advisory. These 15 people who have experience in economics and in medicine will look at data, will look at information. What's there to fear in their doing that? They'll make recommendations to Congress. Congress will retain the right to have the final say as to whether these recommendations will work or not or if we want to substitute something else. That makes sense.
The alternative is what has been put forward to essentially shift the burden of rising health care costs onto seniors and citizens by turning Medicare into a voucher. It would cap what the taxpayer would pay by exempting this Congress from making reforms in how we deliver care that could result in costs coming down and simply saying to seniors on Medicare that if costs go up 6.5 percent a year, another 6.5 percent--you know what, folks?--you are on your own. Figure out how to pay for it. Congress is AWOL on this.
So to the extent that we claim we want access but we won't control costs and take steps that are required to make health care spending sustainable, we're shirking our responsibility. IPAB is not the answer, but it's a good tool.
To reject it and instead replace it with a voucher system where the full burden of runaway health care costs are simply imposed on seniors is the wrong way to go in a continuation of Congress ducking its responsibility for the reforms in the health care system that our citizens need and deserve.
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