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GOP Doctors Caucus

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. HARRIS. Will the gentleman yield?

Mr. BENISHEK. I yield to the gentleman from Maryland.

Mr. HARRIS. On those lists of questions of those $716 billion that's basically going to be transferred from the Medicare program to pay for the President's new health care reform bill, that doesn't even include the over $300 billion to cuts in physician and provider payments over the next 10 years under the payment form; is that correct?

Mr. BENISHEK. That's right.

Mr. HARRIS. So it's in addition to that $700 billion. There's another $300 billion that's going to get cut from payments to providers. Here's the problem. You know, I think the gentleman from Michigan points it out.

Medicare is going broke, and it's going broke not only because $700 billion was taken out of it to pay for the President's Affordable Care Act, but another $300 billion is going to be taken out in the physician payment formula.

Now, the CMS actuaries, and that's the department that runs Medicare and Medicaid, actually projects that the Medicare program could be bankrupt as soon as 2016. Four years from now, the Medicare program could be bankrupt.

Now, I'm glad that as part of November's elections we're going to discuss the future of health care for our seniors, because it is time to say that the emperor has no clothes. Our seniors know it.

They know that when, God forbid, their physician retires, and they go and try to find another physician, and they're on Medicare, they already know how hard it is to find a physician who can accept them because the reimbursements are already so low.

The payments to physicians are so low already, it's hard to find that primary care doctor. It's hard to find that specialist who needs to take care of you, whether it's for your blood pressure or your diabetes or whatever problem you have; and the problem is only going to get worse.

Now, the President in his budget doesn't deal with it at all. He pretends that Medicare will go on forever and ever just the way it is now. That's just not true.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid say it could go broke in as little as 4 years. The Medicare actuaries give it the longest lifetime, 10 more years.

Well, Mr. Speaker, if you're 55 now, that means by the time you're 65, it's broke. If you're 61, according to the Centers for Medicare, it's broke by the time you reach age 65. And if you're on it now and you're 70, it could be broke by the time you're 74.

So we have to stop pretending that the Medicare program is going to work forever the way it is now. It won't, because the President took $700 billion from it to pay for the Affordable Care Act. There is a scheduled cut to physician payments and to provider payments of over $300 billion over the next 10 years, and our seniors are already having problems finding those physicians.

But in the Medicare costs, if we don't do anything right now, we don't deal with the program and adjust it for people who are younger--and I have a son who is 27 years old. He is an accountant. He knows numbers, and he knows them backwards and forwards and up and down, better at math than I ever was. He's convinced he will never see a Medicare program because he's seen the books.

Medicare payments are projected to grow substantially from approximately 3.5 percent of our economy to 5.5 percent of our economy by 2035, and the President has no plan to pay for that growth. We know because of the maturing and retiring of the baby boom generation that this is coming.

This is predictable. We can project this. We know that if we don't change the Medicare program to preserve it for future generations and to keep it for the current generation of Medicare recipients, it goes broke. As I mentioned, the physician payment formula in Medicare needs to be fixed or, starting January 1, payments to physicians and providers may go down 30 percent.

Now, Mr. Speaker, if our seniors think it's hard to find someone to take care of them now on Medicare, what do they think it's going to be like when the government says to those physicians, we're going to pay you 30 percent less starting January 1, and this is all scheduled to happen.

The President has no plan. The President suggested no ideas to Congress on how to deal with that. What we need is leadership on health care, and we're not getting it from the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue.

Already access is an issue because back in 2008, 12 percent of physicians have said they have to stop seeing Medicare patients. We know now that a much larger number limit the number of Medicare patients they care for.

As the gentleman from Michigan knows, we didn't go to medical school to not take care of patients. We didn't go to medical school to have our staff answer a senior calling to say, I'm sorry, but we can't afford to take care of you. But that's exactly the position that the President's plan for Medicare is putting physicians and patients in right now. That's the sad fact.

This emperor has no clothes. The Medicare program is on a path to bankruptcy, and there is no plan from the White House to solve that problem. It merely kicks the can down the road.

We have heard a lot in the last few days and few weeks about Simpson-Bowles coming to the rescue. That's going to solve our fiscal problems; if we just adopt the Simpson-Bowles Commission, all our fiscal problems go away.

Mr. Speaker, as you probably know, Simpson-Bowles decided not to do anything about Social Security and Medicare.

Now, Social Security, it turns out, is pretty solvent. It's going to be there for at least another 20 years, giving us a fair amount of time to solve the problem for future generations. But, again, the Centers for Medicare says we may only have 4 years to solve the Medicare problem before it goes bankrupt.

If our seniors right now think they have problems now getting their health care and finding those primary care doctors and those specialists to take care of them, imagine when the program goes bankrupt.

Now, we have a choice. We can deal with it, or we can kick the can down the road. I'm proud of the Vice Presidential candidate, one of our colleagues, Mr. Ryan, who has decided that the time to kick the can down the road is over. It's time to tell our seniors and Americans what they suspect.

We've been making promises we have no way of keeping. We have been spending money we don't have. And it has to stop. And as the gentleman from Michigan knows, we have some principles in our plan to deal with the bankruptcy of Medicare because, Mr. Speaker, it's not a question of if, it's only a question of when.

So there are a couple of principles. The first principle is: we don't change it for anyone over age 55. If you're in retirement or you're near retirement, you get to keep the very same program right now. But we deal with the fact that physician and provider pay would be cut January 1. We solve that problem. We say you can't do that. That will limit access. So we deal with that issue. We say you have to stop taking $700 billion from the program to transfer it to pay for the new President's health care reform; to cover Americans who don't have insurance now by taking it from Medicare patients who do have insurance.

So the first principle, no one over age 55 is affected. The second principle is: for those under age 55, Mr. Speaker, if they're listening now, the program is going to be bankrupt when you reach age 65 if we don't do something. We're going to make some commonsense adjustments. We're going to say that you should have access to the same kind of care Congressmen and -women have--a broad range of health care plans you can choose from with the guarantee that for at least two of those plans you will have 100 percent coverage.

We all turn on the TV. We hear the ads: Mr. Ryan's plan will cost $120,000 for every senior, or $200,000 in more costs. Here's the problem. People who made the ads didn't read the bill. The bill spells it out quite clearly. Our plan is that seniors--again, people age 55, when they reach age 65--will have a choice of plans just like we have here in Congress. The only difference is we have to pay a part of all our plans. They don't pay for the two lowest-priced plans. If they choose a plan with more options, they may pay something. But they will end up paying even less than they do now.

That's our solution. Let market forces come in and control the cost of health care, control that growth in cost, and allow real coverage for our seniors, for our people age 55, when they reach age 65, and preserve it for future generations so that my son, the accountant, can look at that plan and say, You know what? This balances. You don't have to borrow money from the Chinese to pay for this plan. We don't have to raise taxes to pay for this plan. We actually let market forces work, providing the same coverage that people in Congress get. And it will work.

So, Mr. Speaker, I'm very glad that we have the opportunity to talk about this tonight. I'm very glad that this November and in the months leading up to it we'll have an honest, frank discussion with the American people about the future of health care, the future of health care for our seniors, preserving it, and the future of health care for everyone else under the President's affordable care scheme. Because we know there are problems with it. Americans understand that when you put the government in charge of something so vital and personal as health care, real problems can occur. And as the gentleman from Michigan has pointed out, we know those problems. They're predictable problems. A majority of Americans have figured it out. Poll after poll after poll says we should deal with the President's Health Care Reform Act by repealing it and replacing it, keeping elements that are good.

Every American either has a preexisting condition or will have one in their lifetime. Every American. So our plan will have to deal with it. And it does deal with it. And for those people who want to have their children

on their policies up until age 25, our plan can deal with it--and does deal with it. But we certainly don't need the Independent Payment Advisory Board, which the gentleman from Michigan is going to discuss, that is going to run health care for Medicare. We certainly don't need the Secretary of Health and Human Services prescribe what plans are going to cover what for every single American. Whether you want it or not, you're paying for it in your plan. Because we know that's only going to drive up the cost.

I'm glad that we're going to have that discussion with the American people because, Mr. Speaker, every American's health care is so important to them and their family. They deserve this discussion. They deserve the chance to go to the ballot box this November and make a choice about what their health care is going to look like in the future. And we're going to have a clear choice. It's going to be a government-run health care plan run by a bureaucrat where costs and access are controlled and rationed, or it's going to be one where the patient and their physician make the choice about their health care, with the government bureaucrat staying out of it, where they belong.

I thank the gentleman from Michigan for yielding.


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