Kay Bailey Hutchison

National Defense Authorization Act For Fiscal Year 2010 - July 22, 2009

Kay Bailey Hutchison
July 22, 2009— U.S. Senate, Washington, DC
Congressional floor speech
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Mr. President, I wish to speak as in morning business on health care. It has been the topic of conversation while the Defense bill has been negotiated behind the scenes. I wished to talk about health care reform because it is the issue of the day. I think America is focusing on this issue now, and I am so glad they are because the more we learn about the proposals that are being made in the House and in the committees on the Senate side, the more concerns are being raised by the American people and by the experts who are studying the proposals.

What I am concerned about is the proposals that have been put forward from the Senate committee, and what is being put forward on the House side are proposals that are going to be the beginning of a government health care system that is modeled after Canada and Great Britain. What we are looking at is more government, more taxes, more expensive health care, and what we see less of is quality health care, less choice, less reimbursement to hospitals and Medicare and Medicaid; exactly the wrong direction.

We have hospitals all over my home State of Texas that treat indigent patients and patients who cannot pay.

Every one of our hospitals, rural and urban, gets extra help from Medicare and Medicaid for doing these services. The problem is that people go into the emergency rooms for primary care, care they could get from a doctor in a doctor's office if they had health care coverage. But they don't, so they wait until their diseases are much more progressed, and they go to an emergency room. What does that do? It makes the cost of health care higher for everyone. It makes the cost of health care continue to go up, and it raises premiums for people who have coverage. It costs taxpayers who have to pay for the emergency room care in the form of tax increases.

What we are looking at now is a proposal that will take money out of the hospitals. Every one of the hospitals in Texas will have lower reimbursements from Medicare and Medicaid, every one. That is estimated to cost more taxpayer dollars to cover the people who are going to the emergency room. Rural hospitals, particularly, may have to close their doors. I am hearing from rural hospital administrators that they don't have the money to absorb these cuts. They have a choice. They can cut services, or they can close hospitals--neither of which is an outcome any of us wants to see.

In addition, there are Medicaid requirements for States. Every Governor, Democratic or Republican, is saying: What are you thinking? More Federal mandates that are unfunded? That is why people are so frustrated with the Federal Government right now, more unfunded mandates. The estimate is that it would cost my home State of Texas $3 billion a year to absorb just the Medicaid unfunded mandate that is in the proposed bill making its way through Congress.

There has been an urgency. Many of the people on the floor here, as well as the President, are saying: We have a deadline. We have an August deadline, and we must pass this bill by August.

We are talking about a complete overturning of our health care system, not reform. Reform is what we all want. We need reform in our health care system. We need lower costs and more people covered. That is not what the bill going through Congress will do.

It is a complete upheaval of the health care system. It will be a single-payer government system that will start encroaching on and displacing the private health care people know and that provides the quality assurance we expect.

The private health care system will start being displaced by a big government system that will be cheaper but will also give fewer choices and less service. That is the concern so many people are beginning to have as more and more comes out about this health care plan.

In addition, there is an effort being made to pay for this big government takeover of health care. What are the options on the table? This is what is being proposed: that we will fine employers who do not offer private health care to their employees. That is like saying: OK, if you hire more people and you don't offer health care, your fines will go up. So that is going to discourage the hiring of people at a time when unemployment is at a record high. We should be encouraging people, especially in small business, to hire people. We want to create jobs, not cut them. Instead, we are going to increase taxes on small business. As much as 45 percent is being proposed on small business. That will make small business taxes higher than corporate taxes. Corporate taxes in America are among the highest in the world. Yet we are going to add on top of the 45 percent that the small businesses will pay, 35 percent for corporate. And then you fine the businesses that don't offer health care. It is almost as though we are in a self-fulfilling death wish. In the unemployment atmosphere in which we find ourselves, all of a sudden we are going to pass new taxes and new fines on small businesses which are the economic engine of America. It is small business that creates jobs, not big business, not government. Big business does some, but mostly it is small business growing that creates economic vitality. It is certainly not government.

When we get to bigger and bigger government, we are going to find ourselves in a spiral where half the people are working to support the other half of the population. It will go down from there.

It is important to read what the Mayo Clinic said about the House bill. They said:

Although there are some positive provisions in the bill, the proposed legislation misses the opportunity to help create higher quality, more affordable health care for patients. In fact, it will do the opposite.

This is the Mayo Clinic, one of the premier health care providers in the country.

In general, the proposals under discussion are not patient-focused or results-oriented. Lawmakers have failed to use a fundamental lever, a change in Medicare payment policy, to help drive necessary improvements in American health care.

The Mayo Clinic goes on:

Unless legislators create payment systems that pay for good patient results at reasonable cost, the promise of transformation in American health care will wither. The real losers will be the citizens of the United States.

Today 40 percent of physicians turn away Medicaid patients because the system is poorly administered and has a weak record of reimbursement. We know that billions of taxpayer dollars are wasted on fraud and abuse in Medicare every year. Are we going to emulate a program that doctors are walking away from and that is costing billions of wasted dollars to the taxpayers?

This is not responsible governing. We need to take our time. Republicans have come forward and will continue to come forward with alternatives, alternatives that don't break the backs of taxpayers, that don't break the backs of small business people, that give the quality health care Americans have come to expect and should. We have alternatives that are responsible. Small business health plans, for one, would be the best approach to this, because more people being covered means lower cost for everyone.

What does every family in this country want? They want a job to support their families, and they want health care coverage for their children. We can give them that by giving affordable opportunities for small businesses to give health care coverage options to their employees. That is what Americans want. They don't want a big government health care system that is going to rob them of quality and cost them more in the meantime.

I appreciate the opportunity to talk today about this important issue and why we must take time to do this right. If we completely overturn our health care system, we may never be able to get it back. We may never be able to recover. We can do this right, if we take the time and if it is truly bipartisan, if Republicans will have a seat at the table. They didn't have a seat at the table when the Senate committee voted its bill out taking two Republican amendments out of 45 offered. That is not bipartisanship. That is being polite and saying no. What we want is to have real options that will keep the quality, keep the choice, keep the private sector employment in our system and give families a chance to have good jobs with health care coverage. We can do that, if we will get together on a bipartisan basis and go forward in a positive way.

The bills coming out of the House and Senate right now, with virtually no Republican input, are not right for America. That is why we are saying: Let's go back to the drawing board.

I yield the floor.

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