Corker, Alexander Hit Reid Health Care Plan As It Moves Toward Passage

Posted on November 21, 2009

Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) today voted against a motion to proceed to the health care bill put forth by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and said the legislation is taking “the debate and our country in exactly the wrong direction.” “Like most Americans, I want to see responsible health care reform, but paying for it by sending an unfunded mandate to states, taking money from Medicare – which is already insolvent – to fund a new federal entitlement, and passing off costs to future generations does not pass the common sense test,” said Corker. “This 2,074 page plan is taking the health care debate and our country in exactly the wrong direction. We’re literally spending our future away. “The bill expands Medicaid and sends the $25 billion cost to states, a huge unfunded mandate that creates a very painful situation for Tennessee and other states. “It takes $464 billion away from Medicare, which is predicted to be insolvent by 2017, and leverages it to create a new entitlement program rather than using it to make Medicare more solvent. I honestly don’t know how Congress has moved from broad, bipartisan concern over Medicare’s $38 trillion in unfunded liabilities — liabilities that threaten our country’s financial stability — to now embracing a proposal that uses Medicare cuts to leverage a new program. “I think most Americans wanted to see health care reform that lowers costs, but this bill actually bends the federal cost-curve UP. The independent Congressional Budget Office (CBO) says the coverage expansion would drive a net increase in government spending on health care by $160 billion over 10 years. “The bill also uses dishonest budget gimmickry. First, it uses 10 years of new taxes to finance six years of spending, resulting in huge deficits in the next decades. Second, much has been made about the fact that CBO scored the bill as reducing the deficit by $130 billion over the years 2010-2019, but CBO also notes two budget gimmicks that hide the true cost of the bill. Under the bill, physicians who treat Medicare patients are expected to get a 23 percent cut in their reimbursement pay in the year 2011, which would carry into subsequent years. Preventing that pay cut, which Congress has consistently done, would cost $247 billion. Additionally, the new government-run long-term care insurance program called ‘CLASS Act’ would reduce deficits by $72 billion in the 10 year budget window, but would begin to increase budget deficits in the decade following 2029, according to CBO. Eliminating these two gimmicks means the bill would be $189 billion in the red and puts the real cost of the bill at over a trillion dollars. “If Republicans had put forth a bill that had the exact same building blocks – a bill that took $464 billion out of Medicare to leverage another program and created a $25 billion unfunded mandate by making states raise their Medicaid levels – there would not be a single Democratic vote for the bill. I am puzzled why my colleagues would even consider voting for this, especially anyone who has concerns about our country’s fiscal condition.” “The tragedy of all this is that if this bill passes, our country will be missing a major opportunity for true health care reform.” Senator Lamar Alexander, who voted in the minority along with Senator Corker, said, “Every other word we hear from the other side is that this vote tonight is ‘historic.’ I agree: it’s historic, but my view of why it’s historic is a little different than theirs. This bill is historic in its arrogance – arrogance that we in Congress are wise enough to take this complex health system that is 16 percent of our economy and serves 300 million Americans and think we can write a 2,000-page bill and change it all – all at once. “It’s arrogant to dump 15 million low-income Americans into a medical ghetto called Medicaid that none of us or any of our families would ever want to join. It’s arrogant to send to the states, which are going broke, a big chunk of the bill. It’s arrogant to tell the American people that the bill will only cost $849 billion and think they’re not smart enough to read it and figure out that it will actually cost $2.5 trillion when it’s fully implemented. It’s arrogant to say paying for the physicians’ reimbursement is not an important part of a health care bill — even as they run over here in the dead of night and run up the deficit with a separate quarter-trillion-dollar bill to fix that. It’s arrogant to cut and tax Grandma’s Medicare, which is going broke, and then spend it on somebody else. It’s arrogant to tell us that it’s going to reduce premiums for most Americans when, in fact, it increases premiums for most Americans. “What we are doing is scaring the daylights out of Americans. “So, where is the Republican health care plan, some ask. Well, if you’re waiting for Senator McConnell to roll a wheelbarrow in here with another 2,000-page, budget-busting, debt-ridden, arrogant piece of legislation, you’ll wait a long time. “We don’t believe in 2,000-page, trillion-dollar Washington takeovers filled with surprises, taxes, mandates, and more debt. We believe in setting a clear goal, going step-by-step in the right direction to re-earn the trust of the American people, and that goal should be reducing costs.” Senator Alexander said Senate Republicans have long called for passing targeted legislation that will decrease the cost of health care and expand access for American families – without the unintended consequences presented by 2,000-page bills. Alexander outlined “the first six steps” Republicans have proposed and believe Congress can pass in a bipartisan fashion: · Reduce junk lawsuits against doctors, · Combat waste, fraud, and abuse, · Allow small businesses to pool resources to purchase health insurance, · Purchasing health insurance across state lines to increase competition, · Health Savings Accounts (HSAs), and · Wellness and prevention.