Speeches & Floor Statements

Colloquy Remarks of U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Republican Colleagues -- Health Care Reform

Posted on December 4, 2009

Mr. ALEXANDER. Mr. President, during the next 55 minutes, we will have several Republican Senators come to the floor. I ask unanimous consent that during that time, Senator McCain be allowed to be the manager of a colloquy among the Republican Senators. The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. Without objection, it is so ordered. Mr. ALEXANDER. Mr. President, before Senator McCain begins, if I may, I wish to take a moment to establish where we are today and what happened yesterday as a lead-in to what he is about to discuss. Yesterday, Senator McCain offered an amendment on the floor of the Senate that would do two things: It would send this 2,074-page Democratic health care bill back to the Finance Committee and say to them, No. 1, take out the cuts in Medicare, and No. 2, any savings in Medicare must go to make Medicare more solvent. That is what the McCain amendment would accomplished. That was defeated. Fifty-eight Democrats said yes to the cuts in Medicare. They said yes to using the money that comes from these cuts to create a new entitlement program. Forty Republicans and two Democrats said, no, we don't want cuts to Medicare and we do not want a new entitlement program. So yesterday we made it clear that the central core of this bill includes nearly $1/2 trillion in cuts to Medicare. There is no question about that. Everyone concedes that. The President said that when he addressed us. The Congressional Budget Office says that. The question is whether it is a good idea or a bad idea, and yesterday, by 58 votes, the Democrats said yes to these cuts in Medicare. Today, we want to talk about one aspect of those cuts which is Medicare Advantage. We are going to talk about these cuts in a careful, accurate way so the 11 million seniors who have Medicare Advantage understand exactly what the risk is to their Medicare Advantage policies. We can see that a portion of the overall Medicare cuts that the Democrats approved yesterday is a $120 billion cut over the next 10 years to the Medicare Advantage program. Now, what is Medicare Advantage? Medicare Advantage is an option seniors have. If you choose this option, Medicare pays a fixed amount every year for your care, to companies that might come to you and offer a Medicare Advantage plan which you can choose instead of the original Medicare plan. Many seniors choose these plans -- 11 million seniors. Nearly one out of four seniors in America who are part of Medicare chooses the Medicare Advantage plan. In my home State of Tennessee, the number is about 230,000 Tennesseans. Why do they choose it? Well, it includes some benefits they may not have in the original Medicare plan. These benefits include dental care, vision care, hearing coverage, reduced hospital deductibles, lower co-payments, lower premiums, coordinated chronic care management, and physical fitness programs. The distinguished Senator from Oregon was on the floor and he mentioned grandma. I have mentioned grandma a few times -- no disrespect to grandpa; he is in the same boat. He said grandma didn't need to worry about her Medicare Advantage plan because none of the benefits would be cut. That is not what the Director of the CBO, who is often cited by the chairman of the Finance Committee, has said. He said that half of the benefits currently provided to seniors under Medicare Advantage would disappear under the Finance Committee plan, which is much like the plan we are considering. The benefits that would disappear would include those I mentioned. Today, with Senator McCain leading the discussion, we wish to talk about the Medicare Advantage plan, and why cuts to Medicare Advantage play a central part of this $2.5 trillion bill. Cuts to Medicare pay for about half of that $2.5 trillion cost, and the ones we are talking about today are the Medicare Advantage plans. I understand there will be an amendment by Senator Hatch, who has joined us, and I am sure he will talk about his own amendment. He was present on the Finance Committee when Medicare Advantage was created. I understand there will be an amendment to send this back to the Finance Committee saying don't cut Medicare Advantage. Mr. McCAIN. Yes. Those who missed Senator Hatch's important statement last night, which he will add to today, I point out that he was able to take a trip down memory lane. In June 2003, when the Medicare Modernization Act was before the Senate, several of our colleagues, including Senators Schumer and Kerry, offered a bipartisan amendment on the floor to provide additional funding for benefits under the Medicare Advantage Program. But amnesia is not confined to one side of the aisle around here. I ask my friend from Tennessee -- you know this discussion about Medicare Advantage -- we have to better understand what is this program and why is it so popular. Is it because it offers seniors a chance to get additional benefits? Maybe the Senator can give a short definition of that. I think the American people may not be totally clear on what we are discussing here and why 11 million Americans -- over 300,000 citizens in my own State -- have chosen Medicare Advantage, and that has prompted, according to Bloomberg, Senator Casey of Pennsylvania, to say, "We are not going to be able to say 'if you like what you have, you can keep it,'" said Senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, a Democrat. "That basic commitment that a lot of us around here have made will be called into question." The title of that is "Dem Senator Says Medicare Advantage Cuts Break President's Pledge." Maybe the Senator from Tennessee can give me a brief outline of what seniors get under Medicare Advantage and why it is so popular with 330,000 senior citizens in my State and 11 million in the country. Mr. ALEXANDER. I can do that. The Senator is correct. If the Senator from Pennsylvania, Senator Casey, said that, he is merely repeating what the Director of the CBO stated, when he said that fully half of the benefits of Medicare Advantage will be lost. To answer the Senator's question, Medicare Advantage is an option that 11 million of the 40 million seniors who are on Medicare have chosen. The reason they choose it is because it is a plan offered by private companies, often to people in rural areas, often to minorities – Mr. McCAIN. Lower income seniors. Mr. ALEXANDER. Yes, lower income Americans also choose these. They often choose it because the plans generally offer these benefits: dental care, vision care, hearing coverage, reduced hospital deductibles, lower co-payments, lower premiums, coordinated chronic care management, and physical fitness programs. Mr. McCAIN. I thank my friend. The reason I ask this, he mentioned that Medicare Advantage would allow seniors to have dental care, vision care, hearing care, physical fitness -- it is fascinating. This allows our senior citizens to have dental, vision, hearing, and physical fitness care, and that is a little strange because, as was pointed out to me, that is exactly what we have here in the Senate. About 100 paces from here, if I need some doctor care immediately, if I need some vision care, if I need some dental care, I can get it. Next to my office in the Russell Senate Office Building, for the last several months -- and I don't know at what cost, but I would like to get entered into the Record how many tens of millions of dollars it is. But they are renovating a gym. So my colleagues yesterday voted against keeping the Medicare Advantage Program, when we have, right here, the best Medicare Advantage Program ever heard of in the world -- free hearing, free vision, free dental -- and they are expanding a gymnasium in a many-months-long project. I will get the cost of that, although that may be hard to do. Let me get this straight. Again, the American people should understand this. We voted to cut drastically a program that seniors have taken advantage of, which gives them additional hearing, vision, dental, and physical fitness care, while we practice it here every single day. Every day, there is a physician on duty -- more than one -- not very far from where I speak, who is ready to give us instant care. If hospitalization is needed, we can get instant transportation to the Bethesda Naval Hospital, where we will get free care. Incredibly, the Senate, on largely partisan lines, yesterday voted against senior citizens in this country, most of whom have paid a lot more into the program than we have. We are going to deprive them of what we have every single day we are members of the Senate. That is an exercise in hypocrisy. The Senator from Pennsylvania has it right, because the President, time after time, said to the American people: If you like the insurance policy you have today, you can keep it. How many hundreds of times have we heard him say that at townhall meetings? And his administration mouthpieces say the same thing. The Senator from Pennsylvania is right when he says, "We are not going to be able to say if you like what you have, you can keep it. That basic commitment that a lot of us around here have made will be called into question." I will say a couple words, and I will talk more about this later. Every time the Senator from Montana and others are on the floor, they talk about the fact that AARP now supports this blatant transfer of funding from the Medicare Program, which the seniors have earned, into a brandnew entitlement -- a $2.5 trillion entitlement program. That is what this bill is all about. For your information, AARP has received $18 million in stimulus money. There is a job creator for you. AARP, which has given its full-throated support to the Democratic health care legislation, even though seniors remain largely opposed, received an $18 million grant in the economic stimulus package for a job training program that has not created any jobs, according to the Obama administration's recovery.gov Web site. That is astonishing to me because from everything I have ever seen, they have created millions of jobs, including in the ninth congressional district of Arizona, where they said they created thousands of jobs. Unfortunately, we only have eight congressional districts, but that is OK. In February, Politico reported that AARP was putting pressure on Republican Members of Congress to support the stimulus package. Since then, AARP has moved on to lobbying for passage of health care legislation, even though Democratic proposals have called for several hundred billion dollars in cuts to Medicare -- a program that the group typically defends tooth and nail when Republicans propose cutting it. It turns out that AARP is also in a position to benefit financially if the health care legislation passes, because seniors losing benefits as a result of cuts to Medicare Advantage will be forced to buy Medigap policies, which is the main source of AARP revenue. Barry Rand, chief executive of AARP, was a big donor to the Obama campaign and has retained a cozy relationship with the administration. That is shocking news. So, my friends, also I might add that in 2006, AARP received $18 million from the Federal Government, and we are reserving additional Federal moneys that they get. The most important thing is this, and let's make it clear: AARP will receive direct benefits because seniors who have cuts in their Medicare Advantage and other Medicare programs can buy -- guess what -- a Medigap insurance policy from AARP -- in other words, to cover the things being cut back under this legislation, and it costs $175 a month. The Medicare Advantage premiums are zero for most seniors, or $35 a month. Again, if the Medicare Advantage plans go away, people would have to buy a Medigap plan sold by -- you got it -- AARP. And some low-income seniors could not afford $175 a month. That is why what the Senator from Tennessee stated that if we drive people out of Medicare Advantage, we are harming low-income seniors all over this country. We are harming them. We are doing them a great disservice. If you think with 17 percent real unemployment in my State that seniors who are unemployed and down on their luck are going to be able to afford the AARP Medigap policy for $175 a month, come and visit my State and I will tell you they can't. It is interesting, the conversation about high-income seniors, and how we are going to tax people with Cadillac plans and all of those things, when what we are doing is harming the lowest income seniors in rural areas of America. Mr. KYL. Will my colleague yield for a quick point? Mr. McCAIN. Yes. Mr. KYL. The Senator was making the point that you cannot take $120 billion out of the program without hurting folks. Those on the other side of the aisle said we can do that -- we can cut it by $120 billion and it still won't hurt anybody. My colleague asked the Senator from Tennessee exactly what some of the benefits were and he repeated them. I went to get the actual statistical number of how much it will actually reduce benefits in terms of actuarial value. According to the Congressional Budget Office, in the year 2019, when fully implemented, here is the statistic: The actuarial value of the reduction in benefits under Medicare Advantage is 64 percent; in dollar terms, it goes from $135 a month down to $49 a month. In other words, the very things my colleague talks about -- vision care, dental, all of those things – Mr. McCAIN. All of the things we routinely use in the Senate. I hope those who voted to harm the seniors in this country and not allow them to have dental, vision, and other health care would unilaterally disavow the use of the physician care and vision care and hearing care available to all of us 24 hours a day right here in the Senate. Mr. KYL. The last point. I want to say that I hear my colleague loud and clear. I hope the American people do, too, because you cannot call a $120 billion cut something that doesn't hurt people, and especially when the Congressional Budget Office itself says, yes, that reduces these very benefits from a value of $135 a month down to $49 a month. That is a huge cut in the value of the services they receive under Medicare Advantage. That is what we are trying to prevent by this amendment. Mr. McCAIN. Could I mention one other thing? I will not spend that much more time on AARP. But the reason I do is because every time the Senator from Montana stands up, he talks about AARP endorsing this rip-off of the American people. Let me quote again from a Bloomberg article entitled "AARP's Stealth Fees Often Sting Seniors With Costlier Insurance." I quote from the Bloomberg article just briefly: Arthur Laupus joined AARP because he thought the nonprofit senior-citizen-advocacy group would make his retirement years easier. He signed up for an auto insurance policy endorsed by AARP, believing the advertising that said he would save money. He didn't. When Laupus, 71, compared his car insurance rate with a dozen other companies, he found he was paying twice the average. Why? One reason, he learned, was because AARP was taking a cut out of his premium before sending the money to Hartford Financial Services Group, the provider of the coverage.... AARP uses the royalties and fees to fund about half the expenses that pay for activities such as publishing brochures about health care and consumer fraud -- as well as for paying down the $200 million bond debt that funded the association's marble and brassstudded Washington headquarters. In addition, AARP holds clients' insurance premiums for as long as a month and invests the money, which added $40.4 million to its revenue in 2007.... During the past decade, royalties and fees have made up an increasing percentage of AARP's income, rising to 43 percent of its $1.17 billion in revenue in 2007 from 11 percent in 1999, according to AARP data. This is a Bloomberg article. This is not from the Republican Policy Committee. The point is, who gains? Who gains from this legislation? Who is going to make hundreds of millions of dollars more because they provide the Medigap policies people will be deprived of when we kill off Medicare Advantage? AARP. Mr. ALEXANDER. Mr. President, I see the Senator from Texas, the Senator from Idaho, and the Senator from Wyoming have all come to the floor, in addition to the sponsor of the motion, Senator Hatch. I am sure they are prepared to reflect on who is hurt by these cuts. The only thing I would emphasize is what the Senator from Arizona has said is that disproportionately low-income Americans in Texas, Idaho, Tennessee, Wyoming, and Utah are hurt. Only one-third of eligible White seniors who do not have Medicaid or employer-based insurance are enrolled in Medicare Advantage. But the number increases to 40 percent for African Americans and 53 percent for Hispanics. Mr. McCAIN. May I ask the Senator again, he described the benefits that are provided under the Medicare Advantage program that seniors can have if they want, right? Are those same benefits -- dental, vision, hearing, and fitness care -- available under regular Medicare today? Mr. ALEXANDER. My understanding is the answer is no. That it is the reason 11 million Americans choose Medicare Advantage because these benefits are not available under the original Medicare plan. Mr. McCAIN. In Montana, there are 27,000 enrollees who will see a 24-percent decrease. In Connecticut, there are 94,000 enrollees who will see a 14-percent decrease. By the way, some special deals have been cut for three States I understand -- Oregon, New York, and Florida. We are going to try to fix that. There is no reason one State should be shielded any more than another from these draconian measures. We are going to try to fix that situation. The reason I bring up this issue, present-day Medicare beneficiaries do not have vision, they do not have dental care, they do not have fitness. Yet we in the Senate enjoy it every single day. So yesterday we voted to deprive seniors from the ability to have the same privileges that we enjoy every single day in the Senate. I would argue that is an exercise in hypocrisy. Mr. ALEXANDER. I might say we are operating under a colloquy managed by Senator McCain. So Republican Senators are free to engage in discussion. Mrs. HUTCHISON. Mr. President, I very much appreciate what the Senators have been talking about because what Senator McCain is saying is that these seniors who are low income have an affordable option, and it is less expensive than the AARP option that would give them this extra care -- the eye care, the dental care, the hearing aids. It is an affordable extra option. In Texas, we have over 500,000 seniors enrolled in Medicare Advantage. One of the great things about Medicare Advantage is that it is available in rural areas, and it gives them choices that they might not be able to afford with other programs that are Medigap. This one is affordable. That is why we are fighting so hard to restore the cuts to Medicare Advantage. Medicare Advantage costs about 14 percent more than traditional Medicare because it provides a wide range of these extra benefits we have discussed -- dental, eye care, hearing aids and, in many cases, it pays providers more. Republicans, of course, are open to discussing how to improve the Medicare Advantage payment formula. We want to be more efficient with taxpayer dollars, but do we want to do that in the context of creating a massive new entitlement program and ask Medicare to pay for it or to cut lifesaving benefits for seniors? Is that what we want to do, I ask Senator Crapo? Mr. CRAPO. That is absolutely the case. I would like to point out, when we had the Finance Committee markup, I asked CBO Director Elmendorf directly whether provisions in the bill, which are still in the bill, would reduce the benefits that Medicare recipients received. His response was: For those who would be enrolled otherwise under current law, yes. There has been a lot of talk here about we are not cutting Medicare benefits or we are or it is this or that. The bottom line is, the CBO Director said it: Yes, we are cutting benefits. I would like to ask the sponsor of this motion a question because I know there are some who are saying the reason we are cutting Medicare Advantage is that it is so expensive, and we should be cutting Medicare and controlling its costs; that it is about 14 percent more expensive than fee-for-service Medicare. Some people say if you are defending Medicare Advantage, you are defending overpayments in health care plans. Would the Senator from Utah like to respond to that criticism some are making? Mr. HATCH. I would be delighted to. To be clear, so-called overpayments to Medicare Advantage plans do not go to the plans. As a matter of fact, they go to the seniors in the form of extra benefits. That is a pretty important point a lot of people miss. Seventy-five percent of the additional payments to Medicare Advantage plans are used to provide seniors with extra benefits, including chronic care management -- you would think you would want to do that -- hearing aids, eyeglasses. The other 25 percent of any extra payments are returned to the Federal Government. I cannot imagine why anybody would not want to do that. Mrs. HUTCHISON. Mr. President, I ask the distinguished Senator from Utah to also respond to the arguments that claim that the government cannot afford now to continue overpaying these private plans and that the Medicare trust fund is going broke. Of course, we tried actually several years ago to shore up the Medicare Program, trying to do it in a responsible way, not cutting out the Medicare benefits these seniors can receive as an affordable option. What does the Senator say to that? Mr. HATCH. The Senator from Texas pointed out the Medicare trust fund is going broke. Yet what do we have on the other side? They take almost $500 billion out of Medicare. Trust me, I am deeply concerned about the solvency of the Medicare trust fund. Mr. McCAIN. May I say it is my understanding that Dr. Barrasso has actually seen Medicare Advantage patients. He and Dr. Coburn are probably the only two. Maybe we could let him give us the benefit of his experience and also not only the benefit of his experience, but I am sure he is going to tell us what the impact is going to be on the low-income seniors from his State. Mr. BARRASSO. I agree with the Senator from Arizona that people choose to be on Medicare Advantage. Mr. President, 11 million people have chosen to be on Medicare Advantage because it is a wise choice to make because they get better benefits. They get dental care, they get the vision care, they get the hearing aids, they get the fitness thing. Mr. McCAIN. Just as we do. Mr. BARRASSO. Just as we do. It works in preventive care and coordinated care. Mr. McCAIN. I don't think they have as nice a gym, though, as we are going to get. Mr. BARRASSO. It is also no surprise when people read about this and learn about it that they would want to be on Medicare Advantage. What the Senator from Utah has said, the sponsor of this motion, is that the money that goes into this program is for the benefit of the seniors. It is for services for the seniors on Medicare. To me, this whole bill basically guts Medicare, raids Medicare to start a whole new program. Today, as the Senator from Arizona has mentioned in these articles, the Associated Press and USA Today said: Senate Democrats closed ranks Thursday behind $460 billion in politically risky Medicare cuts at the heart of health care legislation.... It goes on to say: Approval would have stripped out money to pay for expanding coverage to tens of millions of uninsured Americans. So they are going to take $460 billion, it says, away from our seniors who depend on it for their Medicare and start a whole new government program. The Washington Times, front-page story headline, reads: "Democrats Win $400B in Medicare Cuts. McCain Pushed for Another Way to Pay for It." I look at this and say this is not fair to our seniors, not fair to the patients I have taken care of for 25 years in Wyoming, taken care of folks -- taken care of folks -- when grandmom breaks her hip, what we need to do for our patients. These are choices people have made. Mr. President, 11 million Americans have chosen Medicare Advantage because there is an advantage to them for the health care they get -- the additional services, the coordinated care, the preventive care. Anyone who looks at this and studies it says: I want to sign up. It has been wonderful in rural areas and big cities. This has helped a lot of people in the country. It is not surprising that one out of four people in the country on Medicare have chosen Medicare Advantage, but yet what we are seeing here is Democrats want to get rid of Medicare Advantage. Mr. McCAIN. Let me get this straight. Basically, by removing the choices that seniors have as a part of Medicare Advantage -- dental, vision, hearing, fitness -- we are taking away from them what we ourselves enjoy every single day in the Senate? Mr. BARRASSO. We are taking it away from seniors and using all that money to start a new government program when we know Medicare is going to go broke by 2017. Mr. HATCH. We are listening to only one of the two doctors in the Senate who knows, who has been on the ground, has met with the people, who understands what this means to senior citizens. One-quarter of them are on Medicare Advantage. In the end, I believe we not only actually help seniors be more healthy but save a lot of money in the end. Trust me, I am deeply concerned about the solvency of the Medicare trust fund. We have been sounding that alarm for years. That is why it is so shocking we are debating a $2.5 trillion health reform bill that does almost nothing to make sure Medicare is sound and, in fact, does a lot of things to make it unsound, or almost nothing to make sure Medicare is around for future generations. Instead, we are just creating another Federal entitlement program that we cannot afford while Medicare has $38 trillion in unfunded liabilities. Mr. CRAPO. The Senator is absolutely right. A lot of people trying to defend these cuts are saying these extra costs in the Medicare Advantage Programs are just going to make insurance companies' profits bigger and help pay for large CEO salaries. Nothing could be further from the truth. The reality is, as the Senator from Utah already indicated, 75 percent of this 14 percent extra payment in these plans go to provide the seniors with the extra benefits we are talking about, and then 25 percent is returned to the Federal Government, not to insurance companies, not to CEOs. I have a chart. We are going to make it into a bigger one. But those who support this program say we are not cutting Medicare benefits. This chart -- I apologize it is a little bit small -- but this is a chart of the United States. It shows what is happening to the benefits of Medicare Advantage beneficiaries. As you might guess, the dark red is more than 50 percent reduction in the benefits of the people in those dark red States. In the medium red color, it is between a 25- and 50-percent reduction in coverage. The only States that do not have a reduction in coverage are the white ones. There are three or four States that are not seeing deep cuts in Medicare Advantage benefits. Those who say -- like the President who said it was one of his goals -- if you like what you have, you can keep it -- not if you live in one of the States that is not in white on this chart because your benefits will be cut. Mr. ALEXANDER. I wonder if I might ask the Senator from Idaho to go back over a point he made a moment ago because he went over it quickly and it is such an important point and one reflected by the chart behind him about what he just said. Mr. HATCH. Will the Senator yield on that point? Mr. GREGG. I do not have the floor. Mr. McCAIN. Go ahead, Senator. Mr. HATCH. The Senator has pointed out he does not believe they can afford all these programs. The Senator is not suggesting this is a game, is he? Mr. GREGG. I am suggesting it is very difficult, under any scenario, to believe this Congress is going to do anything other than spend the money that is put in this bill. It is certainly not going to end up making the reductions in Medicare it proposes in this bill. If it does make those reductions, though, I think the Senator from Utah has been absolutely right in saying those reductions should go to making the Medicare system solvent. They should not go to creating a brandnew entitlement. Mr. McCAIN. On that point I think Senator Crapo wishes to exactly emphasize the point of Senator Gregg. Mr. CRAPO. I wish to make a comment or two and then engage with the ranking member of the Budget Committee. Often people talk about driving the cost curve down. Frankly, when you talk to Americans about what they want in health care reform, the vast majority of them say the reason we need health care reform is because of the skyrocketing cost of health care and health care insurance. Those who are promoting this bill say they are bending that cost curve down. My question is which cost curve are they talking about? Is it the size of government? Are they bending the size of government growth down? No, as the Senator from New Hampshire said, they are growing government by $2.5 trillion for the first true 10-year period of the bill. Are they driving personal health care costs down? No, the CBO report we recently got said 30 percent of Americans will see their health insurance go up, and the other 70 percent will, at best, see it stay about what it is today, rising at the same levels it is today. Are they talking about the Federal deficit? The chairman of the Budget Committee has indicated to us we are going to see skyrocketing deficits. Those who claim this bill is going to reduce the deficit can say so only if they take into account all of their budget gimmicks, such as not counting the first 4 years of the spending, or the hundreds of billions of dollar of taxes that are going to be imposed on the American people, or the Medicare cuts we have been talking about. Take any one of those three out of this bill and it drives the deficit up in a skyrocketing fashion, is that not correct, Senator? Mr. GREGG. Absolutely. Mr. McCAIN. Has the Senator from New Hampshire ever heard of legislation where you pay in the first 4 years before a single benefit comes about? Nowadays I see these advertisements that you can buy a car and you don't have to make a payment for a year and then you can start making payments. In this deal it is the reverse, you make payments and then perhaps you get the benefits after some years. The Senator from Tennessee, I think, wishes to comment, too. Mr. ALEXANDER. I would direct my comment to the Senator from New Hampshire, too. The President of the United States said something a few weeks ago that I thought was profound and that I agreed with, he said this debate is not just about health care; it is about the role of the Federal Government in the everyday lives of the American people. I believe he is exactly right about that, which is why so many Americans are turning against this bill. Would the Senator from New Hampshire agree the President was correct, that this debate is about, in my words now, Washington takeovers, more taxes, more spending, and more debt? It is not just about health care. The enormous interest across the country in these votes comes from a much larger picture than this health care bill. Mr. GREGG. I think the Senator from Tennessee has once again hit the nail on the head. I respect the President's forthrightness. The President has said very simply he believes that prosperity comes from growing the government. When this bill passes we will see the largest growth in government in the history of our country. This is going to be 16 percent of our economy basically managed by the Federal Government. You are going to see the Government explode in size. Does that lead to prosperity? I don't happen to think it does. It certainly doesn't lead to prosperity if along with that massive expansion in the size of the government you are going to see your deficit go up significantly, your debt go up significantly, or the tax burden go up significantly, which reduces productivity, or if you take a large segment of our society, our seniors, 35 million today, 70 million by the year 2019, and say to them they are not going to have the ability to have a solvent Medicare system because the way that system might have been made more solvent is now being used to create a brandnew entitlement, a massive new entitlement for a whole group of people who never paid for an insurance policy and never paid into the Medicare insurance fund. I think the Senator has touched the base. We have seen automobiles, we have seen financial institutions, we have seen the student loans, and now we are seeing health care all taken over by the government or partially taken over by the government. Clearly the goal is, as the President said, expand the size of the government, create prosperity, use the European model. I don't happen to be attracted to the European model. I think the American model works better where you have a government you can afford and give entrepreneurs a chance to go out and take risks and create jobs. Mr. McCAIN. Senator Hutchison will conclude. Mrs. HUTCHISON. We have been talking about Medicare Advantage and losing this great option for lower income seniors, which is so important. I was reminded that looking at hospitals, we have not even talked about the $135 billion that would be taken out of hospitals in this bill. That is the care providers. We are talking about taking away that option in eye care and dental care and hearing aids, sort of basic things seniors need, but also undercutting the hospitals that treat them, so the care in the hospitals themselves would also have to be cut back. It does not pass common sense to cut Medicare in order to create a new big entitlement program. We have all said that Medicare is on life support anyway, everyone understands that. So you take $1/2 trillion out of a program that is working for seniors, that gives options to seniors such as Medicare Advantage, and you take away their care to pay for another entitlement program that is not specifically designed for them. I thank the Senator from Arizona and ask him to finish the comments on what is happening to this bill, this country, and our seniors. We need to stop it. Mr. McCAIN. I thank my colleagues. It has been a lot of fun. I yield the floor.