Dec 15 2009

SHELBY SLAMS HEALTH CARE REFORM LEGISLATION

U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), today on the floor of the Senate expressed his adamant opposition to the health care reform proposal currently being debated.  Shelby said that this proposal would not only fail to solve our nation’s health care problems, but would likely exacerbate them while also driving up costs and deepening our deficit. 

Excerpts of Shelby’s floor statement are immediately below in bold, followed by the full text of his prepared remarks:

“The American public is searching for common sense answers from its leaders on health care and yet they are poised to receive an expensive, wholly inadequate, and simply illogical so-called solution... 

“The public option is nothing more than socialized medicine and expanded government disguised as greater choice and thus, I am adamantly opposed to this bill…

“I do not believe that massive tax increases, a rise in the cost of health care premiums, reduced flexibility in self management of care, and cuts to seniors’ health care is what the American people have in mind  as a way to improve access and create affordable quality health care…

“Simply put, government financing means government control, and government control means less personal freedom… 

“We need a system that restores the patients and doctors as the center of every health care decision rather than the government and insurance companies… 

“I simply do not believe the American people desire or deserve what government run health care would result in – higher taxes, larger deficits, and rationed lower quality care...”


The full text of Shelby’s statement, as prepared, is as follows:

Floor Statement of Senator Richard Shelby
Tuesday, December 15, 2009


“Mr. President, I rise today in disbelief.  The American public is searching for common sense answers from its leaders on health care and yet they are poised to receive an expensive, wholly inadequate, and simply illogical so-called solution. 

“After weeks behind closed doors, the Majority has produced a bill that raises taxes, makes drastic cuts in Medicare, and increases premiums to create a new government program: the public option. 

“I believe the public option is nothing more than socialized medicine and expanded government disguised as greater choice and thus, I am adamantly opposed to this bill.

“Any legislation seeking to effectively address health care reform should have as its dual aims cutting costs and increasing access to quality care.  Amazingly, this bill does just the opposite on both counts.  This proposed legislation is not going to solve our nation’s health care problems and will likely exacerbate them.  Yet the Administration seems determined to force the health care bill on the American people – which the majority of citizens do not want or need.

“I believe we have the best health care system in the world. 

“While many have scoffed at such a suggestion, the United States has the finest doctors, first-rate treatments, cutting-edge innovation, and low wait times. 

“People come from around the world to take advantage of our revolutionary medicine and state-of-the-art treatments.  The United States develops new drugs and medical devices years before the rest of the world, and American doctors are usually pioneers of new techniques in surgery and anesthesia.

“As a cancer survivor myself, I am especially proud of the great strides the U.S. has made in screening and treating cancer.  The U.S. has one of the highest survival rates for cancer in the world, and dwarfs survival statistics in Europe.  In 2007, U.S cancer survival was 66.3 percent while Europe’s was only 47.3 percent.  I believe the answer as to where to receive treatment is clear.

“However, our current system is not perfect – and I have never said it is.  But, we must seek to build upon rather than tear down these strengths.  We need a bill that will reduce costs and improve Americans’ quality and level of care. 


“We get the exact opposite—a bill that grows big government by creating a costly new entitlement program, drives up private health care costs, and subsequently lowers overall quality and access to care.
 
“According to the Congressional Budget Office’s Long Term Budget Outlook, the coming tsunami of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid costs are projected to push the federal public debt to 320 percent of Gross Domestic Product by 2050 and over 750 percent by 2083. 

“Does anyone truly believe that this new legislation will not further add to our nation’s debt?

“When has history proven that our government can regulate more effectively than private industry, much less doing so without adding to the deficit?

“This legislation will require the federal government to someday tell our nation’s aging population they will not be able to receive their social security entitlement anymore. 

“The reason?  We simply overspent and overpromised. 

“The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the Senate Democrats’ health care proposal will cost $849 billion over ten years. 

“While Americans will be hit immediately with new taxes and government mandates, the actual services and coverage promised will not be implemented until 2014 –a clear attempt to mask the true cost of reform.  

“The proposal delays government subsidies for yet an additional year to hide the real cost of the bill and show additional ‘savings.’ 

“Mr. President, stalling implementation on a program set to run for an indefinite time horizon and calling it ‘savings’ is nothing more than a fiscal sleight-of-hand.

 “Therefore, the Senate Budget Committee estimates the true ten year cost of the proposal to be $2.5 trillion once fully implemented.

“Let me say that again, Mr. President: $2.5 trillion in its first ten years alone.

“To pay for this $2.5 trillion legislation, the government will have no choice but to raise taxes to European welfare-state levels or impose drastic restrictions on patient care.  Or, most likely, both.

“The bill includes over $493 billion in new tax increases and another $464 billion in Medicare cuts, placing the burden of reform squarely on the shoulders of the middle class, small businesses, and the elderly.

“For the middle class, the proposal is a direct hit.

“The Joint Committee on Taxation estimates that in 2019, 73 percent of the so-called ‘wealthy’ taxpayers paying the proposed excise tax on high premiums will earn less than $200,000 a year.  Mr. President, the time is now to stop heaping debt obligations on the backs of the able bodied.

“The proposed tax on so-called ‘Cadillac plans,’ – plans with high annual premiums – will not only be passed on to the consumer through higher premiums, but will creep its way into the lives of many middle class Americans.  

“Mrs. Melanie Howard, of Pelham, Alabama, raised this point when discussing the idea of who actually receives ‘Cadillac’ health care.  Mrs. Howard spoke of the small nonprofit where she worked, which had to raise premium prices to offset a few workers who were battling cancer.  In effect, she was paying for a ‘Cadillac’ but still getting a ‘basic car.’  Because the tax is based on cost of coverage and not quality and breadth of coverage, many Americans could fall into this category.  It is a simple actuarial fact that smaller risk pools result in higher premiums.  Thus, small businesses,   such as Mrs. Howard’s employer, are naturally going to bear the brunt of this ill conceived ‘Cadillac’ health insurance tax.

“Mr. President, as taxes increase to pay for the public option, so does the cost of premiums on health care plans.  The Congressional Budget Office analysis on premium impacts estimates that family premiums would increase 28 percent — from $11,000 per family to over $14,000 per family by 2019.  This is more than a $3,000 increase per family. 

“The bill imposes $28 billion in new taxes on employers who do not provide government approved health plans and it charges a penalty of $750 per uninsured individual– a form of double taxation.

“Furthermore, any opportunity to allow individuals to self manage their care and plan for future health care costs has been eradicated from the proposal. 

“Flexible Spending Accounts help individuals and families pay for out-of-pocket medical expenses that are not covered by their health insurance plans with tax-free dollars.

“They are particularly important for individuals and families who have high medical expenses, such as seniors, and those with chronic health conditions or disabilities. 

“The current proposal will not only limit allowable Flexible Spending Account contributions, but the limit is not indexed for inflation, which means that the inflation adjusted or ‘real’ value of a Flexible Spending Account will decline steadily over time until virtually worthless.

“Mr. President, what is also truly concerning about the current legislation is the massive reduction in care our seniors will face under this legislation.  The proposal includes nearly $120 billion in cuts to Medicare Advantage; nearly $135 billion in Medicare cuts for hospitals that care for seniors; more than $42 billion in cuts from home health agencies; and nearly $8 billion in cuts from hospices.

“This nearly half-trillion dollars in Medicare reductions simply must result  in vast reductions in the quality of seniors’ care.

“I do not believe massive tax increases, a rise in the cost of health care premiums, reduced flexibility in self management of care, and cuts to seniors’ health care is what the American people have in mind as a way to improve access and create affordable quality health care.

“Mr. President, we have already seen how this legislation will significantly increase costs and reduce coverage of care. 

“Let’s now turn our attention to the quality of care, because there is indeed a big difference between government run health care coverage and actual access to medical care. 

“As Margaret Thatcher once said, ‘The problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money to spend.’  Medical rationing is inevitable under government-run health care. 

“Supporters of government-run medicine often cite Canada or Great Britain as models for the U.S. to follow, yet medical rationing, such as is common in these countries, is inevitable under a government-run health care system. 

“These countries are forced to ration care or have long waiting lists for medical treatment that lead to the same result. 

“More than 750,000 Britons are currently awaiting admission to the National Health Service hospitals. 

“Last year, over half of Britons were forced to wait more than 18 weeks for care.  The Fraser Institute, an independent Canadian research organization, reported in 2008 that the average wait time for a Canadian awaiting surgery or other medical treatment was 17.3 weeks, an increase of 86 percent since 1983.  Access to a waiting list is not access to health care. 

“A study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development showed that the number of CT scanners per million in population was 7.5 in Britain, 11.2 in Canada, and 32.2 in the United States. 

“For Magnetic Resonance Imagining – MRIs – there was an average of 5.4 MRIs per million in population in Britain, 5.5 million in Canada, and 26.6 in the United States.  Government-run health care will undermine patients’ choice of care.

“Citizens in these countries are told by government bureaucrats what health care treatments they are eligible to receive and when they can receive them. 

“Americans need to understand that all countries with socialized medicine ration health care by forcing their citizens to wait in lines to receive scarce treatments.

“Simply put, government financing means government control, and government control means less personal freedom. 

“While we need to enact reforms to our health care system that will reduce costs and improve access,       our nation cannot withstand the deep deficits this colossal health care entitlement program would create. 

“Instead, we need a system that restores the patients and doctors as the center of every health care decision rather than the government and insurance companies. 

“By making insurance portable, expanding health savings accounts, reducing frivolous lawsuits, emphasizing preventive care, reducing administrative costs, and making insurance more affordable to small business and individuals, we can efficiently decrease the costs that currently burden Americans while expanding coverage.  The result is improved quality and affordable care.

“Mr. President, it appears that no matter how many thousands of letters my office receives asking Congress to stop this legislation, this Administration is determined to pass something  – anything– no matter what the cost or how damaging the result.  The latest CNN poll shows that 64% of Americans oppose health care reform, and the Associated Press reports over 60% of Americans are against this reform.  It has been said that we would be committing senatorial malpractice.

“I simply do not believe the American people desire or deserve what government run health care would result in – higher taxes, larger deficits, and rationed lower quality care.

“Mr. President, the health of the nation will not be helped by risking our nation’s financial well being.

“It has been said, ‘if you think health care is expensive now, wait until it is free.’ 

“Mr. President, I yield the floor.”