Wicker: Targeted Health Care Reform, Not Massive New Debt

“I want a plan that … actually saves money for the American economy. … Not one that proposes to spend another one, two, or three trillion dollars that we’ll have to borrow from our children and great-grandchildren.”

July 13, 2009

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., today continued his call for responsible health care reform by delivering the following remarks on the Senate floor: 

“As more and more Americans become familiar with the details of the Democrats' proposals for a Washington takeover of our health care system, the wheels are beginning to fall off.  And for good reason.  It's no longer just the Republicans who are sounding the alarm, it is Independents and centrist Democrats who are showing genuine concern. 
“We still do not have a good answer about the costs of the two major Senate proposals -- one from the Finance Committee and the other from the HELP committee -- but we do know they will be enormously expensive once they are finally scored.   There is also the House proposal from Speaker Pelosi and Chairman Waxman, which is believed to cost one trillion dollars, over a ten year period.
“One great aspect of our representative democracy here in the United States is that elected officials still listen to the people who sent us here.  Even senators with six-year terms go back to their respective states often and have their fingers on the pulse of public opinion.  What they heard over the recent Independence Day break was alarm about the amount of money the federal government is spending in such a short period of time and the monstrous debt we are incurring.  We also heard from the voters  -- we heard from the taxpayers -- that they are concerned over the direction health care legislation is heading. 

“A recent CNN poll found that a broad majority of Americans have concluded that their health care costs would go up – not down – under the Democrats’ plan.  The poll found that 54 percent say their medical insurance costs will increase if the Democrat plan is adopted, while only 17 percent feel their costs will decrease.  Only 1 in 5 said their family would be better off if the Democrats’ reforms are enacted.

“This lack of enthusiasm for Democrats’ plans isn’t just driven by partisan opposition.  A recent Rasmussen survey found skepticism is also high among Independent voters, with a plurality, some 39 percent of those not affiliated with either party, strongly opposed to the Democrats’ plan. 
“I want health care reform enacted this year.  As a matter fact, I wanted health care reform enacted in the last Congress.  But I want a plan that is closer to President’s Obama campaign promises of last year -- one that allows Americans to keep their insurance plans if they are satisfied with them and one that actually saves money for the American economy.  Last year candidate-Obama stated that the United States is spending too much money on medical care and he vowed to put forth a plan to save money.  I want to see that proposal.  I want to see a proposal that will save money -- not one that would spend another one, two, or three trillion dollars that we don’t have and will have to borrow from our grandchildren and our great-grandchildren.
“And I hope my colleagues from the other side of the aisle will not characterize these legitimate concerns as ‘scare tactics.’  The figures that have Americans frightened are ones published from the Congressional Budget Office, not from some right-of-center think tank here in Washington, D.C.
“In addition, the suggestions about how to pay for this gigantic scheme for a federal takeover are just as troubling.  The Kennedy bill, for example, includes $58 billion in new taxes on workers that would be imposed to create a government insurance program for long-term care.  The bill also includes an additional $36 billion in penalties on individuals for not purchasing a government-approved health coverage policy.  Another $52 billion would come from new taxes on employers.   The House is considering a $540 billion proposal to place a one to three percent surtax on small businesses.  There also are plans to tax beverages that contain sugar and proposals to place payroll taxes on capital gains earnings. 

“And all of these tax increases would come during a recession and would still not be enough.  There will have to be hundreds of billions of dollars in cuts to the Medicare program.  In essence, to finance this scheme we will have to agree to tax workers, we will have to agree to tax job creators, and to cut benefits for senior citizens.

“Two opinion pieces from The Washington Post last Friday provide clear evidence of honest concerns over the way the Democratic legislation is heading.  In its own editorial, The Washington Post -- hardly a right-wing publication -- noted ‘discouraging developments on Capitol Hill.’  Among other things, The Washington Post expressed disagreement over the Democrats' continued insistence on a public option.  The editorial went on to say, ‘restructuring the health-care system is risky enough that the Democrats would be wise not to try to accomplish it entirely on their own.’  This is sound advice from a leading newspaper that endorsed Senator Obama when he was running for president last year.

“In another op-ed on the same topic, columnist Michael Kinsley points out that ‘people, even liberals, are starting to get unnerved by the cost of all this.’  He cites two risks for health care reform: One is that it won’t pass and an opportunity will be lost.  The second is that if it passes, it won’t work.  And I ask my colleagues this: if we pass a trillion dollar or a three trillion dollar plan that doesn’t work, how will we reverse that mistake?  How will we get the genie back in the bottle?  Mr. Kinsley rightly urges the president to slow things down on health care reform in order to get it right.

“Mr. Kinsley goes on to suggest that the president not try for a total overhaul of health care but instead seek smaller successes or ‘low-hanging fruit.’  He advocates medical malpractice reform, outcomes research, and eliminating paperwork and waste as a starting position.  I believe such an approach is sound and could be on the president’s desk by the end of September.

“When Michael Kinsley and The Washington Post editorial board begin asking advocates of an enormous Washington takeover to pause and reflect, I submit it is time for all Americans -- from the left, from the right and from the political center-- to sit up and take notice.

“The good news from these developments is this: we now have a better opportunity for health care reform that doesn’t break the bank.  I hope the congressional leadership will go back to the drawing board and write a targeted bill that addresses the real problems such as coverage for the uninsured. 

“Congress should listen to Michael Kinsley, Congress should listen to The Washington Post editorial board and the growing chorus of concerns and develop a plan that makes health care more portable, more affordable, and more accessible.”