12:39 PM EST
Bill Nelson, D-FL

Mr. NELSON of Florida. Mr. President, I wish to speak on the bill and, in part, respond to the minority leader. At the end of the day, why are we staying around the clock discussing this bill with the intent that we are going to pass the bill? It is simply that we cannot continue as we are. We are in a system whereby insurance is not solving the Nation's health needs.

All you have to do is talk to a doctor. If they haven't already pulled their hair out, they are about to, in that when they want to give a certain treatment to a patient, they feel like they have to negotiate with the insurance company. In fact, the insurance company often is dictating to them what treatment and what drugs they can or cannot use or look at the simple little cases we hear about.

They are absolutely simple cases but end up with catastrophic results because someone is in the middle of a treatment for something and then they get a notice that their insurance company is going to cancel them or, perhaps, they have lost their job and they are desperately trying to get health insurance again and an insurance company uses, as an excuse, that they had a preexisting condition. It may be a flimsy excuse. I gave the example yesterday of a reason for denial being something as silly

as a skin rash as a preexisting condition and so they can't get health insurance now on their own. We have a system that is out of control.

We hear a lot about cost out here. We hear a lot about cost. Indeed, if we don't do something about the cost of health care, none of our people are going to be able to afford it. Talk to corporate America and the CEOs and listen to them as they describe what the insurance companies are saying to them and how they are jacking up their rates on their employer-sponsored group policies. Please, pray that you are not an individual who can't get a group policy and you are having to go out there and

try to find an individual policy because the likelihood is you are not going to be able to afford it.

So cost is a critical factor. It is a factor also to the Government because the U.S. Government cannot afford the cost of Medicare as it keeps exploding into the future. We have to bring these costs under control. When you mix that in with the horror stories that we hear of the 46 million people who don't have health insurance but who, when they get sick, end up in the emergency room, we know they are getting that care at the most expensive place while the rest of us pay. That is a hidden tax.

On average, in this Nation, that hidden tax is $1,000 per family's health insurance policy. I can tell you, in my State of Florida it is even higher. It is $1,400. In Florida, a family with a group [Page: S12525]

insurance policy is paying $1,400 more per year to take care of those folks who do not have insurance but end up getting sick, and that bill is paid by everybody else.

What I have described is a system that is in tilt. It is not working. The whole purpose of this bill is to try to make it work so, No. 1, it is affordable; No. 2, that health insurance is available. At the end of the day, we are going to pass it. At the end of the day, poor old Harry Reid, our majority leader, is going to figure out a way to get 60 of us to come down here to shut off the filibuster so we can go to final passage and get it down to a conference committee in the House.

At the end of the day, after that conference committee comes back, we are going to get those 60 votes again because this is so desperately needed, despite all the supposed arguments we hear from the other side.

Can this product be improved? Of course it can. I certainly wish to share, as I did in the Finance Committee, an amendment that would cause the pharmaceutical industry to come up with some more money.

They have made a pledge, to their credit. Let me just say that Billy Tauzin, the head of the pharmaceutical association, is smart. He knows what he is doing, and he is trying to play ball with the leadership and the White House. I want the pharmaceutical industry to know this Senator appreciates that because with everybody else, such as the insurance industry, trying to kill it deader than a doornail, at least they are helping. But the pharmaceutical industry said they were coming forth with

$80 billion over 10 years that they were going to contribute. The hospital industry said they were going to contribute about $150 billion over 10 years, and so forth. But, in fact, the pharmaceutical industry is not contributing $80 billion.

Here is a Morgan Stanley analysis for investors of pharmaceutical stocks. This is their analysis of what is going to happen to the pharmaceutical industry in the future. Morgan Stanley has said these guys are so smart, they are not contributing $80 billion. They are contributing only $22 billion. Why? Because when they say they are going to contribute discounts to allow half of this so-called doughnut hole to be filled, that means there is going to be a lot more drugs sold.

Oh, by the way, the bill takes Medicaid from 100 percent to 133 percent. That is going to mean a lot more drugs sold as a result of this bill.

So the real loss, or contribution, if you will, of the pharmaceutical industry is $22 billion over 10 years, not $80 billion. That does not even include--remember, they just raised their prices 9 percent, three times the rate of inflation. So they are going to make up a lot of that anyway.

What I want to plead with the leadership in the White House and the leadership of the pharmaceutical industry--come back to your $80 billion real figure over 10 years. One way to get there is the amendment I offered in the Finance Committee that was rejected on a narrow vote of 13 to 10. Out here on the floor it is my intention to offer that amendment. I filed it. It would produce, according to the CBO, $106 billion of taxpayer fund savings over 10 years because the discounts would have to be

there for the Medicaid recipients who are entitled to discounts, but now, since they buy their drugs through Medicare, they can't get those discounts. That is because we changed the law 6 years ago in the prescription drug benefit. That is just simply not right.

I am not out here to try to punish anybody. I am out here to try to make this work and to get 60 votes so we can go to final passage. But everybody has to do their part. Everybody has to contribute for their part.

I look forward to the future discussions as we close in on what probably is going to end up being the final passage of this, probably a week or 8 days down the road.