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John Thune, R-SD
Mr. THUNE. I think the reason we are here today is that the Ensign and Gregg amendments strike at the very crux and the very core and the very heart of what this is all about. The Democratic majority was unwilling to take on the trial lawyers, unwilling to do things that actually bend the cost curve down, such as capping contingency fees, and so now we are faced with voting on the Ensign amendment, which would do that, but we are also voting on the Gregg amendment because they weren't willing
to put actual measures in this bill that would bend the cost curve down. What they have had to resort to is cutting Medicare to pay for it. A $2.5 trillion expansion of the Federal Government has to be financed somehow, because there aren't any real cost-saving measures in here.
I point out to my colleagues that in spite of all that, this is where we are. The Congressional Budget Office says that even with the all of the Medicare cuts and all the tax increases that are in here, we actually still increase spending in this country on health care. The cost curve goes up. The blue line on this chart represents the existing cost curve if nothing is done. If we did nothing today, that is what would happen. That is the blue line. The red line represents what happens under this
bill. We actually raise the cost [Page: S12535]
curve even more. Costs for health care in this country under this legislation go up $160 billion.
How does that affect the individual family? I want to show you exactly what this means in terms that I think most Americans can understand. This is the example of a family of four who today is paying $13,000, a little over $13,000 for their health insurance. Under this bill, their life doesn't get any better. In the year 2016, they are going to be paying over $20,000 a year in health insurance. So what happens is they have locked in the status quo. And that
status quo is year over year increases, double the rate of inflation, all because they were unwilling to put measures in this bill that actually do control costs.
If we did something along the lines of the Ensign amendment, that actually would get these contingency fees under control. We all have seen the statistics. The CBO has said that would bend the cost curve down.
We have all talked to physicians in our own States. I talked last week to a physician from my State who, unsolicited, said that 50 percent of the tests he does are to avoid being sued. Fifty percent of the tests he conducts are due to defensive medicine. That drives the cost of health care up for everybody. That is why the Ensign amendment is so important.
Unfortunately, why we have to vote on the Gregg amendment is because the Gregg amendment forces the Democrats to put their money where their mouth is and to see if they mean what they say--that they want all these savings in Medicare to go into Medicare. We all know that is not true. To pay for a $2.5 trillion expansion of the Federal Government and create an entirely new entitlement, you have to take the cuts from Medicare and put them into this new entitlement program.
So we are voting on a couple of amendments today that will ensure seniors in this country are not going to be faced with cuts to their benefits--home health care, nursing homes, hospitals, all those that receive cuts in this bill--and actually try to substitute something in there that would get costs under control, and would--according to the CBO--drive the cost curve down; would do something about this year over year double the rate of inflation that the average American family is seeing.
This is what the CBO said would happen to the average American family of four if this bill passes. Today they are paying $13,000 a year--a family of four--and in the year 2016, they will be paying $20,000 a year. Tell me, how is that reform? How can anybody go to an average American family with a straight face and say they are reforming health care when all they are doing is locking in permanently year-over-year increases that are double the rate of inflation, and in some cases even going up
beyond that if you have to buy your insurance in the individual market?
I am glad the Senator from Nevada has offered this amendment. I am anxious to see how the other side votes on the amendment the Senator from New Hampshire has offered which would guarantee these Medicare savings would go back into Medicare and not be used to pay for a new government entitlement program at a cost of $2.5 trillion to the American taxpayer.