|2:49 PM EST||
Chuck Grassley, R-IA
Mr. GRASSLEY. Mr. President, I rise to speak in favor of the amendment of the Senator from New Hampshire.
Because as I have been saying, the people who wrote the excesses of the Reid bill appear willfully ignorant of what is going on in the rest of the economy outside of health care.
We are a nation facing very challenging economic times with industries in financial crisis and Federal debt increasing to all-time highs.
So we should be considering a bill that would create jobs and prevent this country from being burdened with a bigger and more unsustainable Federal budget instead of this health bill.
But instead, we are now considering a bill that cuts half a trillion dollars from the Medicare Program to fund yet another unsustainable health care entitlement program.
You have heard from Members on this side of the aisle about how flawed this approach is and how these drastic Medicare cuts will threaten beneficiary access to care.
Medicare's chief actuary at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has warned Congress in his report that these cuts could jeopardize access to health care for beneficiaries.
In fact, a number of Members on the other side of the aisle have made clear that they share our concerns when they joined us to vote in favor of motions to eliminate these cuts. [Page: S12539]
Most of the Members on the other side of the aisle, however, claim that this bill does no such thing.
They claim that Medicare money is not being used to start up yet another unsustainable entitlement program that we clearly can't afford.
They claim that the Reid bill doesn't technically change the law on guaranteed benefits for beneficiaries.
They are ignoring the fact that while those benefits may be technically guaranteed, if the cuts put health care providers out of business, then those guarantees will be nothing more than useless words in the Medicare Act.
Guaranteed benefits are not worth much without health care providers who can treat patients, provide home health services, run the hospitals and hospice agencies.
These claims are not good enough to assure seniors who have paid into the Medicare Program all these years. It is not good enough for protecting access to the health care services and benefits they were promised.
So the Gregg amendment would back up those claims with a real enforceable mechanism to ensure that Medicare savings aren't being used to fund a new program.
The Gregg amendment is needed to protect the Medicare Program.
After all, if you knew that the Medicare Program already had $37 trillion in unfunded obligations, would you be assured without an enforcement mechanism to back up those promises?
No guarantee is worth the paper it is written on without an enforcement mechanism to back it up. Otherwise, it is just a meaningless guarantee. It is not real without an enforcement mechanism.
The Gregg amendment provides that enforcement mechanism. It makes the guarantee real.
Opposition to the Gregg amendment will shine a light on the issue. If the Gregg amendment is not approved, it should be clear to everyone watching that all the guarantees they are making that Medicare is protected in the Reid bill are, in fact, worthless. As a result, I hope that everyone will be watching carefully how the other side votes on the Gregg amendment.
Now supporters of the Reid bill trumpet the fact that their drastic and permanent Medicare cuts extend the life of the program.
I agree that we can't ignore the pending insolvency of the Medicare Program.
The Medicare hospital insurance trust fund started going broke last year. In 2008, the Medicare Program began spending more out of this trust fund than it is taking in.
The Medicare trustees have been warning all of us for years that the trust fund is going broke. They now predict that it will go broke right around the corner in 2017.
But rather than work to bridge Medicare's $37 trillion in unfunded liabilities, this bill cuts half a trillion dollars from the Medicare Program to fund yet another unsustainable health care entitlement program.
By diverting Medicare resources elsewhere, this bill ignores other major problems in the Medicare Program, like fixing the physician payment flaw with the sustainable growth rate formula, or SGR as it is known.
So the few years of extended life this bill would give to the Medicare hospital insurance trust fund is a Pyrrhic victory.
Because the drastic and permanent Medicare cuts in this bill will worsen health care access and quality.
And the Reid bill leaves problems that have long been vexing Congress like the fatally flawed physician payment formula unsolved.
The Reid bill will leave Congress with few options for fixing these problems.
So the Gregg amendment is essential for protecting the Medicare Program. It is essential for making those guarantees real.
The way the Gregg amendment works to enforce those guarantees is quite simple.
The Gregg amendment would make sure that the Medicare Program is not used as a piggy bank to spend for other purposes. It would make sure that the Medicare Program is not being raided to fund this new program as the other side claims.
Under this important amendment, the director of the White House Office of Management and Budget and Medicare's chief actuary would both be required to add up non-Medicare savings in the bill and compare that total to the total of new spending and revenues in the bill.
If non-Medicare savings don't offset all the new costs, then the Treasury Secretary and the HHS Secretary would be prohibited from implementing the new spending or revenue provisions in the bill.
By doing so, the Gregg amendment would ensure that the non-Medicare savings are paying for the new spending in this bill. And it would ensure that Medicare itself is not being used to pay for the new spending in the bill.
It is that simple.
The amendment therefore would prevent massive government expansions at the expense of Medicare beneficiaries.
As you can see, this amendment has teeth. This amendment is real.
As opposed to a mere nonbinding sense of the Senate resolution that the other side has offered to pretend to protect Medicare, the Gregg amendment requires action to protect the Medicare Program.
The Gregg amendment is the enforcement mechanism for the guarantees the other side says they are making to protect Medicare benefits.
Slashing Medicare payments to start up another new unsustainable government entitlement program is not the way to address a big and unsustainable budget.
That is why I support the Gregg amendment. And I urge my colleagues to do the same.
Vote to protect Medicare.
Vote to keep Medicare from being used to fund a separate new program.
Vote to keep Medicare funds from being siphoned off.
Vote to put in place a real guarantee that Medicare funds won't be used.
Vote to back up those promises with real action.
I yield the floor.