|4:34 PM EST||
Chuck Grassley, R-IA
Mr. GRASSLEY. I thank Senator Dorgan. He gave a very good description just now of how careful this piece of legislation--of which I am a cosponsor--would go not only to make price transparency and price competitiveness much better for the American consumer but to guarantee the same safety we would for drugs imported as we do for drugs produced here.
I rise to speak in a generic way about this 2,074-page bill that is before us, to speak about people who have raised questions about whether this bill is or is not a first step toward a government takeover of health care. I take the position that it is definitely a first step in that direction. If you spend a little bit of time watching any of the cable news stations, you will hear someone talking about how the current health reform proposals represent a government takeover of our health care
system. The phrase ``government takeover'' has become a common talking point for people opposed to this pending bill. Unfortunately, these opponents rarely explain why this bill warrants such a claim, that it is a step toward government takeover of the entire health care system or the nationalization of health care. Supporters of these
bills don't do much better as well. These supporters dispute the claim but at the same time they seem unaware of all the new roles and responsibilities the Federal Government is taking on in this 2,074-page health care reform bill. I want to explain why I see the pending bills as a government takeover of our health care system.
I don't come to the floor to scare people or misinform them. I am more than willing to listen to different points of view. But if I am going to use the phrase ``government takeover,'' I want to make sure other Senators--and particularly my constituents in Iowa--know what I am talking about. I wish to start with the simplest example of government takeover, the government-run plan. It is sometimes referred to as the public option. This one seems to be pretty straightforward. In other words, the
government-run plan is a pretty straightforward example that people can understand the government getting more involved.
If you wonder maybe sometimes why the public at the grassroots is a little bit concerned about the takeover of health care by the Federal Government, remember that it was only a few months ago the Federal Government nationalized General Motors, as an example, and has partially nationalized individual banks and financial institutions--in a sense, taking a big step toward nationalizing the whole financial system with the Federal Reserve system's intimate involvement and the Secretary of the Treasury's
intimate involvement in a lot of decision making there or decisions that affect the entire financial system.
We are here with the prospect of building upon other things that have happened this year, having the Federal Government take over health care. The public option is one step in that direction. I see a government-run plan, whether it is an opt out, an opt in, a trigger or a straight government plan paying Medicare rates, as this country's first step toward a single-payer system. A single-payer system is a government-run system, one system for the entire country, as in Canada, without options or
choices that people have. I don't want you to take my word for it.
Let's look at a quote from Representative Jan Schakowsky of Illinois:
A public option will put the private insurance industry out of business and lead to single payer.
I have another quote by Representative Barney Frank of Massachusetts:
If we could get a good public option it could lead to single payer, and that's the best way to reach single payer.
Judging by these quotes, I would say both of these prominent Members of the Democratic party agree that the so-called public option is a first step toward government taking over our health care system. But we don't need to rely only upon sound bites. Let me explain why I see the government-run plan leading to a single-payer system. The government-run plan may start out with some rules to keep it from having an unfair advantage over private insurers. Supporters might say it is on a level playing
field with private insurers. They may say it would have to pay the same rates, form networks, and be independently solvent. But I remind people, when they hear those promises today, why something the government is doing can be competitive and not unfair competition with the private sector.
Those same kinds of promises were made during the Medicare debate way back in 1965. Supporters of the bill in 1965 promised the new government health insurance program would not interfere with the practice of medicine and would pay fair reimbursement rates. But over time, as the costs of the program exceeded projections, the government broke promises it made. The pending bills represent a government takeover of our health care system, because I believe the same thing that happened in 1965 with
Medicare, the government breaking its promises, will also happen with the so-called public option.
In fact, I want to quote from a recent Wall Street
Any policy guardrails built this year can be dismantled once the basic public option architecture is in place ..... That is what has always happened with government health programs.
Isn't that what Representative Schakowsky and Representative Frank were saying? Start in a very simple way, saying to people the private sector needs competition. Government will give that competition. But start with a government-run plan so you can end up with a single-payer system, regardless of how innocent it sounded when you first started out. Slowly but surely, the government plan would take over the market. This is just one example of why I see the pending bills as a
government takeover of our health care system. But there are others.
I wish to take a look at some health insurance reforms that are within this bill. All of these insurance reforms aren't bad as separate items. But coupled with all the bad things in the bill, it makes it difficult to sort out the good things.
For instance, I support stronger rules and regulations for private insurers. This is within the principle of the Federal Government's constitutional power to regulate interstate commerce, going way back to 1944 or 1945. The Supreme Court ruled that. Then Congress passed the McCarran-Ferguson Act and gave it right back to the States to do, where it has been basically regulated. But this bill brings a lot of that regulation back to the Federal Government. I do support some stronger rules and regulations.
Congress should make sure that people are not discriminated against because of preexisting conditions, and people should not have to stay up at night worrying about whether their insurance will be there when they get sick and need it most, just as you wouldn't want your fire insurance on your house canceled at the same time the fire starts in the house.
Those are the kinds of reforms I say are good in this bill and could get strong bipartisan support. But the pending bills go much further than creating stronger rules and regulations.
First, let's keep in mind that under current law, health insurance is primarily regulated under McCarran-Ferguson at the State level. State insurance commissioners and legislatures set most of the rules. The health reform proposals being debated in the Senate and over in the House would have the Federal Government take over these responsibilities. Under the present bills, the Federal Government, either through the Secretary of Health and Human Services, or a newly created office of health choices
commissioner, or an unelected Federal health board is going to decide what health insurance has to look like. What every health plan has to cover is what the Federal Government is going to decide.
It is not just a case of ending discrimination. It is a case of the Federal Government saying what that health insurance plan needs to look like. If your current coverage does not meet one of the bronze, silver, gold, or platinum categories set up by the Federal Government--despite the President's promise--you may not be able to keep what you have.
The Federal Government is also going to set a national standard for how much insurers can vary prices between younger and older beneficiaries. These reforms will result in drastic price increases, particularly for younger and healthier beneficiaries. This means millions of people who are expecting lower costs as a result of reform will end up paying higher premiums.
So the Federal Government will decide how much plans can charge and what benefits can be covered. To help make these decisions, the Federal Government will have a newly created comparative effectiveness research program. This program would be similar to the ones in Great Britain and other foreign governments that decide which treatments you can and cannot have.
I want everyone to understand that the principle of comparative effectiveness research in and of itself is not something I oppose because I think when it is used as a way of informing patients and providers about best practices, it is a good thing to have. But I am also worried this research could be used as a tool for government to ration care. Especially the reason for my concern is the recently passed House bill failed to include a prohibition on rationing that was in their original discussion
draft. That discussion draft of the House bill, H.R. 3200, stated that the committee should ``[e]nsure that essential benefits coverage does not lead to rationing of health care.''
But, unfortunately, that line was not included in the final bill.
Now, that makes you wonder: When everybody says comparative effectiveness research is not going to be used to ration care, then why would you object to a statement saying: ``Ensure that essential benefits coverage does not lead to rationing of health care.'' Why wouldn't that be in the bill if that is what you believe?
So under these pending bills, you have the Federal Government telling private plans how much they can charge and deciding what benefits they have to cover. Then the Federal Government is going to tell them--again, a Federal intervention in health care and a step toward more nationalization--they are not only going to tell them what benefits they have to cover, but then the Federal Government is going to tell you that you have to buy it.
Understand, as far as I know, in the 225-year history of our great country, the Federal Government has never said you had to buy anything--buy or not buy anything. They do not tell you.
Somebody is going to say: Well, the States make you buy car insurance. Well, under the 10th amendment, the States can do anything they want to that is not prohibited by the Federal Government. But the Federal Government is a government of limited power.
So you have the Federal Government saying you have to buy health insurance. But the government takeover does not stop there. The proposed bills also include the biggest expansion of the Medicaid Program since it was created in 1965. The bills force 14 million more Americans into Medicaid, even though many doctors will not see Medicaid patients. Under current law, the government already pays for about 50 percent of health care. But with the new subsidies and massive Medicaid expansion, the Federal
Government will eclipse the private market when it comes to paying for health care services.
I am sure some of my colleagues saw recently released data from the inspector general showing that about 12 percent of Medicare payments were payment errors that could be the result of fraud, waste, and abuse. It is no wonder then that Medicare is scheduled to be insolvent within the next 10 years.
Clearly, the government cannot afford or even manage the programs it [Page: S12549]
has now. But here we are debating the single largest expansion of government health care in history embodied in this 2,074-page bill.
So I would like to review why I see the current bill as a government takeover of our health care system.
First, there is a government-run plan that will drive private health plans out of business. In fact, some Democratic legislators have said publicly they see it as a first step toward a single-payer system.
Second, States will no longer be in charge of their own insurance markets. The Federal Government is going to take over the responsibility of setting premiums and defining benefits. So regardless of whether you are getting your health insurance through an employer or on your own, when you go to buy a new policy, the Federal Government is going to tell you what you can and cannot buy. If you do not buy the coverage the government has chosen for you, you could end up paying a new tax or even end
up in jail under this new intrusive health insurance mandate that is going to be enforced by the Internal Revenue Service.
Interestingly, an analysis of similar health reform legislation said the IRS would have to grow by 25 percent in order to manage all the new taxes, fees, and mandates.
By the way, I have written a letter to the Secretary of the Treasury trying to get exactly some estimate of how much money it is going to take for the IRS to administer this program, and we do not have an answer yet.
Finally, we have the single largest expansion of Medicaid since its inception. Current proposals plan to add 14 million people to the Medicaid Program--a program that States already cannot afford.
All of this begs the question then: At more than 2,000 pages, and about $2.5 trillion in spending when fully implemented, how can anyone say the pending bills do not represent a government takeover of health care? From the government-run plan, to a Federal takeover of private health insurance, to a massive expansion of Medicaid, I find it hard to call the pending bills anything else.
The American people want lower costs, higher quality, and better access. That is clear. I share these goals, but I cannot support any bill that I believe hands our private system of medicine over to a bunch of Washington bureaucrats. That is not what my constituents want, and it is not what this country needs.
I yield the floor.