|4:53 PM EST||
Jeff Sessions, R-AL
Mr. SESSIONS. Mr. President, I thank Senator Grassley for his leadership on this issue.
I am going to share some facts and fictions that are relevant to this bill. I think it will explain to anybody who looks at it carefully why Senator Grassley and others who hoped to be able to support this legislation are not able to support it. It is why I am not able to support it.
Supporters of this legislation promise that it will do a number of things. We are being told we should support it and vote for it. But it does not do those things that are advertised of it. I wish it did. I wish we could create something for nothing. I wish we could make these numbers balance, but they do not.
Earlier today, one of our colleagues on the other side of the aisle said: We would not do anything about hurting Medicare. We Democrats, 45 years ago, created the program, and we would not do anything to hurt it.
Well, then, we are going to have a vote. We are going to have a serious vote coming up, probably tomorrow, on the Gregg amendment. Senator Judd Gregg is one of the most knowledgeable persons in the Senate on Medicare. He has worked hard on it for a number of years. He chaired the Budget Committee when Republicans were in the majority, and now he is the ranking Republican. Everybody respects him. He has offered an amendment that would make sure we do not raid Medicare--and that is exactly what
this bill would do. If this bill does not raid Medicare, then why wouldn't everybody vote for the Gregg amendment?
We are entering a time in which we will have a defining moment. Some of my colleagues will say they voted for the Bennet amendment. As we said then, the amendment meant nothing. It did not do what they said it would do because it did not prohibit the raiding of the Medicare trust fund. But my colleagues wanted to adopt it. This is why people are angry with Congress--it was a cover amendment.
For a day or two it seemed as if the cover may have worked; that by voting for this amendment, my colleagues who are supporting this legislation could say they voted to not hurt Medicare. They could go back home and say: I voted for the Bennet amendment.
Well, the New York Times--along with anybody who takes the time to look at the amendment--said it was meaningless. And the New York Times supports the legislation. It is meaningless. It was absolutely meaningless. The amendment does not do anything, and will not protect the Medicare program.
We are going to have an opportunity to deal with that tomorrow. The numbers in this bill are not adding up. The way this bill is being financed in part is by a $465 billion raid on Medicare. Well, I am going to raise a number of issues, but I will not do them all today, so you can rest with some relaxation.
As to some of the things that are critical to whether a person can support this kind of reform, the fiction that has been stated is that the bill's net total cost is $848 billion. Well, in truth, when the bill is fully implemented, the first 10 years of full implementation costs $2.5 trillion, three times the number that their supporters claim.
How can this happen? Well, Senator Reid and whomever he selected met down the hall in secret, and they talked about the numbers, and they were worried about how to meet the president's claim that their bill would not cost more than $900 billion. They were trying to promise it would be only $848 billion, but the numbers were not adding up.
So what did they do? They delayed the implementation of the expenditures the bill promises for 5 years. So they delay the expenditures, the benefits they promised, for 5 years, but the taxes start now. That way, you can take the first 10 years of the bill, and it looks pretty good because you only have expenditures--the big expenditures--for 5 years, and you have revenue for 10. Well, this is flimflammery. It is not honest. The numbers do not add up.
If you examine the bill's costs when it is fully implemented for 10 years, it is $2.5 trillion, $2,500 billion.
So I would say, first of all, that is a fiction. The fact is that these numbers are not accurate. They did not do what they said they were going to do. The bill does not do what it promises.
No. 2, the President told us in a joint session of Congress that he will not sign a bill that adds one dime to the deficit. Well, that is pretty good. In fact, they produced this $848 billion bill, they say, that it is going to only cost $848 billion. They say, boy, give us a pat on the back. Not only is it going to be deficit neutral and not add to the debt, it is going to increase revenues by $130 billion, and we will pay down the debt. Have you heard that? We are going to pay down the debt.
But they had a number of problems. One of them was they promised to pay the doctors a reasonable fee. Under the existing law, the way it was passed in one of the budget balancing acts, doctors are set to take a 23-percent reduction in their payments in 2011 for doing Medicare work--23 percent--which we know we cannot allow to occur. Doctors will quit doing Medicare. Many of them are having difficulty continuing to see Medicare patients now. We cannot cut them 23 percent. So what did the writers
of this bill do? They increased the doctors' reimbursement for 1 year. Next year, they give them a one-half-percent increase. But in the next 9 years, their budget assumptions assume the doctors will take a 23-percent cut.
That is absolutely bogus. We are not going to cut the doctors 23 percent. We cannot do so and maintain health care in America for our seniors. And yet, that is one of the major problems with Medicare today: we are not on a sound financial basis. This bill assumes that Medicare expenditures for physicians is going to drop 23 percent in 2011 and remain at that rate--and that amounts to a $250 billion shortfall from 2011 through 2019.
So, they ask: how can we figure out how to do this, how to make this bill [Page: S12550]
deficit-neutral and less than $900 billion? We don't want to admit that our bill is not a $130 billion surplus over 10 years if we have to pay the doctors, which we are going to pay one way or the other. If we pay the doctors, it will actually be a $120 billion deficit on that issue alone. So what can they do? They came up with a budgetary gimmick. They just took physician pay
out of the health care reform package, and decided to try to pass it on the floor of the Senate, with every penny of it, $250 billion, going to the deficit--not a penny of it paid for.
So if you bring the physician pay issue back up, and add it to the health care reform bill that we are supposed to be passing, you end up at the beginning of the whole thing with a $120 billion deficit. So, to avoid that, supporters of this bill moved physician pay out of the bill and tried to pass it. A lot of the Democratic colleagues wouldn't vote for that. It failed because, out in the open before the whole world, people did not want to vote, after all of this deficit that we are imposing
on our children and grandchildren, for another $250 billion hit to the debt. How can we continue to do that? So it was voted down, thank goodness. But the problem is still there. You have to raise $494 billion in taxes to make this bill deficit-neutral. Instead of using that money to fund new entitlement programs, maybe we ought to use that tax revenue to pay for the program we have: Medicare, the one that is slipping into serious default, one in which we are not paying the doctors what we should be paying them for the work they do. If we are going to raise
taxes, maybe that is what we ought to do with the money--and not create a new entitlement benefit that is going to grow and far exceed costs projections in the years to come and further jeopardize our spending. As I think most of my colleagues are pretty well informed, under the
present spending program we will double the entire debt of the United States of America in 5 years. Then, in 10 years, we will triple it. It will go from $5.7 trillion to over $17 trillion in 10 years. We cannot keep doing this. It is unsustainable and the American people know it.
So, the cost promises of the bill are not being met. There are a lot of other points too. I would just first mention the fact that it was contended at the beginning that this reform bill ought to be able to keep us from spending so much of our gross domestic product on health care. It is a serious matter. We definitely need to wrestle with the cost of health care. It is not an easy thing to deal with. But what does this bill do? It promised it was going to do something about that. It was going
to bend the cost curve. Our cost curve on health care is currently going up, and this bill was going to bend it downward, contain the growth of health care as a percentage of the gross domestic product in America, and free up money for economic growth and jobs and other important items.
Well, does the bill do that? No, it doesn't. As Senator Thune has pointed out, and others have, health care currently is about 17 percent of our gross domestic product. Of the total wealth of America, its productivity, 17 percent goes to providing health care. If this bill is passed, it will increase to 21 percent, and that is a faster rate of increase than if we didn't pass this bill at all. That is a big deal. I thought we had a promise and a commitment that the bill would reduce the
percentage of growth there. Indeed, it will not.
There are a number of other issues that I will be talking about, including how the actual premiums for average families for insurance will be going up instead of going down as has been promised by the President and how this bill will increase the deficit and not reduce it; how it will increase the percentage of GDP to health care and not decrease it; how it will increase taxes and how it will raid Medicare, but not shore up the program. I am just going to repeat this again, because it is important:
This bill is a raid on Medicare. It cannot be disputed, in my view. The idea that we could take $465 billion out of Medicare and put it into an entirely new program without having any adverse effect on Medicare is something I don't think anybody can imagine to be true.
How did they do that, you might ask. Well, Senator Sessions, surely they thought this through. How can they say that? This is the gimmick. This is how they do it: We are not denying any ``guaranteed'' benefits under Medicare, they say. Don't worry, seniors. All your guaranteed benefits are going to be provided. Where does the $465 billion come from? Well, we are just going to cut the providers, not your benefits. We are going to cut hospitals. We are going to cut hospice. We are going
to cut home health care. We are going to cut nursing homes. We are going to cut disproportionate share hospitals that treat the poor, all of these things. We are going to cut all of these institutions and groups that provide health care, but don't worry. You will still get all of the benefits you had before. Study after study indicates that the health care providers are already operating on the margin. Health care will be savaged under this bill.
Second, if, indeed, we could save money in Medicare--and I think there are some savings there, and we need to work at it and see what we can do without breaching the promise we made to our seniors--if we could save money there, let me ask my colleagues: What would you do with the money that is saved? Would you use it to try to keep Medicare healthy, or would you create a new entitlement program with it and raid the seniors' money?
Well, that is what has happened. The savings that are from Medicare need to be kept in Medicare so that we can keep the program from going insolvent in 2017. We should use that money, those savings to help the seniors.
Remember, Medicare is funded and has been funded by people such as Bill Eberle from Huntsville, AL, who wrote me about it. He said he paid into the fund for 40 years and now he is ready to draw down benefits. He didn't get any benefit from his years of Medicare taxes until he hit 65. But now he is ready to draw, and we are considering taking his money and spending it on somebody else. He doesn't like that. He doesn't think that is right, and he is correct.
That is why I am not able to support the legislation. It doesn't do what it promised. It is going to make our health care situation worse. It is going to create greater debt at a time when our spending is already out of control.
I thank the Chair and my colleagues. I hope as this debate goes forward that we can make some improvements, although I am not confident of the direction that we are headed right now. It seems as though any significant attempt to make real progress with the bill is failing. But Senator Gregg's amendment is important. I hope my colleagues will study up on it and vote to preserve Medicare and to keep the savings that can be obtained in Medicare in the program, and not create a new entitlement.
I thank the Chair.