McConnell: Don’t Weaken Medicare in the Name of ‘Reform’

‘Rather than do the hard but necessary work to put Medicare on a sound financial footing, the administration wants to take money away from it and use it to create an entirely new government-run system that would presumably have the same fiscal problems down the road that Medicare does today. This makes no sense whatsoever’

WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell made the following remarks on the Senate floor Monday regarding the importance of getting it right on health care reform:

“Over the past several weeks, Americans have heard a number of proposals for reforming health care — and they’re increasingly concerned about many of the details.

“Americans want reform. But they want the right reform, not a reform that ends up costing them more for worse care than they already receive. Unfortunately, the government-run plan that some are proposing would be just that.

“A government-run plan could force millions of Americans to give up the care they currently have and replace it with a system in which care is denied, delayed, and rationed. Instead of increasing access and quality, it could limit access and options. It could lead us into deeper debt. And millions could very well remain uninsured.

“Americans are skeptical about all this. They don’t want to be forced to exchange the coverage they have for a government system they don’t particularly want. And some of the advocates of a government plan are beginning to sense this growing public opposition to their proposal. But rather than make their case on the merits, they’re basing their arguments on the urgency of the moment.

“We keep hearing that time is running out, that the clock on reform is about to expire, that the entire health care system and the whole economy will soon collapse without this particular reform.

“We’ve been down this road before.

“Earlier this year, we heard the same dire warnings about the stimulus. If Congress didn’t pass the stimulus, we were told, unemployment would continue to rise and the economy would continue to falter. We didn’t just have to pass it. We had to pass it right away. And the results are now coming in: higher unemployment, soaring job losses, higher debt, huge deficits, and growing fears about inflation.

“Many of us saw this coming. That’s why we proposed an alternative stimulus that wouldn’t add a trillion dollars to the debt and would have gotten to the root cause of our economic problem, which is housing. And that’s why in the debate over health care, Republicans are proposing reforms that would make health care more accessible and less expensive without destroying what people like about our health care system, and without sending the nation deeper and deeper into debt.

“Every cost estimate we’ve heard about the administration’s plans for health care is astronomical. The administration realizes this is a problem, and yet they have no good plan for covering the cost. Some of the ideas that have been floated are a series of taxes, including a tax on soft drinks.

“But even that wouldn’t come close to covering the cost. So they’ve been looking frantically for money, and the target they seem to have landed on is Medicare — the government health plan for the elderly.

“Last month, the administration proposed hundreds of billions of dollars in cuts. It said that by taking this money out of Medicare and putting it into a new government-run plan for all Americans, we could help pay for health care reform. Not only is this aimed at concealing the cost of the new government plan; it’s also a reckless misuse of funds that should be used to stabilize Medicare instead.

“Just weeks before the administration proposed its cuts to Medicare, the Government Board that oversees this vital program issued an urgent report on its looming insolvency. Already, Medicare is spending more money than it’s taking in. It runs out of money altogether in just eight years. And over the coming decades, Medicare is already committed to spend nearly $40 trillion dollars that it doesn’t have.

“If there were ever a crisis that can’t wait another day for reform, it’s Medicare. Yet rather than do the hard but necessary work to put this program on a sound financial footing, the administration wants to take money away from it and use it to create an entirely new government-run system that would presumably have the same fiscal problems down the road that Medicare does today. This makes no sense whatsoever.

“Savings from Medicare should be put back into Medicare — not a government plan that could drive millions of Americans out of the private health plans they have and like and lead to the same kind of denial, delay, and rationing of health care that we’ve seen in other countries.

“We must be committed to reform — but not a so-called reform that raids one insolvent government-run health care program in order to create another insolvent government-run health care program. The administration should be applauded for trying to fix what’s wrong with our nation’s health care system. But it needs to slow down and take a deep breath before taking over what amounts to about one-sixth of the nation’s economy with a single piece of legislation that lacks bipartisan support.

“The administration rushed ahead with a poorly-conceived stimulus plan that added a trillion dollars to the national debt and hasn’t stopped half a million Americans a month from losing their jobs. It should learn from that and not rush a poorly-conceived health care plan with money we don’t have. We don’t need more rush and spend policy making.

“We need to reform health care. But we don’t need to weaken Medicare to do it. We can reform both. But we should start with Medicare.

“At a time when Americans are increasingly concerned about the future of health care and also about a political system in which they see fewer and fewer checks on the party in power, now would be the ideal time to advance a truly bipartisan reform. The President has repeatedly expressed openness to reforming Medicare in the past. We stand ready to work with him to strengthen and preserve Medicare if he chooses to follow through on those assurances.”