McConnell: Not All Reforms Are Created Equal

‘Americans want reform. But higher premiums, higher taxes, and cutting Medicare is not reform’

WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell made the following remarks on the Senate floor Thursday regarding the Democrats’ health care reform proposal which will cut $500 billion from Medicare:

“From the very outset of the debate over health care, Americans have made it known that they support reform. But over the course of the past several months, Americans have come to realize that not all reforms are created equal.

“And while they still support reform, very few of them support the specific proposals they’ve seen from Democrats in Washington. Americans want reform. But higher premiums, higher taxes, and cutting Medicare is not reform.

“Somewhere along the way, the terms of the debate shifted.

“At the outset, nobody expected that reform would lead to higher premiums. In fact, most people thought the whole point was to reduce costs, not raise them.

“At the outset of this debate, nobody expected they’d be paying higher taxes, particularly in the midst of the worst recession in generations. Yet that’s exactly what they’re now being told – that middle class Americans will take the brunt of a whole slew of new taxes to pay for a trillion dollar experiment with our health care system.

“And, at the outset of this debate, seniors had no idea they’d be asked to help foot the bill for this massive experiment in government health care through cuts to Medicare. Yet that’s precisely what they’re now being told – that Medicare will be cut by half a trillion dollars, whether the 40 million seniors who depend on it like it or not.

“Let’s focus for a moment on those Medicare cuts.

“For months, Americans have been hearing that if they like the health care plans they have, they’ll be able to keep them. Evidently, that pledge didn’t apply to the millions of seniors currently enrolled in the popular Medicare Advantage program, because the Finance Committee bill explicitly calls for more than $130 billion in cuts to Medicare Advantage, cuts that will undoubtedly alter the plans that more than 11 million seniors on Medicare Advantage now enjoy.

“These cuts might lead to fewer benefits; or they might force seniors off their plans altogether. But, under either scenario, seniors would no longer enjoy the plans they have and like. No one expected that at the outset of this debate.

“And this is just a fraction of the Medicare cuts that the Finance Committee calls for as the cost of reform. Other cuts include more than $120 billion in cuts to hospitals that care for seniors. The Kentucky Hospital Association warned earlier this year that these kinds of cuts would affect the services hospitals provide in my state. I’m sure if my colleagues talked to doctors and hospitals back home, they’d hear the same.

“Then there’s more than $40 billion in cuts to Home Health agencies, which give seniors the option of receiving care in their homes.

“The bill also takes another $15 billion in cuts to nursing homes, which care for seniors who can no longer be cared for at home. “And then there’s nearly $8 billion in cuts to hospice care.

“Nobody expected a free lunch when it came to health care reform. But no one expected this either. Americans are doing the cost-benefit analysis, and they don’t think half a trillion dollars in cuts to Medicare is an acceptable tradeoff, especially since none of these cuts would do anything to strengthen and protect Medicare.

“It would be one thing if Medicare reforms were used to ensure its solvency for future generations. But, the proposals we’ve seen do nothing of the sort. Instead, they use Medicare as a piggy bank to create another government program that will undoubtedly face the same financial stresses that we see in Medicare and in just about every other entitlement program.

“The President thought this was a bad idea on the campaign trail. It’s still a bad idea today.

“Americans know the dangers of holding off on Medicare reform. When Medicare Part A was created in 1965, it was projected to spend out $9.1 billion on hospital services and related administration in 1990. As it turned out, costs that year were more than seven times the original estimates. Forty-four years after its creation, Medicare is already paying out more money than it’s taking in. It’s already committed to spend nearly $40 trillion it doesn’t have. And current forecasts indicate that Medicare will face bankruptcy in less than a decade.

“It’s time to restore this vital program for the sake of our seniors, not raid it to pay for a massive government-driven experiment that could make our health care worse.

“The American people want reform. But higher premiums, higher taxes, and cutting Medicare, that’s not reform. That’s why they overwhelmingly oppose this proposal, and they shouldn’t have to apologize for it. They should expect Congress to listen to them, and keep up the pressure until Congress listens.”