McConnell: ‘Trust me’ is Not Enough for Health Care Reform

‘We know that some of the estimates we’re hearing about health care reform are misleading. And we also know that the administration is building up a substantial track record of its own of dubious predictions that it’s used to sell its ideas to the public’

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

“As Republicans and Democrats debate the best way to reform health care, Americans are increasingly concerned about the price tag, and about who gets stuck with the bill. The federal deficit suddenly stands at more than a trillion dollars for the time in history, and so far this year we’re spending about $500 million a day in interest alone on the national debt. It’s as if every single American gets up in the morning, walks over to the window, and tosses two dollars out into the wind — every day for the next 10 years. It’s not a bad analogy, because that’s what we’re doing. And now the advocates of a government takeover of health care are talking about spending trillions more.

“So Americans are worried about cost — and they have good reason to be.

“Not only are we in a tough situation fiscally, we have no idea how much this reform will really cost. We know from experience with government-run programs like Medicare and Medicaid that early estimates often grossly underestimate what they end up costing. We know that some of the estimates we’re hearing about health care reform are misleading. And we also know that the administration is building up a substantial track record of its own of dubious predictions that it’s used to sell its ideas to the public.

“We saw it with the stimulus. In selling one of the most expensive pieces of legislation in history, the administration said it had to be passed right away, with almost no scrutiny. If we didn’t pass it right away, they said, the economy would collapse. Here’s what the President said about the importance of passing the stimulus bill as quickly as possible: ‘If we don't act immediately, then millions more jobs will disappear, the national unemployment rates will approach double digits, more people will lose their homes and their health care, and our nation will sink into a crisis that at some point is going to be that much tougher to reverse.’

“As it turns out, the administration overpromised.

“They predicted the stimulus would keep the unemployment rate from approaching double digits. We passed the stimulus, and unemployment is now approaching double digits. It was supposed to keep millions of jobs from disappearing. We passed it, and since then we’ve lost more than two million jobs. It was supposed to save or create between three and four million jobs. We passed it, and now the administration is backpedaling on that prediction too. Now it says it’s ‘very hard to say’ how many jobs have been saved or created. The stimulus was supposed to have an immediate impact. We passed it, and it hasn’t. Despite all the predictions about its effect on the economy, the administration now says it expects unemployment to continue to rise in the months ahead.

“Now, in an attempt to pass an even costlier and far-reaching government action, a government takeover of health care, the administration is making similarly aggressive claims about the dangers of not approving its plan.

“The administration says that if we don’t pass its health care proposal then the economy will get even worse. It says that if we don’t approve its health care proposal then the quality of everyone’s health care will be jeopardized. It says that if we don’t pass this trillion dollar bill now, then we’ll miss out on a chance to save money on health care down the road.

“I don’t know if these claims are accurate, and I don’t believe the administration is making these claims in bad faith. But I do know that Americans got burned on the stimulus, and I know that some in the administration have said that a crisis is a terrible thing to waste. So at the very least, Americans have a right to be skeptical about the administration’s latest effort to rush through a major piece of legislation without allowing us to evaluate it. It’s a worthwhile question: Why does the administration say we have to send them a bill that would essentially nationalize one-sixth of the U.S. economy when many parts of the legislation itself wouldn’t even go into effect for another four years?

“Americans are right to be skeptical when administration officials say we can't fix the economy without fixing health care, or that the Democrat plan for health care won’t cause people to lose their current insurance when the CBO says it will, or that a government-run takeover of health care won’t add to the ballooning national debt. After the stimulus, Americans have a right to be skeptical about all these claims — especially when they’re told these reforms have to happen quickly — and especially when our experience with Medicare and Medicaid and government health care at the state level shows us that initial estimates and predictions can be way off the mark.

“Senator Collins, for example, has discussed the problems they’ve had in Maine as a result of its attempt to create a government-run health plan, of what a disappointment that’s been. Six years ago, Maine instituted Dirigo Health as a government option after advocates made the same promises about what it would do to bring down costs and increase access that the advocates of a nationwide government health plan are making right now in Washington.

“Yet six years later, the Dirigo experiment has turned out to be a colossal — and extremely costly — failure. Despite initial promises, it hasn’t covered most of the uninsured. And yet it’s led to higher taxes on thousands of Maine residents who were already struggling to pay for private coverage. In short: Dirigo turned out to cause the same problems in Maine that some of us are predicting for all Americans if Congress rushes to approve a national government plan.

“Americans want us to take the time necessary to make health care less expensive and more accessible, while preserving what they like about our system. Americans want health care reform, but they don’t want to give a green light to a reform that only ends up costing them more for worse care than they currently have. The fact that Americans are increasingly concerned about how much health care reform is going to cost shouldn’t be a reason to rush. It should be a reason for us to take the time to get it right.”