McConnell: Americans Want Real Reform

‘What Americans want is for health care to be affordable and accessible. What some in Washington are offering instead is a plan to take away the care that people already have, care that the vast majority of them are perfectly satisfied with, and to replace it with a system in which care and treatment will be either delayed or denied’

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:

“When it comes to health care, Americans are looking to Washington for real reform. Americans are rightly frustrated with the ever-increasing cost of health care and many are concerned about losing the care they have. Americans also believe that in a nation as prosperous as ours, no one should go without the health care they need. All of us agree that reform is necessary, that we must do something to address the concerns Americans have on this issue. The only question is: What kind of reform will we deliver?

“Will we deliver a so-called reform that destroys what people like about the care they have? Or will we deliver a reform that preserves what’s good even as we solve the problems that all of us acknowledge and want to address?

“Unfortunately, some of the proposals that have been coming out of Washington in recent weeks are giving Americans reason to be concerned. Americans have witnessed the government take over banks, insurance companies, and major parts of the auto industry. They’re concerned about the consequences. Now they’re concerned about a government takeover of health care — and for good reason.

“What Americans want is for health care to be affordable and accessible. What some in Washington are offering instead is a plan to take away the care that people already have, care that the vast majority of them are perfectly satisfied with, and to replace it with a system in which care and treatment will be either delayed or denied.

“Last week, I offered some examples of real people in Britain and Canada who were denied urgent medical treatment or necessary drugs under the kind of government-run system that those two countries have and that many in Washington would now like to impose on Americans, whether the American people like it or not. This afternoon, I’d like to describe how government-run health care systems like the one in Canada not only deny, but also delay care for weeks, months and even years.

“By focusing on just one hospital in one city in Canada — Kingston General, in the city of Kingston, Ontario — we can get a glimpse of the effect that government-run health care has on everyday Canadians, and the long waits they routinely endure for necessary care.

“Now, I have no doubt that the politicians in Canada never intended for the people of that country to see their health care denied or delayed. I’m sure the intention was to make health care even more accessible and affordable than it was. But as we’ve seen so many times in our own country, government solutions have a tendency to create barriers instead of bridges. The unintended consequence becomes the norm. That’s what happened in Canada. And Americans are concerned it will happen here too.

“A medium-sized city of about 115,000, Kingston, Ontario, has about the same number of residents as Lansing, Michigan, to its South. But while it’s not uncommon for Americans to receive medical treatment within days of a serious diagnosis, at Kingston General Hospital, wait times can be staggering.

“Take hip replacement surgery, for example. A couple years ago, the wait time for hip replacement surgery at Kingston General was almost two years. Well, a lot of people were understandably unhappy with the fact that they had to wait more than a year and a half between the time a doctor said they needed a new hip and the surgery to get it. So the government worked to shorten the wait. Today, the average wait time for the same surgery at the same hospital is about 196 days. Apparently in Canada, the prospect of waiting six months for hip surgery is considered progress.

“That’s hip replacement surgery. What about knee replacements? Well, at Kingston General, the average wait time is 340 days, or almost a year from the moment that the doctor says you need a new knee. How about brain cancer? In Ontario, the target wait time for brain cancer surgery is nearly three months; same for breast cancer and prostate cancer. And for cardiac bypass surgery, patients in Ontario are told they may have to wait six months for a surgery that Americans can often get right away.

“The patients at Kingston General Hospital in Kingston, Ontario, have been understandably unhappy with all the waiting they have to do. Fran Tooley was one of them.

“Two years ago, Fran herniated three disks in her back, and was told that it would be at least a year before she could consult a neurosurgeon about her injury, which had left her in constant pain and unable to sit or stand for more than a half-hour at a time.

“According to a story in the Kingston Whig-Standard, Fran’s doctor referred her to a neurosurgeon after an MRI scan showed the herniated disks were affecting the nerves in her legs. The story went on to say that patients in Ontario can be forced to wait for up to two years, and sometimes even longer, for tests, appointments with specialists, or even urgent surgery.

“Americans don’t want to end up like Fran Tooley. They like being able to get the care they need, when they need it. They don’t want to be forced to give up their private health plans or be pushed onto a government plan that threatens their choices and the quality of their care. They don’t want to wait years for surgery that their doctors say they need right away. And they don’t want to be told they’re too old for surgery or that a drug they need is too expensive. But all of these things could be headed our way.

“Americans want health care reform. But they don’t want reform that forces them onto a government plan and replaces the freedoms and choices they now enjoy with bureaucratic hassles, hours spent on hold, and surgeries and treatments being denied and delayed. They don’t want a remote bureaucrat in Washington making life and death decisions for them or their loved ones. But if we enact a government-run plan, that’s precisely what Americans can expect.”