U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, a member of the Senate Finance Committee, delivered his opening statement at the Finance Committee mark up of Chairman Baucus' health care reform bill. Among other remarks, Sen. Cornyn announced the findings of a report he requested from the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, which estimates that Chairman Baucus' health care proposal would have a devastating impact on Texas. It would increase Texas Medicaid costs by $20.4 billion over 10 years. Additionally, 2.5 million more Texans will end up on a government program.
Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
There is bipartisan recognition that our health care system needs reform. Health care costs have more than doubled for American families over the last decade.
Seniors are counting on Medicare - but that program is underfunded by more than three times the national debt. Medicaid imposes huge costs on state taxpayers and delivers poor outcomes to patients.
Our current government health care programs are riddled with nearly $90 billion a year in waste, fraud, and abuse.
Fear of lawsuits encourages defensive medicine - which increases America's health care bills by up to 9 percent every year.
And millions of Americans lack health insurance.
We agree on the need to fix the system - and so we should focus on common-sense solutions that we can all support:
- Making private coverage affordable to more people;
- Realigning incentives for providers to focus on value instead of volume;
- Creating incentives for patients to live healthier lives;
- And cutting waste, fraud, and abuse in our current entitlement programs.
These areas of agreement should be the foundation of a bipartisan approach. Instead, a more partisan proposal is before us today. This proposal would make many of our current problems worse.
Here are my fundamental concerns:
Continues Washington's Spending Spree
This proposal would increase government spending by $1.6 trillion over 10 years. The $856 billion price tag is misleading. When you start the clock in 2013 - the first full year of implementation - the spending goes way up. The American people are tired of government spending - and Washington continues to ignore their voices.
Increases the Costs of Private Insurance
Several studies have shown that middle class families will see higher premiums because of the new taxes in this proposal. Premiums in the individual market would go up by 10%, according to one study. Small group insurance premiums would jump by up to 15% in Ohio - and up to 25% in California - according to another study.
Takes Money Out of Medicare
This proposal takes $409 billion out of the Medicare program - which is underfunded by $38 trillion. Any "savings" found in Medicare should be dedicated to making that program solvent.
This proposal also cuts $125 billion out of Medicare Advantage - which would break President Obama's promise that Americans can keep the health plans they have.
Medicaid already imposes huge costs on state taxpayers - and crowds out education, law enforcement, etc.
The Texas Health and Human Service Commission estimates that this proposal would:
- Increase Texas Medicaid costs by more than $20 billion over 10 years;
- Expand the number of Texans on Medicaid by 2.5 million people.
Medicaid delivers poorer health outcomes than private insurance - and costs more than $30 billion a year in waste, fraud, and abuse.
New Taxes on Families and Businesses
This proposal includes nearly $350 billion in new taxes - not including the individual and employer mandates. Raising taxes is not the way to create jobs.
For individuals and families:
- The proposal imposes a new tax on those who do not abide by the individual mandate. This new tax is as much as $950 per year for an individual - and $3,800 per family.
The White House says this isn't really a tax - but if it's not a tax, than why is the IRS empowered to collect it?
- The employer "free rider" provision is a huge burden.
- One grocery chain in Texas estimates that this provision would cost them $10 million in new taxes.
Most economists agree that employer mandates have the effect of reducing wages and crippling job growth. When you put all the taxes and mandates together, the total bill over the next 20 years is more than $2 trillion - according to the Senate Budget Committee.
Defers the Tough Choices
This proposal only includes a one-year fix for physicians' payments under the Medicare program. The cost of future fixes is not included. This proposal outsources the future of our seniors health care to an unelected government board. This board could reduce access to medical care with very limited Congressional review.
Not Serious About Tort Reform
On medical liability reform, this proposal includes only a "Sense of the Senate" resolution. And that resolution is only a suggestion to states that they consider taking action.
There is no enforceable language on tort reform in the proposal.
With respect, Mr. Chairman, this proposal has major flaws. I plan to offer several amendments that will address some of those flaws. But I should be honest: this proposal taxes too much and grows government too much - and I am not optimistic that a few amendments will be able to change that.
Sen. Cornyn serves on the Finance, Judiciary, Agriculture and Budget Committees. He serves as the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee's Immigration, Refugees and Border Security subcommittee. He served previously as Texas Attorney General, Texas Supreme Court Justice, and Bexar County District Judge.