Bunning's Finance Committee Opening Statement On Health Care Reform

Mr. Chairman, I think everyone agrees that Congress needs to look at ways to reform our health care system.  Too many Americans are uninsured, underinsured or cannot afford the health insurance they have.

            Reforming health care – which amounts to over 17% of our economy – is no easy task, and it is process that should not be rushed.  Health care reform will likely touch every American – through changes in their own personal health care policies and through having to pay higher prices for insurance policies, medical devices and prescription drugs.

              Unfortunately, I will not be able to support the health reform bill the Committee is considering today.  I’ll take a minute to lay out my chief concerns.

            I do not support a government takeover of our health care system – just like I didn’t support a government takeover of our banks and auto industries.  The CO-OPs in this bill are unnecessary to reforming our health care system, and they run the risk of leading to a national health care system based out of Washington, D.C.

            I do not support the provisions in the bill that require every American to buy health insurance or pay a tax.  These provisions trample on the freedom of Americans, and I cannot support this.  It seems to me that there are better ways to increase the number of Americans with insurance without resorting to these extreme measures.

             I have concerns about using cuts to the Medicare program to help fund health reform legislation.  Medicare will be broke in 2017, and our focus should be on improving the solvency of this program – not diverting money from it. 

            I also have concerns that this bill costs $774 billion, but leaves 25 million people uninsured – with only about one-third of them being illegal immigrants.  If I remember correctly, covering the uninsured was one of the main reasons Congress needed to tackle health care reform.  This bill falls short of meeting that goal.

            I am also deeply concerned by the tax increases in this bill, most of which break the President’s promises to the American people.  Let’s review those promises.

            First, he promised that individuals who make less than $200,000 and families earning less than $250,000 will not pay more in taxes.  Nearly every tax increase in this bill will affect families who earn less than that.  And I was stunned when I heard the President say this past weekend that the individual mandate – which is an amendment to the tax code and is specifically called an excise tax in the Chairman’s Mark – is not really a tax.  Perhaps we should change the name of the tax code to the “shared responsibility” code so we aren’t really imposing taxes on the American people.

            A second promise the President made was that if you like the health coverage you have, you can keep it.  Under the tax increases in this bill, health flexible spending accounts and health reimbursement accounts will likely disappear because of the high-cost plan tax.  And under another provision, taxpayers will lose health coverage that allows them tax relief for the cost of over-the-counter medicine.

            When the President spoke to a joint session of Congress, he made a third remarkable promise – that health reform would decrease health care costs for government, businesses and individuals.  We already know that the tax increases in this bill will drive up out-of-pocket health care costs for individuals and make the insurance policies employers offer more expensive.  And the government will be spending more – not less – on health care.  The fact that the Chairman’s Mark confiscates more money from taxpayers and shifts costs to consumers in order to make the government books balance does not change the fact that government will be spending more on health care than it would under current law.  We will all be spending more.

              Health care reform is needed.  I don’t think many people think it’s not.  But this bill is moving us in the wrong direction.  It puts too much control in Washington, D.C., tramples on American freedom and liberty, and raises taxes.

            Honestly, Congress needs to listen to the American public, take a step back, and start this whole process over.

            This issue is too important for us to get it wrong.