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Linder Opening Statement for Hearing on Disability Backlogs

March 24, 2009


Today’s hearing is about two things.  The first is the large backlogin Social Security and SSI disability claims, and efforts to reduceit.  That is a big problem, which we should work to fix.  The second,and in the long run more important, thing this hearing is about is theplummeting credibility of our Democrat colleagues and the supposed“solutions” they have for this country.  There seems to have beenadopted the axiom that anything that is wrong can be fixed by a biggovernment program.  We are here today talking about one that isfailing and we expect a vote this year on a government-run health caresystem that will also fail. 

I have a suggestion for our guests and viewers.  Take the pressrelease announcing today’s hearing and substitute the words “healthcare service” for “Social Security disability” wherever they appear. The title of the hearing would be “eliminating the health care servicebacklog.”  The background would discuss how “the backlog of claims forhealth care services has reached unprecedented levels.”  And the focusof the hearing would be on “the large backlog in health careservices.” 

The reality is the backlogs and ultimately rationing of servicesplaguing Social Security’s disability claims system will be repeated –or worse – in a government-run health care system.  To deny that is todeny the existence of the problems we will hear about today.  Only the“backlogs” of the future won’t just mean people don’t get disabilitychecks on time – it will mean people die waiting for treatment, orafter receiving inadequate treatment.
I ask unanimous consent to insert in the record an article publishedlast week about one hospital in England where “Between 400 and 1,200more people died than would have been expected in a three-year periodat the National Health Service (NHS) hospital.” This led Prime MinisterGordon Brown to “apologize to all those people who have suffered fromthe mistakes that have been made.”

Some mistakes.  The article notes how visitors “saw patientsdrinking out of flower vases they were so thirsty.”  I would like toremind you that about 30 years ago the British National Health Serviceapproved the use of “administrative failure” as an acceptable cause ofdeath for a death certificate.

Today’s hearing is a cautionary tale for those who think agovernment run health system will efficiently deliver medical servicesin a timely fashion.  It won’t.  If the government can’t adequatelyserve the 2.6 million Americans who annually apply for disabilitybenefits today, what makes anyone think it will provide adequate healthcare services to 300 million Americans tomorrow?
Those who trust in this Congress to allocate just the right amount ofsocial policy medicine to cure what ails us deserve the poor servicethey will surely get.

Last, let me point out that the two largest budget problems that weface as a nation are Social Security and Medicare.  Need we create more?

Will the same Congress that has, in the unanimous opinion of today’stestimony, underfunded Social Security’s disability process, begenerous with a government health care bureaucracy or its doctor,nurse, and specialist employees?  What’s the evidence of that?  Thereis none.
Proposed Insert
“Britain apologises for ‘Third World’ hospital”
AFP – March 18, 2009

LONDON (AFP) — The British government apologised Wednesday after adamning official report into a hospital likened by one patient’srelative to “a Third World” health centre.

Stafford Hospital in central England was found to have appallingstandards of care, putting patients at risk and leading to some dying,according to a report on Tuesday.

Between 400 and 1,200 more people died than would have been expectedin a three-year period at the National Health Service (NHS) hospital,according to an investigation by the Healthcare Commission watchdog.

“We do apologise to all those people who have suffered from themistakes that have been made in the Stafford Hospital,” said PrimeMinister Gordon Brown, questioned on the matter at his weekly grillingin the House of Commons.

Receptionists with no medical training were left to to assesspatients arriving at the hospital’s accident and emergency department,the report found.

Julie Bailey, whose 86-year-old mother Bella died in the hospital inNovember 2007, said she and other family members slept in a chair ather bedside for eight weeks because they were so concerned about poorcare.

“What we saw in those eight weeks will haunt us for the rest of ourlives,” said the 47-year-old. “We saw patients drinking out of flowervases they were so thirsty.

“There were patients wandering around the hospital and patientsfighting. It was continuous through the night. Patients were screamingout in pain because you just could not get pain relief.

“It was like a Third World country hospital. It was an absolute disgrace.”

The British premier, who has trumpeted huge increases in spending onthe NHS since his Labour party took office in 1997, said there were “noexcuses” for what happened to patients at the hospital.

Health Secretary Alan Johnson said: “I apologise on behalf of thegovernment and the NHS, for the pain and anguish caused to so manypatients and their families by the appalling standards of care atStafford Hospital.

“Patients will want to be absolutely certain that the quality ofcare at Stafford Hospital has been radically transformed, and inparticular, that the urgent and emergency care is administered safely,”he added.