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Camp Opening Statement: Hearing on Health Reform in the 21st Century

April 22, 2009
(Remarks as Prepared)

Thank you for yielding, Mr. Chairman.

Last night I conducted a telephone town hall with my constituents in Northern Michigan about health care reform and I want to begin by sharing the concerns of one of the many people I spoke to.  This is what she told me:

“We are a small business and of course we pay very high rates for our medical insurance…I am concerned because I am a 44 year old woman that is scheduled for surgery on Friday, and it’s a bad surgery.  I guess I am worried that the government or socialized health care or anything that Canada does – I mean the people that support those types of programs I have to wonder, I have to ask: have they ever been through months and months of doctors and testing and wondering whether or not you’re going to be chosen for surgery, chosen to live?  I don’t want to be one of those ‘choices.’  We choose to pay for our health plan.  It’s not perfect. We don’t get a lot.  We have a high deductible. I’ll be honest: I am terrified.  I don’t know how we are going to pay for our medical costs we are racking up right now, but I choose to live.  We have to do it.  There is no other choice…”

Mr. Chairman, there ought to be a choice, and it is up to you and me, the Members of this Committee, our colleagues in the Senate and the President to come up with that choice.  The time for comprehensive reform is overdue.  I am committed to making it a reality this year.

In the press advisory announcing today’s hearing, Mr. Chairman, you issued a quote that reads:

“America’s health insurance market is dysfunctional. This is evident by the 87 million people who went without health insurance during the past two years and the millions more who have insurance that is increasingly unaffordable or inadequate.  I am pleased to hold this hearing to examine the problems in our health insurance market and explore long-term solutions for reform.”

Well said.  I’d like you to know, the Committee Members to know, our witnesses and those in the audience to know that is a statement I would put my name to any day of the week, and, yes, twice on Sunday.

The individual health insurance market is dysfunctional and costs – for families, small business and taxpayers – are far too high.  It says a great deal that Americans, such as the woman I spoke to last night, are willing to pay these exorbitant costs and are still left with a mountain of bills.  It says even more that having the federal government dictate their health care decisions scares them even more than, well, “bad surgery.”

I am confident we can work together on this issue, and I hope we begin to do just that.

Health insurance must be portable – that is: if you change your job or lose your job, you should not lose your health insurance.  Transparency is critical both on the pricing side as well as the quality side.  We must address pre-existing conditions and we must make health insurance more accessible and affordable.  On these issues, and many others, we agree. 

The American people want results with regard to health care reform, but they want the right results.

As we meet, our Senate colleagues are working collaboratively and in a bipartisan manner to produce comprehensive health care reform.  I would like you and me to do the same.  It is time for our staffs to start meeting, and, more importantly, start negotiating.  If we do so, I see no reason why we cannot solve this problem in the coming months.  If we do not do so, I fear the debate will disintegrate into familiar – though not necessarily partisan – arguments that have prevented comprehensive reform from becoming a reality.

So, Mr. Chairman, I propose we start this hearing and we start talking, our staffs start talking, and, more importantly, we start writing a bill that will give every American access to quality, affordable health care.

With that, I yield back the balance of my time. 

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.



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