Mr. Chairman, you and I have been here before, we were sitting in different chairs back in 1994, but we were both here attempting to improve the nation’s health care system.
And, while we are still here attempting to improve the nation’s health care system, much more than our seats on the dais have changed.
In 1994, as we debated health care reform, the full Ways and Means Committee spent 17 days over six weeks conducting our markup. This year, our markup will last a day – maybe two at most.
More importantly, in 1994, the Ways and Means Committee held a dozen hearings (eight at Subcommittee, four at full Committee) on the bill after its introduction – not counting the 32 additional hearings the full Committee and two of its Subcommittees held before the Clinton bill was formally introduced.
We held one hearing on the bill before us, however not one of the witnesses were able to speak knowledgably about the provisions in the bill because they were only given a couple of days to digest it.
It is also worth pointing out that the Committee refused to act on the Clinton bill until nearly three months after the Congressional Budget Office released a comprehensive, 104-page analysis and score.
I have a copy of that analysis and it is still available online. We have no such analysis of the bill before us. What we have is a rough guess-timate based on specifications as outlined by the Majority, not on actual legislative text.
As Director Elmendorf wrote to you earlier this week:
“It is important to note, however, that [the] estimates are based on specifications provided by the tri-committee group rather than an analysis of the language released [this week]. For that reason and others outlined below, those figures do not represent a formal or complete cost estimate for the coverage provisions of the draft legislation.”
We cannot afford to guess when it comes to health care. This is not some think-tank experiment; these are people’s lives, people’s jobs we are talking about. Frankly, the Speaker’s timeline endangers not only the health of all Americans, but the health of our economy. This committee has no business marking up a bill of which CBO cannot tell us its cost or impacts.
What we do know is that Democrat staff told the Associated Press that this bill will spend at least $1.5 trillion. Let me repeat that, at least $1.5 trillion. And it will create a massive, long-term, unfunded mandate that imperils the future of this nation.
Worse yet, this bill contains $820 billion in new taxes that will be paid for by families making as little as $20,000, small businesses, and manufacturers – all while we are in the midst of a recession.
It taxes health care premiums, it taxes jobs, and it taxes wages.
The unemployment rate is reaching 10 percent and the employer mandate alone will cost millions of jobs, making it harder for businesses, especially small ones, to hire new workers or increase wages.
The National Retail Federation, which represents one in five American workers, strongly opposes this bill, as does the National Federation of Independent Business, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the National Association of Manufacturers.
The American people also oppose this bill. And it should come as no surprise that in the past weeks we have seen different public polls showing opposition to this plan grows daily as more details, including the massive tax increases being used to pay for it, become public.
Why? Because Americans know this plan will force them to lose the health insurance they have and like. At least two different independent analyses of the Tri-Committee bill estimate that more than 100 million Americans would lose their current health care coverage.
People aren’t just going to lose their health insurance; they are going to lose control over their health care decisions under this government takeover of health care.
The new Health Commission can arbitrarily determine what treatments and medicines are covered by insurance plans; who is too old or too sick to receive treatment; and, compared to the first draft of this bill, makes rationing more likely by Health Benefits Advisory Committee.
There has to be a better way to reform health care in America.
Mr. Chairman, all of us know health care reform is needed. But that recognition doesn’t absolve us of our duty to make sure we pass legislation that effectively meets the challenges we face. This bill, or at least what we know of it so far, fails that test and I will vigorously oppose it.
With that, I yield back the balance of my time.