For Immediate Release:
March 2, 2010
(202) 225 - 3130
WASHINGTON, DC – House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (MD) spoke on health care reform at the annual meeting of the Federation of Americans Hospitals. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
“For more than a year, we’ve been engaged in the struggle to reform America’s dysfunctional health care system. We all know the facts by now: we know about the one American bankrupted by health care bills every thirty seconds, the premiums that more than doubled last decade, the small businesses facing the choice every day between cutting coverage and cutting workers, our mounting national debt, which is so closely tied to health care costs.
“Those are among the reasons we’re not stopping our work. And that’s why the Federation of American Hospitals isn’t stopping either: the Federation and its members have been at the forefront of reform. Thank you—I know you take reform personally. So do the people I represent.
“One is a woman who left a voicemail message on my phone: she’s just above the poverty level, she’s uninsured, and she was asked to pay 50% down, out of pocket, to have a tumor removed. She doesn’t know where she’s going to find the money.
“There’s the couple in my district who owns a small business and was just told that their premiums are increasing 67% percent this year—to $1,840 a month. They don’t know how much longer they can afford to stay covered.
“Sadly, stories like those aren’t unique—they’re typical. We heard stories like them from almost every Member of Congress gathered at last Thursday’s health summit. We had a face-to-face, in-depth conversation about health policy. We saw the common ground that Republicans and Democrats share—much of which is already represented in the health insurance reform bill—as well as the gaps that still remain un-bridged.
“But despite the range of ideologies gathered around the table, none of us could deny the facts of the crisis. And I believe President Obama is absolutely right when he says that this issue is far too urgent to start over—because those urging us to do so know full well that ‘starting over’ means doing nothing for the foreseeable future. We know, according to a poll last week, that 58% of Americans would be ‘disappointed’ or ‘angry’ if Congress gave up work on health care. And we don’t intend to.
“We can’t afford to ignore out-of-control health care costs any longer. And we can’t solve them by nibbling at the edges. That’s why we’ve built a centrist health reform plan out of good ideas from both sides—and that’s why we’ve exposed it to unprecedented scrutiny, at hundreds of hearings and thousands of public events. Most American’s don’t want a ‘government takeover’ of health care—but our bill does nothing of the kind, no matter how many times that phrase is repeated. And when Americans hear what’s in the bill, in unbiased language, they support it.
“How do we contain our out-of-control costs? For families, we demand that the insurance companies stop discrimination on the basis of pre-existing conditions. That discrimination denies people care and raises their costs every day. We demand that companies publicly announce rate hikes and justify excessive increases to their customers. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office reports that our plan will slow the growth of premiums.
“For both families and businesses, we create a new marketplace where private insurance companies, not the government, compete—a marketplace where individuals and small businesses can combine their buying power to get lower rates, just as the biggest businesses do. This is similar to the Republican idea to allow people to buy insurance across state lines—but better for consumers. Businesses will also see $30 billion in tax credits to help afford coverage—which is another Republican idea.
“For seniors, we make Medicare stronger and more secure. We improve it by creating incentives for highly efficient, high-quality, coordinated care. We close the prescription drug donut hole so seniors can afford the medicine they need. We create an independent board to rein in long-term costs and keep Medicare solvent.
“For our country, we make some changes that experts tell us are critical to reining in health care costs. One in particular has been supported by prominent Republicans, such as Senator McCain: changing the tax treatment of some pricey health plans. In addition, we have to start paying doctors for better care—not more tests and procedures. And we must also adopt the best Republican and Democratic ideas to tackle waste, fraud, and abuse.
“As a fiscal hawk, I’m also happy that the Democratic plan does not add to the deficit. In addition to combating Medicare waste, the bill also supports doctors who coordinate on care, helps hospitals store information electronically, and streamlines administrative forms.
“That’s our plan to bring quality, affordable health care to all Americans. It’s similar to the plan proposed by former Republican Senate leaders Bob Dole and Howard Baker, it’s backed by economists from across the spectrum, and it incorporates no less than 12 major Republican ideas. We’re hopeful that Republicans will take mind of those facts when it comes time to vote on final passage—and of their constituents, who are suffering under a broken system every bit as much as Democrats’ constituents.
“But in any case, we are working hard to get it over the finish line. Your continued support is vital to that effort—you see health care from the front lines, and you know how much change is needed. It is unacceptable that this country pays nearly twice as much per person for health care than any other industrialized country—without seeing better health. That’s not just a statistic. It’s the difference between that family I represent knowing it’s covered, and knowing that its future is up to chance. It’s the difference between a business in my state growing, and laying off one more worker. It’s the difference between America restoring its fiscal health, and sinking further “into debt.
“That’s why we can’t start over. That’s why we are taking action.”