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Mr. President, I rise to talk about the health care reform bill. This Country needs health care reform. The status quo in health care is unacceptable. Healthcare costs are sky-rocketing, insurance premiums are increasing, and too many small businesses can no longer afford to offer health insurance to their workers. No one on either side of the aisle denies that we need health care reform. 

We need to enact reforms to bring down costs so that everyone can have access to quality, affordable health care. We need to take a step-by-step approach to reduce health care costs and lower insurance premiums for individuals and employers.  We need to eliminate discrimination based on pre-existing conditions, and ensure that people can take their insurance with them from job-to-job. I support common sense reforms that would achieve all of these goals.
 
Unfortunately, the 2,074 page Reid bill fails to address these issues. Instead, this bill would raise taxes by $493 billion. It would cut another $464 billion from the Medicare program.  The bill would reduce wages and eliminate the jobs of millions of Americans. It would actually drive up health insurance premiums for many more Americans and still leave 24 million people without insurance coverage.  We need to do better than this and I believe we can.
 
Our country currently faces one of the worst economies in a generation. Our unemployment rate is 10.2 percent, which means that there are 15.7 million Americans without jobs.
 
 
At the same time, the bill we are debating today that would impose $28 billion in new taxes on employers. This new tax will eliminate millions of American jobs and reduce wages for millions of other American workers.
 
When employers struggle with extra costs, workers and their families feel the impact.  American workers depend on a strong economy to create jobs that help them feed their families and build their dreams. Unfortunately the policies being pushed by the Majority will only make it more difficult for America’s businesses to hire workers or pay current employees more. 
 
The Congressional Budget Office, health researchers, and nationally recognized economists all agree that Senator Reid’s new job killing employer tax will mean one thing – more Americans will be out of work if this bill becomes law.

As I mentioned, this bill will raise taxes by one half of a trillion dollars. The authors of the bill clearly believe that the greatest problem in our current health care system is that we do not pay enough taxes for our health care.
 
Under this flawed bill, if you take a prescription drug, you will pay a new tax. If you use any medical devices or equipment, ranging from walkers to wheelchairs, you will pay a new tax. If you do not have health insurance, you will pay a new tax.  If you do have health insurance, you will also pay a new tax. And if the government decides your health insurance is too expensive, there will be a new tax for that as well.
 
The problem with our current health care system is not that we don’t pay enough taxes. Americans actually want to lower their health care costs, and not just pay more taxes to the federal government.  All of these taxes will only increase costs, making health care even more unaffordable.
 
The third major problem with this bill is that it will actually increase the cost of health insurance for millions of Americans.

The bill mandates that insurance premiums for younger, healthier workers be tightly tied to the costs for older, sicker individuals.  This will immediately drive up costs for the young, healthy individuals, who coincidentally make up a significant portion of our current uninsured population.

The bill also eliminates consumer choices, requiring Americans to buy richer types of plans that cover more of the deductibles and cover more of out of pocket expenses. These plans typically have much higher premiums.

Taken together, these insurance changes will increase costs for millions of Americans. In looking at more modest provisions included in the Senate Finance bill, nationally recognized accounting and business consulting firms found that these changes would increase insurance premiums by 20 to 50 percent.
 
The practical effect of this bill is that Washington could dictate to every single American — even those who have insurance they like now — the coverage they would need to purchase. Washington will tell you what is “good enough coverage”. The bill does not give people affordable options, and it penalizes those who do not purchase high-end, expensive plans, regardless of what they want, need or can afford. 

Before I was a senator, I was a small businessman. My wife and I owned three shoe stores. When I was showing someone a shoe and he said he didn’t like it or couldn’t afford it, I didn’t try another sales pitch.  I knew it was time to try to find him another shoe, one that he liked and could afford. If the customer is complaining, get something else to show. Mr. President, the customers are complaining. The voices of August are still out there and they know this bill is more of the same.
 
There is a lesson in that story when it comes to reforming heath care: It is time to listen to our customers and find an alternative they want and can afford. The intensity of the country’s disapproval is apparent in town hall meetings, letters to newspaper editors, citizen protests, and constituent calls and letters from all across the nation.

I want to find solutions. Ask most of my colleagues and they will tell you – time and time again, I have been known to work across the aisle in search of common sense reforms on all kinds of issues.  I have fought for years to enact common sense reforms that will help slow health care cost growth and make the insurance market work better for small businesses. 

I worked closely with Sen. Ben Nelson from Nebraska on a bill to allow small businesses to combine their purchasing power and collaboratively buy health insurance at discounted rates.  

I worked closely with the late Sen. Ted Kennedy on a bill to reform the drug approval process at the Food and Drug Administration. 
 
I also worked closely with then Sen. Clinton on a bill to save lives and decrease costs by promoting greater use of electronic medical records. Time after time, I have advocated that we set partisan differences aside and work on the 80 percent of the issue that will really make a difference for most people.  

Unfortunately, rather than working with Republicans to develop common sense solution, the majority drafted a flawed bill that spends too much, does too little to cut health care costs, and puts seniors’ benefits on the chopping block.
The White House and Democratic leaders should have responded to these concerns with alternative ideas that actually address the health care issues that most Americans care about - their cost!  Unfortunately, they decided to simply try a more aggressive sales pitch.  As a result, opposition to it will only continue to grow.

If this bill continues to move forward, in spite of what most Americans are telling us, I am going to keep offering amendments geared at bringing down health care costs for American families, scaling back total healthcare spending, and protecting seniors. 
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