Ted Kaufman - United States Senator for Delaware

Kaufman, on Senate Floor, Decries Current Healthcare System and Calls for Overhaul

“The Present Healthcare System mistreats Americans as individuals and serves the country badly. We cannot continue in the Present Healthcare System.”

August 6, 2009

WASHINGTON, D.C. - With healthcare costs rising at a record rate and 14,000 Americans losing their health insurance every day, Sen. Kaufman spoke on the Senate floor today, explaining the consequences of remaining with the status quo. Employing a rhetorical device, Sen. Kaufman detailed how if America chooses to keep the PHS Plan - or Present Healthcare System - it will have devastating effects on the American economy and working families.
 
"If we choose the PHS plan, health care spending will continue to threaten the bottom line of our federal budget, eating away higher percentages of our GDP," said Sen. Kaufman. "The average family can look forward to premium costs for its health insurance of more than $24,000 a year by 2016.  That is an 83 percent increase over the cost in 2008. In my home State of Delaware, the cost will be even higher, with the average premium for family coverage approaching $29,000." 
 
"Our businesses will face more competitive disadvantages to their foreign competitors, paying more for health care insurance for their employees, or dropping it altogether," Sen. Kaufman continued. "The Present Healthcare System mistreats Americans as individuals and serves the country badly as a whole. We cannot continue in the Present Healthcare System."
 
 
Full remarks, as prepared for delivery:
 
Mr. President, the White House, the Congress, and the American people are engaged in an historic debate over our nation's health insurance system.  A lot is at stake. 
           
We will make a choice in 2009, and that choice will determine the health care system we have in our nation for a long time to come. Fifteen years have passed since we last attempted to pass health care reform.  What we do now will be consequential for decades to come. It will be a long time before the people of this country and their leaders will return to this complex and contentious issue. 
           
So let us carefully review the potential plans.  We have a plan being developed in the House of Representatives.  We have the plan from the Senate HELP Committee and the plan coming from the Senate Finance Committee.  We have the bipartisan Wyden-Bennett plan. 
           
And then we have the PHS Plan.
           
In listening to my colleagues as they speak on the floor of the Senate, on television, talk radio, in newspapers, and from private meetings, one thing is clear. They think the plan we will end up with is the PHS Plan. They think a combination of those who want no health care reform and those who like none of the proposed plans will combine to kill all the other plans.
           
So, Mr. President, what is the PHS plan? 
 
It is our Present Healthcare System. Let's look at what will happen to average Americans if we keep our Present Healthcare System.
 
            First, Americans' healthcare insurance costs will explode.
 
The average family can look forward to premium costs for its health insurance of more than $24,000 a year by 2016.  That is an 83 percent increase over the cost in 2008.
 
In my home State of Delaware, the cost will be even higher, with the average premium for family coverage approaching $29,000. 
 
At that amount, more than half of Delaware families will each have to spend half of their income on health insurance.  This means families will be forced either to go without insurance or to buy less coverage and put their life savings at risk.
 
Second, personal bankruptcies from medical costs will soar. 
 
Today, bankruptcies involving medical bills account for more than 60 percent of U.S. personal bankruptcies, a rate one and a half times that of just six years ago. 
Going forward, under the PHS, we can expect more families in bankruptcy.
 
Third, insured Americans will keep paying a hidden tax to help pay for care for the uninsured.
 
Under the PHS plan, doctors and hospitals will charge insurers ever-greater amounts to recoup the costs to provide services to the uninsured.  Today, this hidden tax is estimated to be $1,100 per family per year.  Under the PHS plan it will most assuredly go up, raising the cost of healthcare for all Americans.
 
Fourth, Americans will continue to be denied coverage if they have pre-existing conditions.
 
Several weeks ago, I talked about four Delawareans, who, because of pre-existing conditions, could not find insurance coverage. Others who could get coverage have to pay exorbitant premiums to cover conditions like high cholesterol, hypertension, diabetes, and cancer.  Unfortunately, those who get sick may have their coverage dropped altogether. These problems, which threaten the security of all families, will continue under the PHS plan.
 
Fifth, for too many workers, health insurance portability will still be beyond reach.
 
Too many Americans lose their insurance when they lose their jobs. Some can't afford their COBRA coverage and others can't get another policy due to pre-existing conditions. Even when they can find a new policy, they often discover they can no longer see the same doctor or use the same hospital. As a result, too many Americans are stuck in their jobs, forgoing career advancement, just to keep their existing health plans.
 
Mr. President, now let's look at what will happen to the American economy if we keep our Present Healthcare System.
 
First, our Present Healthcare System is bankrupting the federal government. 
 
The biggest driving force behind our federal deficit is the skyrocketing cost of Medicare and Medicaid.  In 2008, government spending on Medicare and Medicaid took up more than one dollar out of every five in our federal budget. [As a percent of GDP, federal spending on Medicare and Medicaid currently consumes about 4 percent of GDP and - under the PHS plan - will rise to 9 percent of GDP by 2035.]
 
The more we spend on health-care, the less we have for other investments - for education, for our veterans, and for job-creating technologies, to name a few. To pay those higher federal health care bills, we will have to pay more taxes or borrow more from China and other nations.
 
Controlling health care costs is the key to controlling our financial future.  But under the PHS, health care costs continue to spiral out of control.
 
Second, healthcare spending will crowd out our national savings and lower our standard of living.
 
Healthcare cost as a percent Gross Domestic Product (GDP) will grow from 18 percent today to 28 percent in the year 2030 - and even 34 percent in 2040. Those dollars out of every family's budget going to health care cannot go for housing, food, or transportation.  American consumers, over two-thirds of our economy, will have fewer dollars left for any other priorities.
 
That means less spending at the mall, at our car dealers, and at the grocery store.  Controlling health care costs will put money back in families' budgets and therefore back into the rest of our economy.
 
Third, the Present Healthcare System is killing U. S. economic competitiveness. 
 
Today, U.S. manufacturing firms pay almost $5,000 per worker per year in health costs. 
That's more than twice the average cost for firms located in our major trading partners - such as Europe and Japan, where a firm pays less than $2,000 per worker each year.
 
In a global economy, our workers and corporations face competitors who can beat them on price every time, just because of our broken health care system.  Controlling health care costs will help to level that playing field.  In a fair fight, our workers and our businesses can win.
 
Finally, more firms will stop offering health insurance for their employees.
 
The PHS will continue the slow erosion of employer-sponsored insurance. This is especially true for small businesses. In the 2008 Employer Health Benefits Survey conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation, only 63 percent of companies of all s offered health insurance to their employees, down from 69 percent in 2000.
 
But these numbers are even lower when looking just at small businesses, with the National Small Business Association reporting that that only 38 percent of small businesses provided coverage last year, compared to 61 percent in 1993.
 
Under the PHS plan, this decline in coverage will continue, with an estimated 10 percent of small businesses eliminating coverage in the next year and nearly 20 percent in the next three to five years.  
 
Under the PHS plan, that would mean an additional 13 million added to the rolls of the uninsured in the next five years. So that's what America will get if we decide to choose the PHS plan.  Again, that is the Present Healthcare System.
 
If we choose the PHS plan, consumers will pay higher and higher premiums, including the hidden tax to help pay for all of our fellow Americans without insurance. We will continue to see a rise in personal bankruptcies due to high medical costs. Americans will continue to face insurance coverage rejections based on pre-existing conditions, or have insurers drop their policies once they do get sick. And they won't have portable insurance that they can take from job to job.
 
If we choose the PHS plan, health care spending will continue to threaten the bottom line of our federal budget, eating away higher percentages of our GDP. Our businesses will face more competitive disadvantages to their foreign competitors, paying more for health care insurance for their employees, or dropping it altogether. 
 
The Present Healthcare System mistreats Americans as individuals and serves the country badly as a whole. We cannot continue in the Present Healthcare System.
 
I hope my colleagues will return in September committed to replacing our Present Healthcare System.
 
I hope they will spend August searching for the best of the alternative plans that they want to support.
 
I hope we will turn our backs on the bankrupt Present Healthcare System and instead give the American people a healthcare system they can all be proud of - a healthcare system that will sustain them into the future.
 
We can do no less.
 
They deserve no less.
 
Thank you Mr. President.  I yield the floor.
 
 
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