WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Bob Corker, R-Tenn., who spent 80 percent of his time on health care issues in 1995-1996 as Tennessee’s commissioner of finance and administration, expressed his disappointment in the House vote and outlined his opposition to the draft health care proposals in the Senate.
“I’m disappointed the House passed a bill instead of working toward bipartisan reforms that will stand the test of time. Like most Americans, I want to see responsible health care reform, but paying for it by sending unfunded mandates to states, taking money from Medicare – which is already insolvent – to fund new federal entitlements, and passing off costs to future generations does not pass the common sense test,” said Corker.
“We still don’t have a final bill in the Senate – it’s being drafted behind closed doors – but for the sake of argument we’ll use the Senate Finance Committee’s health care reform bill, which is expected to be the driving force behind a final product. Here are some of my major concerns with the finance bill:
“I’m bewildered when I see that the finance bill would cost taxpayers almost a trillion dollars and actually result in HIGHER health care costs for millions of Tennesseans. A study by Oliver Wyman and sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of America indicates that ‘cluster 4’ states, including Tennessee, would see a 60 percent expected increase in average claims per member. According to data based on the report, current average premiums in Tennessee would increase by $1,619 for individuals and $3,727 for families under reforms contained in the finance bill.
“Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen estimates the finance bill would cost Tennessee $735 million in Medicaid expansion (and the House bill would cost $1.35 billion), a huge unfunded mandate that creates a very difficult situation for our state. My guess is that most other states would face a similarly painful situation if these costs are passed down.
“The bill seeks to take $404 billion away from Medicare, which is predicted to be insolvent by 2017, and leverages it to create a new entitlement program rather than using it to make Medicare more solvent. I honestly don’t know how Congress has moved from broad, bipartisan concern over Medicare’s $38 trillion in unfunded liabilities — liabilities that threaten our country’s financial stability — to now embracing a proposal that would take cuts made to Medicare and use them to leverage a new program to cover the uninsured, rather than putting the funds toward extending the life of Medicare.
“And finally, the finance bill uses typical Washington budget gimmickry, using 10 years of new taxes to finance six and a half years of spending, resulting in huge deficits in the next decades.
“If Republicans had put forth a bill that had the exact same building blocks – a bill that took $404 billion out of Medicare to leverage another program, that created an unfunded mandate for states by making states raise their Medicaid levels, and that would raise premiums by 60 percent over the next five years – there would not be a single Democratic vote for the bill. I am puzzled why my colleagues would even consider voting for this, especially anyone who has concerns about our country’s fiscal condition.
“As we approach health care reform, the mission of Congress and the Obama administration should be the same as any doctor treating a patient: Do No Harm.”
Tennessee's other senator, Lamar Alexander, expressed similar alarm concerning the current health care reform proposals.
“The cost of these health care proposals is going to head us toward a state of fiscal ruin,” U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, said.
Alexander urged Congress to take President Obama’s advice that any effort to reform health care must first start with reducing health care costs for Americans and their government.
"The Democrats’ bill is indeed historic in its combination of higher premiums, higher taxes, Medicare cuts and more federal government debt.
“As a former governor of Tennessee, I simply do not see how Tennessee can pay for its part of the Medicaid expansion without imposing a new state income tax and damaging higher education.
“Health care reform is about reducing costs, not increasing, costs. Why don’t we start step-by-step to reduce costs?
“At the President’s White House health reform summit, the President himself introduced the b word – bankruptcy. The President said, ‘If we don't address costs, I don't care how heartfelt our efforts are, we will not get this done. If people think that we can simply take everybody who's not insured and load them up in a system where costs are out of control, it's not going to happen. We will run out of money. The federal government will be bankrupt; state governments will be bankrupt.’ That’s the b-word. I think we should listen to those words.
“The cost of these health care proposals is going to head us toward state of fiscal ruin. Let’s read this bill; let’s know what it costs, and let’s see how it affects you.”