Our senators on health care reform

(Um, yeah, they both voted no. Here's what they had to say for themselves. And no, they're not likely to vote for it in the future, either.)


 “Having been fully immersed in this issue for this entire year and as the only Republican to vote for health reform in the Finance Committee, I deeply regret that I cannot support the pending Senate legislation as it currently stands, given my continued concerns with the measure and an artificial and arbitrary deadline of completing the bill before Christmas that is shortchanging the process on this monumental and trans-generational effort. 
“Only three weeks ago the Senate received a more than 2,000 page bill on one of the most complex issues in our history, and we have since considered fewer than two dozen amendments out of more than 450 filed.  A little over  24 hours ago, the Senate received a final, nearly 400 page manager’s amendment that cannot be changed or altered, with more than 500 cross references including to other statutes and will be voted on at 1 am Monday morning. It defies logic that we are now expected to vote on the overall, final package before Christmas with no opportunity to amend it so we can adjourn for a three week recess even as the legislation will not fully go into effect until 2014, four years from now.
 “I remain convinced we must work toward a responsible, common sense solution to reverse the trend of spiraling health care costs -- that will cause one-in-four Americans this year to have either inadequate coverage or none at all, and threatens affordable coverage for millions more Americans in the future.  As I pledged to the President in an Oval Office meeting Saturday afternoon, I couldn’t agree more that reform is an imperative, and I will continue my constructive efforts to forge effective, common sense health care reform as the process moves into a House-Senate conference.
 “The reality that the status quo is unacceptable is what originally brought six of us together on the Senate Finance Committee this summer in the only bipartisan effort in any committee of the House or Senate in the so-called Group of Six, convened by Chairman Max Baucus.  We met 31 times, week after week for over four months, to debate policy and not politics.
 “Two months ago, when I voted for the Finance Committee bill, I said that the process moving forward shouldn’t be about vote counting, but rather crafting the right policy and that the credibility of the process would determine the credibility of the outcome. So I was troubled that when the Finance bill was melded with the measure reported by the Senate HELP committee it was without the more inclusive, collaborative process I’d participated in up to that point and instead it was done in the shadows, without transparency, just to garner the necessary 60 votes and nothing more.
            “This bill has taken a dramatically different direction since the Finance Committee bill – it is now 1,200 pages longer and includes a new employer mandate that could annihilate the job growth potential that is so vital to our economic recovery.  As the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council has stated, this mandate “will only burden firms with more costs and red tape which means they will not grow, invest, or create jobs.”
“This bill also creates the CLASS Act on long term care insurance, a brand new program which the Medicare Actuary has said is projected to go into the red just five years after it begins paying out benefits.  And the legislation requires a $90 billion increase in Medicare payroll taxes – a provision that was not part of the bill I voted for in Finance Committee – that predominately affects the self-employed and the very same small business owners we are counting on to create new jobs and lead us out of this recession.  And that’s just to name a few of the vital issues.
“Furthermore, we still don’t have answers to some of the most fundamental questions that people will be asking at their kitchen tables. These are the critical questions relevant to peoples’ daily lives, such as, what does this mean for me? How much will my health insurance plan cost? How much will my deductible or my co-pay be?  How much am I going to have to pay out of pocket? Not one single member in Congress – Republican or Democrat – can answer those questions, and that is why I wrote to the Congressional Budget Office on December 3rd requesting a complete analysis of these and other key issues as it is imperative that we have those answers before proceeding.
“Ultimately, there is absolutely no reason to be hurtling headlong to a Christmas deadline on monumental legislation affecting every American, when it doesn’t even fully go into effect until 2014. When 51 percent of the American people in a recent survey have said they do not approve of what we are doing, they understand what Congress does not -- and that is, that time is not our enemy, it is our friend.  Therefore, we must take a time out from this legislative game of “beat the clock”, reconvene in January – instead of taking a three week recess – and spend the time necessary to get this right. Legislation affecting more than 300 million Americans deserves better than midnight votes on a bill that cannot be further amended and that no one has had the opportunity to fully consider – and the Senate must step up to its responsibility as the world’s greatest deliberative body on behalf of the American people.”



"Our nation’s health care system requires substantial reform. The status quo of soaring health care costs, families struggling, millions uninsured, and health care provider shortages is unacceptable. That is why I am so disappointed that the partisan legislation before the Senate falls far short of what should be the goals of reform. This bill will actually increase health care costs, impose billions in new taxes, fees, and penalties, and hurt our seniors, health care providers, and small businesses. I simply cannot support such a bill.

    "It is particularly disappointing that the bill does not do enough to rein in the cost of health care and to provide consumers with more affordable choices. Whether I am talking to a self-employed fisherman, a laid-off worker, the owner of a struggling small business, or the human resource manager of a large company, the soaring cost of health insurance is a primary concern. Yet, the government's own actuary projects that health care costs will be higher as a result of this bill than under current law. 

    "I am deeply opposed to the nearly $500 billion in cuts to Medicare – a program that already has long-term financing problems.   It is fiscally irresponsible to raid Medicare to pay for a new entitlement program at a time when the number of Medicare beneficiaries is on the rise. 

    "It makes no sense that the bill would slash more than $47 billion in payments to home health and hospice providers. That is completely contrary to the goal of controlling health care costs because home care and hospice services have consistently proven to be cost-effective alternatives to institutional care.

    "According to the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Actuary, these deep cuts could push one in five hospitals, nursing homes, and home health providers into the red. Many of these providers would simply stop taking Medicare patients, which would jeopardize access to care for millions of seniors.

    "The comments of the Chief Executive Officer of Central Maine Healthcare, reflect what I have heard from many of Maine's health care providers about this bill. He told me that its passage would be 'disastrous' for Maine and would saddle our hospitals with some $800 million in Medicare cuts over the next ten years.

    "Aside from the devastating cuts in Medicare, additional financing for this bill comes through an array of new taxes, penalties, and fees on individuals, employers, insurance providers, and medical device and pharmaceutical manufacturers. The Congressional Budget Office and Joint Committee on Taxation have testified that these costs will simply be passed on to consumers, further increasing the costs of health care for many Americans – the opposite of what health care reform should produce.

    "And there is a four-year gap between when billions of new taxes and fees are imposed and when the new subsidies go into effect. The bill would provide fewer and more expensive insurance choices for many self-employed individuals who will not qualify for subsidies.

    "The detrimental impact of this bill on small businesses, our nation's job creators, concerns me greatly. This bill would discourage small businesses from hiring more employees and paying them better. It could lead to onerous financial penalties on small businesses that are already struggling to provide health insurance for their employees.
    "Small businesses want to provide health insurance for their employees, but many simply cannot afford to absorb double-digit increases in their health insurance premiums year after year. The National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB), the nation’s leading small business association, says this bill does too little to reduce insurance costs, imposes new taxes, establishes new entitlement programs, and creates new mandates that will burden small business owners and their employees. In short, the NFIB says, 'the Senate bill fails small business.' I agree.
    "I am particularly concerned that an amendment, which was "air dropped" into the bill at the last minute, would unfairly penalize Maine’s small construction companies and contractors.

               "The original bill exempted employers with fewer than 50 employees from the fines levied on those who cannot afford to provide their employees with a minimum level of health insurance. But an amendment tucked into the bill singles out the construction industry and lowers the threshold to include companies with as few as five employees. There are up to 1,000 small construction companies and subcontractors in Maine that could be affected by this provision.

    "To remedy some of these fundamental problems, I worked with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to offer significant bipartisan amendments aimed at containing costs, helping small businesses, increasing affordability, and providing more choices for consumers. Unfortunately, we were precluded from offering our amendments due to procedural roadblocks.

    "It is unfair that Republicans were allowed to offer only seven amendments to a bill that affects every single citizen and one-sixth of our nation’s economy.

    "In addition, the bill includes expensive special deals that benefit just a few states like Nebraska, but do nothing for most states, including ours.  This is not good public policy.

    "The health care legislation before the Senate has enormous consequences for our economy and our society. The Senate missed the opportunity to produce true, bipartisan health reform. Unfortunately, the process became too divisive and partisan, and the result is a bill that takes us in the wrong direction and will do more harm than good. Keeping in mind the oath every physician takes to 'first, do no harm,' I will cast my vote against this legislation."


| More

 Friends' Activity   Popular 
All Blogs
Follow the Phoenix
  • newsletter
  • twitter
  • facebook
  • youtube
  • rss
Latest Comments
Search Blogs
Strange Maine - winner, The Best Blog, Portland Phoenix, 2008
Black Bird Legal Collective - A Portland-based legal-activist group
DowneastBlog - You tell us what they think
Local Foodie - Portland-based local-foods blog
Media Nation - A media-watch column by journalism professor and Phoenix contributor Dan Kennedy
Organizing Notes - Comments from Maine peace-and-justice activist Bruce Gagnon
Portland Greens - Updates from Portland's Green Party
Portland on Wikipedia - See what the crowdsourcing crowd is saying
Where There's Wil, There's Always A Way - winner, The Best Blog, Portland Phoenix, 2007
Portland Museum of Art blog -
Have Faith In Worthless Knowledge - The SPACE Gallery blog
Maine Prisoner Advocacy Coalition - Activists for prisoners' rights
About Town Archives