The Urgency of Health Insurance Reform



it is good to see ya I know you guys been waiting a little bit here it's a little warm in here you're Fanning yourself out who it is good to see everybody here today how's everybody doing I've got a couple of acknowledgments I want to make first of all mayor st. Charles patty York where's patty thank you madam mayor thanks for the great weather the we also have the st. Charles School District Superintendent Randy Charles is here he wrote a book I just saw him there he is back there it is great to be here great to be back in the show-me state great to be back in st. charles some of you may remember it was that it was from this town that Lewis and Clark began their journey into a harsh and unforgiving landscape and I can relate because the first time I came here I was trying to get to Washington DC a harsh and unforgiving landscape a big part of our campaign was about changing the way Washington works it was about transforming a politics that's driven by cynicism and a 24-hour news cycle and the cable chatter and always focused on the next election instead of the next generation our campaign was about meeting the looming challenges in education and an energy in our health care system in our financial system that helped bring about the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression and it's still threatens our prosperity it was about making our government actually work for you the people a government that lives up to its responsibilities including the responsibility to live within its means now there's been a lot of discussion about government over the last several months and let's face it people have lost faith in government they had lost faith in government before Iran and it's it's been getting worse you know President Lincoln said that the legitimate object of government is to do for the people what needs to be done but which they cannot do it all or do so well by themselves that pretty much sums up my attitude you let people do for themselves what they can do for themselves and then if there's some things that we do better together we should do them together and I believe that in everything government does we've got a special responsibility to be wise stewards about how Americans hard-earned tax dollars are spent and I know you agree with that too doesn't matter whether you're a Democrat or Republican you don't like seeing your money wasted or an independent don't like seeing your money waster that's a responsibility that my administration is seeking to fulfill every single day over the last year we've gone through the budget line by line looking for places to trim fat out of government and we found a lot of fat to trim I gotta admit last year we pushed Congress to cut nearly twenty billion dollars by streamlining or eliminating more than a hundred and twenty government programs this year we put another 20 billion dollars in cuts on the table targeting dozens of additional programs that were wasteful ur duplicate ever in some cases just plain ridiculous for example we decided not to fund an office maintained by the Department of Education in Paris France now I'm sure that was nice work if you could get it but I I didn't think that was a real good use of our money we eliminated a decade's old radio navigation system which cost 35 million dollars a year and some people might say well why why'd you do that we need that navigation system well the thing is we got this thing called GPS now in satellites so the whole radio navigation thing wasn't working so well so we've been pushing for cuts on things that we don't need that government doesn't do so well and we're also reforming the way government contracts are awarded think about this between 2002 and 2008 the amount spent annually on government contracts more than doubled to half a trillion dollars those are contracts with private contractors and the amount spent on no-bid contracts jumped by a hundred and twenty-nine percent no-bid contracts that's an inexcusable waste of your money so last March I ordered federal departments to come up with plans to save as much as forty billion dollars a year in contract now this brings me to the person standing right over here the lady in pink you know before Claire was your senator she was just stayed out of it she's chief just pinches pennies I mean she's just she you think I'm yeah I don't like waste but Claire she she justs every dime she's so thanks to Claire we're going to have a new tool to help us meet this goal of eliminating some of these wasteful contracts and no bid contracts in the coming weeks we're going to be rolling out a new online database which claire mccaskill proposed and help pass into law and and we'll be able to see before any new contract is awarded whether a company plays by the rules how well they've performed in the past did they finish the job on time did the company provide good value that the company blow their budget it's your money so you deserve to know how it's spent and who these contracts are going to and and that's an example of the kind of service that claire mccaskill is providing not just to the people of Missouri but people all across the country and in every way but one Claire McCaskill is the new harry truman in the united states senate one difference is she's a she but but just as the Truman Commission prevented billions of dollars of wasteful spending during the war and saved lives in the process through tough and fair-minded oversight of contracting during World War two claire has been a relentless force for rooting out scams and making government more efficient Harry Truman also said in the Commission's final report that in completing the mission where necessary heads must be knocked together and let me tell you Claire loves knocking some heads together she's never been afraid to do that as we were driving in I was saying boy it's just good bet good to be back in the Midwest just about as close as I've been to home in a while and part of the reason it's just good to be back is because Washington's a place where we're tax dollars are often treated like monopoly money they're bartered and traded and they're divvied up among the lobbyists and special interests and we're waste even billions of dollars waste is accepted as the price of doing business when we proposed by the way those 20 billion dollars in cuts last year we were ridiculed by the press said that's just to spit in the bucket now I don't know about here in st. Charles 20 billion dollars that's real money isn't it that's real money but Claire doesn't accept business as usual I don't accept business as usual you don't accept business as usual the American people don't accept business as usual especially when we're facing these enormous long-term deficits that threatened to leave our children with a mountain of debt now this brings me to the primary topic I want to talk about today nowhere is reform more needed than when it comes to our health care system no way nowhere yeah the healthcare system has billions of dollars that should go to patient care and they're lost each and every year to fraud to abuse to massive subsidies that line the pockets of the insurance industry let me let me just give you one example this is a long recognized but long tolerated problem called improper payments that's what they call Washington always has a name for these things is improper payments and as is often the case in Washington the more innocuous the name the more worried you should be so these are payments mostly made through Medicare and Medicaid that are sent to the wrong person sent for the wrong reason sent in the wrong amount sometimes they're innocent errors sometimes the because nobody's bothering to check to see where the money is going and they're abused by scam artists and fly-by-night operations look health care this health care debates been hard on my health I gotta talk it's estimated that improper payments cost taxpayers almost a hundred billion dollars last year alone think about that that by the way just that abuse in improper payments is more than we spend on the Department of Education and the Small Business Administration combined if we created a Department of improper payments it would be one of the largest agencies in our government now for the past few years there's actually been a pilot program that uses a system of tough audits to recover some of this lost money and even those these audits they were just operating in mainly in three states they already found a billion dollars in improper payments so these results were both disturbing and encouraging their disturbing because it shows you how much waste there is out there in the health care system but it's encouraging because we can do something about it so earlier today with claire looking over my shoulder one of our auditors in chief i sign an order calling on all federal agencies to launch these kinds of audits all across the country all across will come so agencies would hire auditors to scour the books go through things line by line auditors are paid based on how many abuses or errors they uncover so it's a win-win the auditor if they do a good job they get a small percentage as a reward and the taxpayer wins by getting huge sums of money that would otherwise be lost that we can then spend to provide care to people who really need it or we can use to reduce the deficit now through this effort we expect to more than double the amounts we would have otherwise recovered a couple billion dollars over the next few years and i'm announcing my support for the improper payments elimination and Recovery Act that's a mouthful but this is a bipartisan bill as a bipartisan bill to expand our ability to do these audits so we can prevent even more fraud and abuse and waste now the reason I'm bringing all this stuff up is because there's been a lot of talk about health care lately and look I'll be honest a lot of people are they're confused they're saying well how can you help people get insurance you don't have it without it adding to our deficit it's a legitimate question well the reason is because so much of the money currently in our health care system is being miss spent look if you've got if you've got a house and the roof is leaking and the windows are all letting through a bunch of draft and you get that cold winter and all the heat seeping out and if you decide to spend on some new windows and to fix your roof that's going to spend a little money but you'd save money in the long run because you don't have heating expenses and that those leaks aren't brewing in your furniture and the same thing is true with our health care system we've got leaks everywhere that you pay for directly or indirectly and if we can have a smarter healthcare system then yes we can provide help to middle-class folks who need it and at the same time actually reduce the burden on taxpayers now I know that during the health care debate opponents have tried to scare people especially our seniors into thinking that we are going after seniors Medicare benefits that's how Obama is going to pay for his plan when you look at the facts that's just plain wrong in fact by saving billions of dollars of the sort we just talked about waste and abuse in Medicare raining in waste and inefficiencies we're going to be able to help ensure medicare's solvency for an additional decade and this this is there's just one example that speaks to how we're going to stop wasting money through the health care system on things that don't make people healthy in fact often take away from the care we receive and take that money and make it work for the American people so Medicare will work better provide better care before because of these reforms senior citizens who are dealing with the doughnut hole in the prescription drug plan that plan will be filled in part because we're not wasting money on stuff that doesn't work that's common sense you know I get a lot of letters from constituents I get about 40,000 every day and I I don't read all 40,000 somebody does but what I've done is I've asked my staff to collect to a sampling of 10 letters that I read every night and I will tell you that my staff is very even-handed because about half of these letters call me an idiot yeah and at least half him talk about health care and when the health care reform debate was really heating up one of the three things that I heard from a lot of seniors was keep your government hands out of my Medicare I heard this from a bunch of seniors they say I don't want your government run healthcare plan and don't touch my Medicare and so I'd have to write back and I'd say ma'am or sir Medicare is a government program but we're not going to weaken it we're going to make it stronger but I think those letters tell you something about what sometimes happened in this health care debate because people have been hit with a lot of bad information and health care is really important and so people get worried mega nervous but when you get past the divisive and the deceptive rhetoric it turns out that most Americans are happy that two generations ago we made the decision that seniors and the poor should not be saddled with unaffordable health care costs or forced to go without needed care that was a decision that we made decades ago and it was the right decision to make and by the way when we made those decisions folks were saying the exact same thing about Medicare that socialized medicine this is government-run care blah blah blah now today we face a different choice but it's a similar choice to the one that previous generations faced and that is whether we should help middle-class families and business owners that are being pummeled by the rising costs of healthcare see back when the Medicare debate was taking place seniors were having problems because they were no longer working and people were getting their health care through their jobs and so it made sense to help them made sense to help the poor who might not be employed but back then middle-class folks they were pretty secure if you were working you had health care that was affordable but you know what's happened over the last several decades what's happened is is that more and more businesses are saying we can't afford to provide health care to our workers because this costs are skyrocketing so they just drop health care all together a lot of small businesses they don't provide health care to their employees anymore and large businesses what are they doing they're saying to you we're going to jack up your premiums we got to increase your deductibles if you're self-employed you are completely out of luck if you've got a pre-existing condition you are completely out a lot and by the way those of us who are lucky enough to have health care today we don't know if we're the ones who are going to lose our job tomorrow or suddenly it turns out that our child has a pre-existing condition and we'll be stuck in the exact same situation even if we've got good health insurance well everything I just said if you talk to my opponents they'll agree they'll say you're right the health care system is broken for too many people it's getting worse they will they will acknowledge that the status quo is unsustainable but you know what they tell me we have that big health care summit I know you guys watched all seven hours of yeah absolutely it was scintillating but you were you heard what they said they said well we agree with you the current system is unsustainable but this is just not the right time to do it I said let's start over that's what they said we just gotta start from scratch well let me tell you something the insurance industry is not starting over they just announced a thirty-nine percent rate increase in California and a rate increase of up to sixty percent right across the border in my home state of Illinois sixty percent in one year that's the future that's the future if we fail to act and by the way I don't recall any of these Republicans trying to do anything about insurance companies abuses during all the years they were in charge here you can I don't remember I don't remember them doing anything about folks who needed some help when the government was running surpluses so I get a sense with some of these folks there it's just never going to be the right time but the truth is we have debated health care in Washington not just this past year we've been debating it for 70 years you know who who was pushing health care reform harry truman harry truman was pushing health care reform and by the way you know what they said they said he's pushing socialized medicine harry truman and over this past year we've been talking about every proposal has been put on the table every argument has been made and everybody has made it and i know that people view this as a partisan issue but the truth is is that if you set aside the politics of it and what was good for election day it turns out that parties have plenty of areas where they agree and the plan that i've put forward is a proposal that's basically somewhere in the middle one that incorporates the best ideas of democrats and republicans even though the republicans have a hard time acknowledging it now there are some folks who want to scrap the system of private insurance and replace it with a government-run health care program like they have in some other countries we get a couple of some applause here and look it works well for those countries but i'll just be honest with you it was not practical or realistic to do here to completely uproot and change a system where the vast majority people still get their health care from employer-based plans and on the other side of the spectrum there are those who believe that the answer is to simply unleash the insurance industry and provide less oversight and fewer rules and that somehow that's going to drive down prices for everybody this is called the putting the foxes in charge of the henhouse approach to health care reform so whatever state regulations were in place we get rid of those and so insurance companies could basically find a state that had the worst regulations and then from there sell insurance everywhere and that somehow that was going to be helpful to all this would do would give insurance companies more leeway to raise premiums and deny care so I don't believe we should give either the government or the insurance companies more control over health care in America I want to give you more control over health care in America so my proposal builds on the current system where most Americans get their health care from their employers if you like your plan you can keep your plan if you like your doctor you can keep your doctor but my proposal would change three important things about the current healthcare system and I want everybody pay attention I know it's a little warm in here but I want you to pay attention so that when you are talking your friends and your neighbors and folks at work and and they're wondering what's going on I want you to be able to just say you're the three things Obama is trying to do first it would end the worst practices of insurance companies and it would begin to do so this year this year thousands of uninsured Americans with pre-existing conditions will be able to purchase health insurance for the very first time in their lives or since they got sick this year insurance companies would be banned from denying coverage to children with pre-existing conditions this year insurance companies would be banned from dropping your coverage when you get sick insurance companies would no longer be able to arbitrarily and massively raise premiums they would be subject to review those practices will end as a consequence of health care reform all new insurance plans would be required to offer free preventive care to their customers and if you buy a new plan there will be no more lifetime time limits on the amount of care you receive from your insurance company all that fine print that ends up getting folks into trouble if you're a uninsured young adult you'll be able to stay on your parents insurance policy until you're 26 years old so a lot of folks is they're transitioning into the workplace will have insurance all right so that's that's part one of the plan insurance reform part two for the first time uninsured individuals and small businesses will have the same kind of choice of private health insurance that members of Congress get if it's good enough for members of Congress it's good enough for the people who pay their salaries this should not be a controversial IV the reason that federal employees usually have pretty good insurance is because they're part of a pool of millions of people so what happens is they can negotiate for really good rates because the insurance companies really want those millions of customers so what we're talking about is setting up a pool for people who don't work for the federal government you individuals small businesses they can be part of this pool and this is an idea that a lot of Republicans embraced in the past until I said it was a good idea sunland so all this would drive down rates for those individuals and small businesses who aren't part of a big company that get good rates and my proposal says if you still can't afford it even though now the premiums are lower than you can buy on your own then we'll offer you some tax credits to make it affordable and those tax credits would add up to the largest middle class tax cut for health care in history so now it's estimated that this would drive down the costs for folks who don't work for big companies so they don't get as good of a deal by fourteen twenty percent this is before the subsidies before the tax credits now it's true that this will cost some money it's going to cost about a hundred billion dollars per you that's real money that's a lot of money but most of that money comes from the nearly 2.5 trillion dollars a year that America already spends on health care that were not spending well that we're spending badly right now so we pay for this proposal by getting at the abuse that we just talked about we eliminate wasteful taxpayer subsidies that go to the insurance companies do you know that through the Medicare program we are giving insurance companies close to 20 billion dollars a year about 18 billion dollars every year of taxpayer money through the Medicare system and we're saying well why do we do that they're making a profit on their own and while some of what we save goes to helping the uninsured most of it goes back to small businesses and the middle class who right now just aren't getting a good deal it doesn't make sense to me that people who are really poor are able to get medicaid but people who are working really hard and just not quite as poor they don't get a decent deal that doesn't make sense to me alright that's that's the second part first part insurance reform second part creating this marketplace where small businesses individuals can get a good deal third part bringing down the cost of health care for families and businesses and for the federal government cost control now when you listen to the other side they'll tell you we want to do more about costs we want to do more about cost well let me tell you we've incorporated almost every serious idea from across the political spectrum about how to contain rising health care costs there's not an idea out there that we have not worked on that we have not included in this proposal and according to the Congressional Budget Office this is this is the office that is supposed to be the independent referee for how things cost it's not supposed to be democrat or republican according to the Congressional Budget Office people buying health plans in the individual market right now they'd see their premiums go down fourteen to twenty percent I already mentioned that now here's here's another thing a recent study by the Business Roundtable that's that's made up of all these big companies out there that they don't they're nonpartisan but it's not like they're just die dyed-in-the-wool Liberal Democrats let's put it that way these are company CEOs they they commissioned a study and said the reforms could reduce premiums by as much as three thousand dollars per employee that's that's their study not mine then the congressional budget office said that the government would save a trillion dollars reduce the deficit by a trillion dollars so think about your saving money employers are saving money the federal government is saving money not according to me but according to these studies that were done by independent analysts so here's the bottom line st. Charles there's no government takeover unless you consider raining in insurance companies a government takeover and I think that's the right thing to do there's no there's no cutting of Medicare benefits they're just cutting out fraud and waste in Medicare to make it stronger what we're proposing is a common-sense approach to protecting you from insurance company abuses and saving you money that's the proposal and it is paid for and I believe that Congress owes the American people a final up or down vote on healthcare reform the time for talk is over it it's time to vote it's time to vote tired of talking about it now course folks in Washington they like to talk so Washington's doin right now what Washington does they're speculating breathlessly day or night every columnist every pundit every talking head is this proposal going to help the Republicans or is this proposal going to help the Democrats what's going to happen to the president's polls numbers if the boat doesn't go forward if it does go forward what will it mean for November what will it mean for 2012 how's the politics going to play I heard the Republican leader of the Senate the other day he's warning Democrats you better be careful about voting for this it could hurt you I don't know how sincere the Republican leader is about the best interests of Democrats he's been very generous with advice you know what here's the bottom line st. Charles I don't know how the politics play I don't know this is a hard issue it's a complicated issue there's a lot of information floating around out there a lot of its inaccurate the opponents have spent billion of millions of dollars fighting it and people during recessionary times they're anxious and sort of thinking gosh can we really afford to change things right now maybe we should just kind of stick with the status quo even though we know it's not working for us we so I don't know how the politics plays but here's what I do know the American people will be more secure with this reform our country will be stronger because of this reform I don't know about the politics but I know it is the right thing to do and that's why I'm fighting so hard to get it done we've seen years decades where Washington just puts off dealing with our toughest challenges because it's too hard because we don't know how the politics works and and and the will and the capacity to act to do serious things in this country starts just getting sucked away just gets sacked by partisanship and and political gamesmanship and debates about who's up and who's down and how does this play politically instead of asking what's right and what's wrong and we've seen terrible consequences not just these last two years of turmoil but a decade of struggle for middle-class families we can't accept the status quo we can't accept the same old same old I won't accept it Claire McCaskill won't accept it not when it comes to how we manage taxpayer dollars not when it comes to how our health care system works not when it comes to meeting the difficult challenges that we face and that's why Claire and I are fighting to stop waste and abuse in our government that's why Claire and I are fighting to pass these health insurance reforms now is the time now is the moment now's the time for us to lead for the next generation and generations to come a stronger and more prosperous country we are not back and down we are not quitting st. Charles and we are going to get this gun thank you god bless you and God bless the United States of America

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