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Weekly remarks -- Kyl and Obama: Differing healthcare diagnoses

July 18, 2009 |  3:00 am
Arizona Republican Senator Jon Kyl at a political rally

Judging by this week's Republican and Democratic party remarks, you'd think there's some kind of healthcare debate going on in Washington.

The parties say they agree on the need for healthcare reform. But clearly, they sharply disagree not only on what constitutes proper reform in a free-market system but on the costs and how to pay them.

The president is in a big rush to get some reform through Congress by Aug. 7, when Congress takes another of its lengthy vacations from four-day workweeks. Republicans say that the urgency reminds them of the rushed economic stimulus plan last winter that isn't stimulating much yet, and they add that the longer the debate is, the more dubious many Americans get.

Obama says the issue is simply so urgent, it must be accomplished ASAP. He even broke into a Friday afternoon to make an unannounced plea for the reforms and scheduled his next prime-time news conference for Wednesday to make the same argument — a decision The Ticket strategically analyzed here last night.

Interestingly, the president's developing problem is not with the Republicans; it's with a mounting number of members of his own party, who face election next year, who sense growing grumbling over immense spending and deficits, and who saw a nonpartisan budget analysis this week that found that instead of reducing healthcare costs, the proposed reforms would actually increase them.

There are also those two scary words starting with N.T.: New Taxes.

Unless you're going on vacation this weekend, chances are you're gonna get an overdose of healthcare talk here for the next few weeks.

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Weekly Republican Remarks by Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona (unedited)

Hello. I’m Senate Republican Whip Jon Kyl of Arizona. Republicans believe all Americans should have access to quality health care and that we must find ways to reduce health care costs.

The debate in Washington is about how we can achieve these goals.

Republicans have put forward common-sense ideas, including rooting out Medicare and Medicaid fraud, reforming medical liability laws to discourage frivolous lawsuits, strengthening wellness and....

...prevention programs that encourage healthy living and allowing small businesses to band together and purchase health insurance like large corporations do.

These changes do not require government takeover of the healthcare system, or massive new spending, job-killing taxes or rationing of care.

Democrats in Congress have a different approach. Their plan would increase spending by more than two trillion dollars when fully implemented, and would, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, "add additional costs onto an already unsustainable system."

It would empower Washington, not doctors and patients, to make health care decisions and would impose a new tax on working families during a recession. A study by the respected Lewin Group shows it would also move millions of people who are happy with their current insurance to a new government plan.

They propose to pay for this new Washington-run health care system by dramatically raising taxes on small business owners. Small businesses create jobs -- approximately two-thirds of new jobs in the last decade.

With a shaky economy and the need for new jobs, the last thing the President and the Congress should do is impose new taxes on America’s small businesses. New taxes on small business would cripple job creation, especially jobs for low-wage earners.

This week, the Director of the Congressional Budget Office told the Senate Budget Committee that the health care-reform measures drafted by Democrats would worsen our economic outlook by increasing deficits and driving our nation more deeply into debt. So, there’s good reason to be skeptical when the President tells us we need to pass the Democrats’ bill to help the economy.

The President and Congressional Democrats have even proposed cutting Medicare to pay for their plan.

How can we justify dipping into funds for seniors’ care to pay for a new government plan, especially since Medicare is already in financial trouble? This would ultimately lead to shortages, rationing and the elimination of private-plan choices—something our seniors rightly fear.

These are not the right steps to achieving the reform Americans want.

But the President and some Democrats insist we must rush this plan through. Why? Because the more Americans know about it, the more they oppose it. Something this important needs to be done right, rather than done quickly.

We know Americans would prefer us to work together to ensure access to affordable quality health care for all. But Americans do not want a government takeover of health care that will jeopardize their current coverage, ration care, and create mountains of new debt and higher taxes.

We urge Democrats to support a plan that would lead to real reform and include the innovative ideas Republicans have put forward that would cut costs, improve access, and preserve the kind of care that millions of Americans already have and like. That’s the kind of reform Americans would be sure to support.   ###


Weekly Remarks by President Barack Obama (unedited)

Right now in Washington, our Senate and House of Representatives are both debating proposals for health insurance reform. Today, I want to speak with you about the stakes of this debate, for our people and for the future of our nation.

This is an issue that affects the health and financial well-being of every single American and the stability of our entire economy. It’s about every family unable to keep up with soaring out of pocket costs and premiums rising three times faster than wages. Every worker afraid of losing health insurance if they lose their job, or change jobs. Everyone who’s worried that they may not be able to get insurance or change insurance if someone in their family has a pre-existing condition.

It’s about a woman in Colorado who told us that when she was diagnosed with breast cancer, her insurance company – the one she’d paid over $700 a month to – refused to pay for her treatment. She had to use up her retirement funds to save her own life. It’s about a man from Maryland who sent us his story – a middle class college graduate whose health insurance expired when he changed jobs.

During that time, he needed emergency surgery, and woke up $10,000 in debt – debt that has left him unable to save, buy a home or make a career change. It’s about every business forced to shut their doors, or shed jobs or ship them overseas. It’s about state governments overwhelmed by Medicaid, federal budgets consumed by Medicare, and deficits piling higher year after year.

This is the status quo. This is the system we have today. This is what the debate in Congress is all about: Whether we’ll keep talking and tinkering and letting this problem fester as more families and businesses go under, and more Americans lose their coverage. Or whether we’ll seize this opportunity – one we might not have again for generations – and finally pass health insurance reform this year, in 2009.

Now we know there are those who will oppose reform no matter what. We know the same special interests and their agents in Congress will make the same old arguments, and use the same scare tactics that have stopped reform before because they profit from this relentless escalation in health care costs. And I know that once you’ve seen enough ads and heard enough people yelling on TV, you might begin to wonder whether there’s a grain of truth to what they’re saying. So let me take a moment to answer a few of their arguments.

First, the same folks who controlled the White House and Congress for the past eight years as we ran up record deficits will argue – believe it or not – that health reform will lead to record deficits. That’s simply not true. Our proposals cut hundreds of billions of dollars in unnecessary spending and unwarranted giveaways to insurance companies in Medicare and Medicaid. They change incentives so providers will give patients the best care, not just the most expensive care, which will mean big savings over time.

And we have urged Congress to include a proposal for a standing commission of doctors and medical experts to oversee cost-saving measures. I want to be very clear: I will not sign on to any health plan that adds to our deficits over the next decade. And by helping improve quality and efficiency, the reforms we make will help bring our deficits under control in the long-term.ObamaEbonyCover12-08

Those who oppose reform will also tell you that under our plan, you won’t get to choose your doctor – that some bureaucrat will choose for you. That’s also not true. Michelle and I don’t want anyone telling us who our family’s doctor should be – and no one should decide that for you either. Under our proposals, if you like your doctor, you keep your doctor. If you like your current insurance, you keep that insurance. Period, end of story.

Finally, opponents of health reform warn that this is all some big plot for socialized medicine or government-run health care with long lines and rationed care. That’s not true either. I don’t believe that government can or should run health care. But I also don’t think insurance companies should have free reign to do as they please.

That’s why any plan I sign must include an insurance exchange: a one-stop shopping marketplace where you can compare the benefits, cost and track records of a variety of plans – including a public option to increase competition and keep insurance companies honest – and choose what’s best for your family. And that’s why we’ll put an end to the worst practices of the insurance industry: no more yearly caps or lifetime caps; no more denying people care because of pre-existing conditions; and no more dropping people from a plan when they get too sick.

No longer will you be without health insurance, even if you lose your job or change jobs. The good news is that people who know the system best are rallying to the cause of change. Just this past week, the American Nurses Association, representing millions of nurses across America, and the American Medical Association, representing doctors across our nation, announced their support because they’ve seen first-hand the need for health insurance reform.

They know we cannot continue to cling to health industry practices that are bankrupting families, and undermining American businesses, large and small. They know we cannot let special interests and partisan politics stand in the way of reform – not this time around.

The opponents of health insurance reform would have us do nothing. But think about what doing nothing, in the face of ever increasing costs, will do to you and your family. So today, I am urging the House and the Senate, Democrats and Republicans, to seize this opportunity, and vote for reform that gives the American people the best care at the lowest cost; that reins in insurance companies, strengthens businesses and finally gives families the choices they need and the security they deserve. Thanks.     ###

Photos: Associated Press (Kyl, top); Ron Edmonds / Associated Press