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March 31, 2011

Health Care

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Mr. BARRASSO. I come to the floor as a physician who practiced medicine in Wyoming for a quarter of a century as an orthopaedic surgeon, taking care of families across the State, and to present a physician's second opinion on what has happened with the health care law people are dealing with. As Nancy Pelosi said 1 year ago: ``First we have to pass it before you get to find out what's in it.''

The American people are finding out what is in it and, frankly, they are not happy with it. They don't like it, they don't want to live with it, and they don't want to live under it.

One year ago, when we started this discussion, what we heard and what I believed as a physician was that what people are looking for is the care they need, from a doctor they want, at a cost they can afford.

This 2,700-page bill that is costing trillions of dollars doesn't deliver that at all. To me, it is a bill that makes it harder to create jobs. It increases the cost of care, eliminates choice, raises taxes, is locking 16 million Americans into a broken Medicaid system, and is taking $500 billion from our seniors--not to help take care of Medicare and solve that problem but to start a whole new government entitlement program.

I was visiting with one of my colleagues, Dr. Kris Keggi, an orthopedic surgeon whom I trained under in my residency program. Just the impact on

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seniors alone who need hip and knee replacements--we know when we take that kind of money away from Medicare, it doesn't make it easier for seniors to get the care they need.

Two courts have ruled--one in Virginia and one in Florida--that this health care law and the mandate that everybody in the country must buy or obtain government-approved health insurance is unconstitutional. The States are at an impasse in knowing what to do. How do they react? What will the Supreme Court decide? What kind of resources must the States commit?

That is why I am delighted to be joined on the floor by Senator Hutchison from Texas. I think she has the right answer. She has introduced, as an amendment to the bill we are discussing on the floor, the Save our States Act. It is an amendment to suspend implementing these health care reform measures until the lawsuits have been settled and we actually get a clear understanding.

I believe this law is unconstitutional. I ask my colleague--and I note there are quite a few Senators who have cosponsored this legislation--if she would perhaps share, as part of a second opinion, her thoughts on what the States have to live under now and what rights and opportunities the States should have.

Mrs. HUTCHISON. Mr. President, I certainly appreciate what Dr./Senator Barrasso, from Wyoming, does for us on a regular basis. As one of the few physicians in our body--he is one of the two--he tells us the things that are happening in this health care reform bill that are hurting our health care system, hurting the quality of health care in our country, at a time when we need to assure senior citizens that Medicare cuts will not take effect. We certainly want our small businesses to hire people rather than stop at 50 because then they are going to start getting fined for not giving the government-prescribed health care that is in the health care reform act that was passed last year.

What I am doing in my amendment, as one of those pending in the bill before us, is saying: Stop. We have now had two Federal courts--one from Virginia, one from Florida--that have said this law is unconstitutional. Yet the administration is continuing to implement the law, even though it has certainly now been called into question.

I am most affected by the number of States that are having to do the same thing. Most of our State legislatures are in session right now. Every one of them--actually, I think approximately 44 States out of 50--has a budget shortfall. Yet our States are having to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to implement a law that may be declared unconstitutional.

Some States have said we are not going to implement it. But if they say that, then they are going to be in jeopardy when they are not prepared, if the law is constitutional, and they will be paying late fees and fines for not implementing during this kind of time when we are in limbo. Some States are saying we are going to implement, but we have a budget shortfall and we would like not to be required to implement a law that may be void and we are spending millions of dollars when we need that money for education or Medicaid, frankly.

My amendment says we will stop any further implementation of this law until we know the final opinion has been rendered by the Supreme Court of the United States regarding whether the law is valid. That is it. It is simple and clear. We will let every State know they have a level playing field, that they do not have to spend the hundreds of millions of dollars now being spent on implementation, unless we know the Supreme Court has said the law is valid.

I have 36 cosponsors of my amendment, including the Senator from Wyoming, who is one of our two physicians in the Senate. I think we will have a large support because I am getting letters from organizations.

I got a letter from a group that has been formed to say we need to start over on this health care reform bill. These are people who represent the employers of America that want to be able to give their employees the health care coverage they can afford right now. It may not be the government-prescribed health care, but many are trying to do it.

The groups that have signed this letter supporting my amendment to say stop implementation now are: The Associated Builders and Contractors, the Associated General Contractors, the Electrical Contractors, the Foodservice Distributors Association, the International Franchises Association, the National Association of Manufacturers, the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors, the National Retail Federation, the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Independent Women's Voice, and the 60 Plus Association.

Those are the groups that are saying let's stop the upheaval this has caused in our country and wait and see what the Supreme Court says before we have the outlays of millions of dollars.

Most certainly, small businesses are not increasing employment because they are so concerned about the implications of the health care reform bill. Let me give the Senator from Wyoming an example from my home State of Texas, in Corpus Christi. A small business there has 34 employees. The cheapest option they have for their health insurance renewal is 44 percent more than their insurance just last year. They have just days to decide whether they can continue to offer their employees health insurance. This is in anticipation of the health care reform bill going into effect and causing these employers to have to meet these new mandates.

The insurance companies are already ratcheting up their insurance premiums in anticipation of this law. This is one of the key reasons we need to stop the implementation, until we know if this law is valid, so our businesses will have the freedom to provide affordable health care coverage to their employees.

I thank the Senator from Wyoming for coming in with his second opinion because we know he has unique experience in working with our health care system. I wish to make sure we don't do what the physicians' motto is--which is do no harm--when we haven't thought it through and don't have all the ramifications. First, do no harm. That is their motto. It is simple and clear.

I think we need to stop implementing this bill until the Supreme Court has ruled on its constitutionality.

Mr. BARRASSO. Mr. President, to follow up on that, I am so pleased to be an original cosponsor of the Save our States Act.

States are very concerned. As I heard my colleague from Texas say, 44 States are in the red right now. When we hear the complaints from Governors of both parties--they are all having to live under this law--they have great concerns. Some States, as my colleague notes, have actually applied for waivers so they don't have to live under the constraints of the law. The State of Maine has been given a waiver, 2 1/2 million Americans have been given waivers by the Secretary of Health and Human Services. Many of those are union workers who actually supported the law. When they found out what the law was going to cost--as in the example the Senator has given from Corpus Christi--they said: We can't live under this.

To be forced to put out this expense and pay for it at a time of huge financial challenges for our States, it seems that the Save our States Act is a rational, logical, commonsense way to deal with this.

I will be home in Wyoming this weekend, very likely at a health fair, visiting with people from the communities. Health care fairs are ways to get low-cost health screenings. We know early prevention and early detection of problems are ways to keep down the cost of health care. Those are measures that work. We need to repeal and replace this health care law with things that are commonsense solutions that work. Of course, we can make it legal to allow people to buy insurance across State lines, give people individual incentives to stay healthy, allow people who buy individual health insurance to get the same tax breaks as big companies, and deal with the lawsuit abuse doctors will tell us impacts the way they practice and raises the cost of care.

There are so many things we need to do. That is why I come to the floor again with a doctor's second opinion on the health care law, saying it is time

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to repeal and replace this health care law and replace it with something that works for the American people. This law we have passed and is now on the books is one I believe is unconstitutional and one that the Save our States Act will help our States deal with. This is a way that I think will help the health care of Americans who are struggling at this time to deal with the onerous requirements they see coming at them under the President's new health care law.

With that, I yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum.

(Senate - March 30, 2011)

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