Washington, DC— Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made the following statement this morning on the floor of the U.S. Senate. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
“If you will indulge me, it appears appropriate and necessary to briefly summarize the sorry state of health care in America today.
- Nearly 50 million people in the greatest country and largest economy the world has ever seen lack the fundamental ability to stay healthy or care for a loved one.
- Nine million of those people are children.
- Eight million fewer people who in 2003 had health insurance through their jobs can say the same today.
- Among those between 18 and 64, the state of Nevada has the second-highest rate of uninsured citizens.
- Health care costs an average family more than twice what it did at the start of this decade.
- Half of all Americans who file for foreclosure do so because they can’t afford both their house and their health care.
- More than half of all Americans who file for bankruptcy do so because health care is too expensive.
- More than half of all Americans skip the doctor visits or treatments they need to stay healthy because health care is too expensive.
- Those fortunate enough to have health care pay a hidden tax just to cover those who don’t. If your family has insurance, you pay at least $1,000 more for it than you would need to if all other families had it, too.
- And, if you are like just about everybody I know and not in absolutely perfect health – if you have a history of anything from heart disease to high cholesterol to hay fever – your insurance company can force you to pay exorbitant rates or deny you coverage altogether. Insurance companies call theses pre-existing conditions. Everyone else calls these tragedies.
“I know I’m not telling the American people anything they don’t already know. They know it better than any statistics can say. They struggle with these challenges every morning when they wake up, and they go to bed every night second-guessing the agonizing decisions they made that day about what to sacrifice to stay healthy.
“Instead, I thought it would be appropriate to go back to the basics for the benefit of our Republican colleagues. Their lack of interest in an open and candid debate – their lack of interest in coming to the negotiating table with productive proposals – makes it painfully evident that they need to be reminded of the reality of this crisis.
“By any measure, these are serious problems. And serious problems deserve serious efforts by serious legislators to develop serious solutions.
“Our Republican colleagues think things are fine just the way they are. And why shouldn’t they like the status quo? They’re the ones who created it.
“In fact, just yesterday the Republican Leader in the House of Representatives said the following: ‘I think we all understand that we’ve got the best health care system in the world.’
“He said that to a room of reporters. I doubt he would say the same with a straight face to the millions of Americans who have to skip routine medical checkups, or live just one accident or illness away from bankruptcy, or wonder whether they will live long enough to fight through the red tape.
“And what about Republicans in the Senate? How have they approached this crisis? I’m sorry to say they have subscribed to more of the same stalling strategy that the American people are sick and tired of.
“Republicans have introduced 400 amendments to a health care bill that its authors haven’t even finished writing. Here is a sample:
- Two amendments that would force doctors to spy on each other;
- Multiple amendments just to change the names of sections in the bill; and
- Amendments that would make sure greedy insurance companies can continue to deny you coverage whenever they feel like it.
“Each of the 400 amendments say something different. But in truth, they all say the same thing: ‘No.’ They are designed for no other reason than to slow this process to a halt.
“Republicans waste the American people’s time and money in the morning, and in the afternoon complain that government is inefficient. Again, our health care system is in serious distress. And serious problems deserve serious efforts by serious legislators to develop serious solutions.
“That’s why we are committed to:
- lowering the high costs of health care;
- ensuring every American has access to that quality, affordable care; and
- letting people choose their own doctors, hospitals and health plans.
“We are committed to protecting existing coverage when it is good, improving it when it is not, and guaranteeing health care for the millions who have none.
“Doing nothing is not an option because the costs of doing nothing are too great. We must pass health care reform this year.
“As we said at the start of this Congress, at the start of this work period and at the start of this debate, we will continue doing our best to work with Republicans and pass a bipartisan bill. But in order for this bipartisan process to work, Republicans must demonstrate a sincere interest in legislating.
“Despite what we have seen in recent days, such cooperation is not out of the realm of possibility. Here is an example of what it looks like when Republicans and Democrats work with each other instead of against each other and against the interests of the American people:
“Yesterday, a group called the Bipartisan Policy Center proposed a thoughtful and thorough plan for stemming this country’s health care crisis. The group is led by three former Senate Majority Leaders – Bob Dole, Howard Baker and Tom Daschle, a man who knows more about health care than just about anyone in America today.
“Together, Senator Daschle – a Democrat – and Senators Dole and Baker – two Republicans – served a combined eight decades in the United States Congress. They know a thing or two about working across the aisle and getting things done. They know that our job is public service, not lip service.
“I may not agree with every part of their plan. But that is not the point. The point is that they gave a good-faith effort. They avoided the temptation to distract each other with misinformation and misrepresentations of the real problem. They put people ahead of partisanship and were able to find common ground.
“I encourage Republicans in Congress to read the Bipartisan Policy Center’s report. Even if they don’t support its conclusions, I hope they take to heart its authors’ motivations.
“Serious problems deserve serious efforts by serious legislators to develop serious solutions. The time for partisan games is over. It’s time to get serious about fixing health care.”