Republicans successfully killed the nation’s last health insurance reform effort, using much of the same anti-reform rhetoric they employ today. In the 16 years since that reform effort began, health care costs have skyrocketed, leaving millions of middle-class Americans without health insurance, or spending far too much of their incomes on health insurance if they do have it, and consuming over 17 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Yet, Congressional Republicans once again stand in opposition to health insurance reform. Americans cannot wait another 16 years. Democrats are working hard to insure that all Americans have access to affordable health insurance coverage and the best quality care, while insuring a sound economic foundation rooted in system wide efficiencies and savings. Reasonable Republicans around the country are standing with Democrats to support health insurance reform.
What Republicans Said Then
As Congress considered health insurance reform in 1993 and 1994, Republicans suggested reform was unnecessary, that Congress just needed to allow the market to work, and that the legislation under consideration would increase health care costs.
Senator Gorton: “Government simply needs to get out of the way.” ”We all must also recognize that in many parts of the country, health care reform is already occurring in both the public and private sector, and the Government simply needs to get out of the way.” [Senator Gorton, Congressional Record, 9/15/1993]
Representative Goss: “It sounds too good to be true.” “The President keeps telling us that his health reform plan will control health spending, ensuring that everyone has health care and bringing down the national debt. If it sounds too good to be true, that is because it is.” [Representative Goss, Congressional Record, 4/19/1994]
Senator Hatch: With reform, “overall health costs will rise.” “I am certain that if legislation like the Clinton-Mitchell bill is ever enacted, overall health care costs will rise. Our economy and health care system and the people they serve will be seriously injured.” [Senator Hatch, Congressional Record, 10/7/1994]
Senator Gramm: Reform is “deader than Elvis.” Republican Senator Phil Gramm said health reform is "deader than Elvis.” [The Ottawa Citizen, 9/28/1994]
Senator Packwood: “We’ve killed health care reform.” "We’ve killed health care reform. Now we’ve got to make sure that our fingerprints are not on it.” [The Ottawa Citizen, 9/28/1994]
Republicans Defeated Health Reform, So What Happened?
Republicans “killed health care reform” 16 years ago, and the results have been disastrous for Americans who desperately need quality, affordable health insurance.
Family premiums more than doubled, a 156 percent increase.
In 1993, the average annual premium for employer-sponsored family coverage was $5,232. [Health Affairs, 1994] This year, the same coverage costs $13,375 per year. [Kaiser Family Foundation/Health Research and Education Trust, 2009]
Individual premiums more than doubled, a 136 percent increase.
In 1993, the average annual premium for a single person with employer sponsored health insurance was $2,040. [Health Affairs, 1994] This year, the same coverage costs $4,824. [Kaiser Family Foundation/Health Research and Education Trust , 2009]
National Health Expenditures nearly tripled, a 174 percent increase.
In 1993, total national health expenditures stood at $912 billion. [Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, 2009] In 2009, the United States is projected to spend $2.5 trillion on health care. [Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, 2009]
Per capita health care spending more than doubled, a 135 percent increase.
In 1993, the United States had per capita health care spending of $3,468. [Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, 2009] This year, the United States will have per capita health care spending of $8,160. [Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, accessed 10/17/2009]
Health care costs consume a larger and growing share of economic output.
In 1993, health care spending consumed 13.7 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). [Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services, 2009] This year, health care spending is projected to consume 17.6 percent of the GDP. [Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, accessed 10/17/2009]
More Americans lack health insurance.
Fewer employers offer retiree health benefits.
In 1993, 36 percent of firms with 200 or more employees offered health benefits to their retirees. [Kaiser Family Foundation/Health Research and Education Trust, 2009] This year, 29 percent of similar firms offered retiree health benefits. [Kaiser Family Foundation/Health Research and Education Trust, 2009]
Despite Their Dismal Record, What Senate Republicans are Saying Now
As the Senate begins consideration of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and it is clear most Congressional Republicans have not learned from their past mistakes. Despite the fact that their opposition to health reform in the 1990s created an environment in which health care costs skyrocketed, many Senate Republicans are once again opposing the current effort to enact health insurance reform.
Senator DeMint: “Get out of the way and allow the market to work.” In rhetoric eerily similar to that of Senator Gorton 16 years earlier, Senator DeMint recently said, “We can give every American access to affordable health insurance plans if get out of the way and allow the market to work.” [Senator DeMint, Congressional Record, 7/20/2009]
Senator Kyl: Health insurance “one of the most regulated industries in America.” In explaining his opposition to health insurance reform on the Senate floor, Senator Kyl said, “In the first place, the health insurance industry is the most regulated–or one of the most regulated–industries in America.” [Senator Kyl, Congressional Record, 7/27/2009]
Senator Isakson: Obama’s health care bill would “destroy this economy.” “Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., said President Barack Obama’s health care bill would ‘destroy this economy’ during an afternoon town hall meeting in Nashville Tuesday…’In general, the private sector does a much better job than the government of managing things,’ he said.” [Valdosta Daily Times (GA), 8/12/2009]
Senator Inhofe: Won’t read the bill, and will vote against it. “At a town hall meeting Wednesday Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) told Chickasha residents he does not need to read the 1,000 page health care reform bill, he will simply vote against it. ‘I don’t have to read it, or know what’s in it. I’m going to oppose it anyways,’ he said.” [The Express Star (OK), 8/28/2009]
Senator Johanns: Reform will “decimate health care as we know it.” In repeating the results of a discredited study conducted by a health insurance company subsidiary, Senator Johanns insisted, “the current proposal will decimate health care as we know it in Nebraska.” [Omaha World-Herald (NE), 8/8/2009]
Senator Coburn: “I will do everything in my power to kill this puppy.” In Oklahoma, Senator Tom Coburn reiterated his opposition to “federally financed health insurance,” saying, “I will do everything in my power to kill this puppy.” [Tulsa World (OK), 8/21/2009]
Reasonable Republicans Do Support Health Insurance Reform
While Republicans in Congress seem intent on defeating health insurance reform efforts for the second time in 16 years, reasonable Republicans recognize the acute need for reform and have lent their support to Congressional plans.
Former Senate Majority Leader Frist: “I would end up voting for it.” In an interview, former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist spoke about the Senate health insurance reform legislation. “Were he still in the Senate, ‘I would end up voting for it,’ he said. ‘As leader, I would take heat for it. … That’s what leadership is all about.’” [Swampland, Time Magazine, 10/2/2009]
Governor Schwarzenegger: “Our principal goals” are the same. In a statement “urging the passage of health care reform at the national level,” Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said, “Our principal goals, slowing the growth in costs, enhancing the quality of care delivered, improving the lives of individuals, and helping to ensure a strong economic recovery, are the same goals that the president is trying to achieve. I appreciate his partnership with the states and encourage our colleagues on both sides of the political aisle at the national level to move forward and accomplish these vital goals for the American people.” [New York Times, 10/6/2009]
Former Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Tommy Thompson: “It is time for action.” In a statement, former Bush Administration Secretary of Health and Human Services and former Governor Tommy Thompson said, “Failure to reach an agreement on health reform this year is not an acceptable option. Inaction will only increase the burden of rapidly rising health care costs and care denied for millions of American families. Inaction will increase the crushing burden of rising health costs on American businesses that are struggling to create jobs and lead America’s economic recovery. It is time for action.” [Politico, 10/5/2009]
Former Medicare administrator Scully: Health reform is “way overdue and we ought to do it.” Thomas Scully ran the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) during former president George W. Bush’s first term. “Health reform in general is way overdue and we ought to do it,” Scully said. [Politics Daily, 10/9/2009]