Senate Democrats

Reid Spokesman: Republicans Playing Fast And Loose With The Truth

Washington, DCJim Manley, spokesman for Nevada Senator Harry Reid, released the following statement today in reaction to a Wall Street Journal op-ed by Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell and House Republican Leader John Boehner:

“Republicans have been playing fast and loose with the truth on health reform since day one, but saying the same thing over and over again doesn’t make it true.  By now it’s clear whose side they are on – they want to preserve the current system in which health insurers get rich, patients lose their coverage when they need it most, and families and small businesses go broke because of skyrocketing costs.”

REPUBLICAN LEADERS VS. THE TRUTH

In today’s Wall Street Journal, Republican Leaders Representative Boehner and Senator McConnell authored an op-ed on health reform.  Unfortunately, their article – much like their legislating on health reform – is short on facts and long on rhetoric.

RHETORIC REALITY

“A bipartisan bill focused on lower costs could have been sent to the president’s desk last year, and it would have received the support of the American people.”

FACT:Health Reform Includes Over 145 GOP Amendments. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, as passed by the Senate, includes 147 Republican amendments. That’s in addition to all of the GOP ideas that were incorporated into the bills in committee. [PPAC, Manager’s Amendment; Senate Finance Committee; Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee]

FACT: Health Reform Has 9 Out Of 10 GOP “Key Elements” For Reform. Senate Republicans don’t have a comprehensive health care plan, but their House counterparts do.  House Republicans have 10 “key elements” of their health care plan.  The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has 9 of those elements. [GOP.gov, accessed 2/22/10, available here]

FACT: Republicans Used “Esoteric” Procedural Tactics to Delay Health Reform. Roll Call reported on just what the Republicans are up to and wrote, “But instead of offering a conventional amendment, they decided to use an esoteric procedural tactic that would send the bill back to committee with instructions to eliminate the cuts. If successful, the GOP’s gambit would force Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to use time-consuming procedures and hold another filibuster-killing vote on whether to restart debate on the bill. Republicans said they are likely to use the procedural tactic repeatedly during debate this month as they seek to make the point that the Senate should go back to the drawing board on the health care bill.” [Roll Call, 12/2/09]

FACT: GOP More Interested In Obstructing Health Reform Than Actually Legislating. Senator Gregg authored a memo for the Republican caucus outlining all the procedural games at the minority’s disposal during the health care debate. As TPM noted, “Most of the steps Gregg suggests his colleagues take don’t serve any substantive purpose at all, but simply cause the debate proceedings to grind to a halt.” [TPM, 12/2/09]

FACT: “Central Components” Of Health Reform Have Public Support. In a Washington Post opinion piece, pollster Joel Benenson noted that “The central components of the plan — a ban on denying coverage of preexisting conditions, closing the Medicare "doughnut hole" on the drug coverage gap for seniors, creating an insurance exchange in which small business and those without coverage could buy private insurance at competitive rates — are all supported by solid majorities, from 60 percent to 81 percent.” [Benenson opinion article, Washington Post, 3/13/10]

“Do we really need to pass a $2.5 trillion spending bill, raise taxes, and slash Medicare to implement it?…Unfortunately, the White House and congressional Democrats are still insisting on their massive, 2,700-page bill that includes higher premiums, $500 billion in higher taxes, and $500 billion in cuts to seniors’ Medicare.”

FACT:Reform Removes The Hidden Tax Americans Pay To Cover Americans With No Health Insurance. Right now, Americans pay a “hidden tax” of about $1,100 in their health insurance to cover those without insurance.  Health legislation will curb this tax by significantly reducing the number of uninsured Americas.  And the legislation will require that all Americans have some form of coverage, just like states require auto insurance.  This will reduce – if not eliminate – the hidden tax.  [Center for American Progress, 3/23/09]

FACT: GOP Talking Point On Reform Cost Ignores CBO’s Actual Estimate, Leaves Out Deficit Reduction. The health insurance reform bill passed by the Senate in December 2009 will rein in unsustainable increases in health care costs to ensure future sustainability of the system, and will reduce federal deficits by $118 billion over the next ten years. Reform will also cost $875 billion over ten years, far less than Senate Republicans claim. Health reform will also bend the cost curve over the long-term, as it will continue to reduce federal deficits in the decades following 2019. [CBO, 3/11/10]

FACT: Reform Gives The Middle Class The Largest Tax Cut In History. Health reform “makes insurance more affordableby providing the largest middle class tax cut for health care in history, reducing premium costs for tens of millions of families and small business owners who are priced out of coverage today.” [Whitehouse.gov, accessed 3/2/10]

FACT: Health Insurance Reform Does Not Cut Medicare Benefits.  Health insurance reform stops overpayments to private insurance companies participating in Medicare Advantage. It DOES NOT reduce Medicare benefits – reform actually increases benefits of seniors. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has cited research findings that “nearly 30 percent of Medicare’s costs could be saved without negatively affecting health outcomes…and those estimates could probably be extrapolated to the health care system as whole.”  [CBO, 6/16/08]

FACT: Reform Will Help Seniors by “Enhancing Their Drug Coverage,” Reducing Premiums, Helping to Keep Medicare Solvent, and Eliminating Copays. “Far from harming elderly Americans, the various reform bills now pending should actually make Medicare better for most beneficiaries — by enhancing their drug coverage, reducing the premiums they pay for drugs and medical care, eliminating co-payments for preventive services and helping keep Medicare solvent, among other benefits.” [New York Times, Editorial, 9/27/09]

“If there’s one thing the American people didn’t want, it was for us to make health care more bureaucratic and expensive. The Obama administration’s own scorekeeper at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services says overall health spending will go up by more than $200 billion under the Democrats’ bill.”

FACT: Without Reform, Health Care Costs Will Drive Up The Deficit. Health care costs take up a growing share of federal and state budgets and are the greatest threat to the government’s long-term fiscal outlook.  In 2009, the United States spent an estimated $2.5 trillion on health care, consuming 17.3 percent of the GDP and representing the largest one-year increase in the health share of GDP since the measure was first tracked in 1960, according to experts from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Without action, total health care spending will consume more than 19 percent of GDP by 2019, just nine years from now.  Federal spending on Medicare and Medicaid now consumes approximately 5.5 percent of GDP, and in newly released estimates, the Congressional Budget Office estimates such spending will consume 6.6 percent of GDP by 2020 and ten percent of GDP by 2035. [Health Affairs, 2/4/10; Congressional Budget Office, 1/10]

FACT: CBO Said Senate Health Reform REDUCES The Deficit By More Than $118 Billion.  The health insurance reform bill passed by the Senate in December 2009 will rein in unsustainable increases in health care costs to ensure future sustainability of the system, and will reduce federal deficits by $118 billion over the next ten years. Health reform will also bend the cost curve over the long-term, as it will continue to reduce federal deficits in the decades following 2019. [CBO, 3/11/10]

FACT:Economists Agree – Health Reform Will Lower The Deficit.  Twenty-three prominent economists – including Nobel laureates and members of both Democratic and Republican administrations –identified four key measures that will lower costs and reduce long-term deficits. Health insurance reform includes all four measures: deficit neutrality, an excise tax on high-cost plans, an Independent Medicare Advisory Board, and delivery system reforms. [Letter to the President, 11/17/09]

“The CBO also says health insurance premiums for millions of families across the country will go up by as much as 13% as a result of all the new government mandates contained in this bill—and continue to rise at the current unsustainable rate for nearly everyone else.”

FACT: Without Reform, American Families Will Have Lower Incomes. Without action, total health care spending will consume more than 19 percent of GDP by 2019.  In 2016, family health insurance purchased through an employer is projected to cost $24,291, nearly double the 2008 cost, which will consume 45 percent of projected median family income. Economists project that if health insurance reform fails, the resulting lower Gross Domestic Product (GDP) will reduce family incomes by $2,600 in 2020 and by $10,000 in 2030. [New American Foundation, 11/08; Congressional Budget Office, 1/10; Health Affairs, 2/4/10;CEA, 6/2/09]

“Democratic leaders claim they can ‘fix’ the dreaded Senate bill through the reconciliation process, but the American people won’t be so easily hustled. No legislative sleight-of-hand can make this bill more palatable: higher premiums, higher taxes, and cutting Medicare is not reform.”

FACT: Health Programs Have Been Adjusted Using Reconciliation. As a chart in the New York Times illustrated, numerous health-related programs have been created or adjusted using reconciliation. Those programs include: Medicare (limiting reimbursements, extending coverage to low-income pregnant women, allowing HMOs to participate), COBRA and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). [New York Times, op-ed graphic, 3/7/10]

FACT: Reconciliation Has Been Used 22 Times Since 1980.  Since 1980, reconciliation has been used 22 times. The Congressional Research Service wrote that “During the period from 1980 to the present, 19 reconciliation measures were enacted into law and three were vetoed.”  [CRS, 11/14/08]

FACT: Reconciliation “Has Been Used In Most Years.” The Congressional Research Service found that “Beginning with the first use of reconciliation by both the House and Senate in 1980, reconciliation has been used in most years. Congress has sent the President 22 reconciliation acts over the years; 19 were signed into law and three were vetoed by President Bill Clinton (and the vetoes not overriden).” [CRS, 4/1/09]

FACT: Republicans Have Used Reconciliation More Than Democrats. Republicans have used reconciliation more often than their Democratic counterparts. PolitiFact found that, “there have been 22 reconciliation votes, 14 of them by a Republican-controlled Congress, and that it makes more sense — in light of the debate over making an end-run around the 60-vote threshold — to focus on the reconciliation bills that passed without a supermajority. But even then, Republicans have reached for reconciliation bills more often than Democrats since 1981.” [PolitiFact.com, 2/25/10]

“Our country faces big challenges. Our economy is struggling, the debt is exploding and tens of thousands of Americans are still losing their jobs every month. Health-care costs are skyrocketing. It’s time for both parties to come together and solve these problems.”

FACT: Republicans Already Using Health Reform As An Excuse To Do Nothing. Politico reported that Senate Republicans are already anxious to continue their Party of No mantra for the remainder of this Congress. “Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) told POLITICO on Monday that it will be ‘much, much harder’ to reach bipartisan consensus on anything if Democrats push ahead with reconciliation.
Financial regulatory reform ‘could easily fall victim,’ Kyl said. ‘I don’t think immigration reform was realistic, but this certainly doesn’t enhance its prospects at all,’ he added. ‘And even something like climate change legislation and, I’m sure, any of the tax legislation we’ll have to deal with later — all of these things will be impacted by the mood of the Senate, and it’s not going to be good if this reconciliation process is used.’” Senator Hatch “declared: ‘It could be war.’” [Politico, 3/16/10]

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