Senate Democrats

Reid: In Health Insurance Reform Debate, Republicans Offer More Of The Same

Washington, DCSenate Majority Leader Harry Reid delivered the following remarks this afternoon on the floor of the U.S. Senate about the Republican plan to continue the status quo health insurance system.  Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:

“President Reagan once said that the status quo is Latin for ‘the mess we’re in.’

“A ‘mess’ is unquestionably an accurate way to describe America’s unhealthy health care system.  

“The cost of staying healthy is rising way too fast – much faster than families’ incomes.  Insurance companies aren’t cutting costs; instead, they’re cutting benefits – and often at the very time people need them the most.

“When costs go up as wages go down – when the sick are singled out and robbed of their health care – something has got to give.  Unfortunately, the give in this case are hardworking families, more and more of whom file for bankruptcy and foreclosure every day because they can’t pay their medical bills.

“The casualties are the patients who put off a needed doctor’s visit or don’t get a medical procedure they need because it simply costs too much.  The casualties are the people who can’t afford to fill an important prescription, who use an expired prescription, who skip a dose of medicine or split pills – all because they can’t afford to stay healthy in the richest country in the world.

“Every day, more and more families know what I’m talking about.  It’s not just happening to a handful or a hundred.  It’s not just threatening thousands.  The fact is that one in five Nevadans can’t afford health insurance, and those who do have it are at great risk of losing it.  If we don’t act today, 10 years from now health care costs will more than double, and the number of Nevadans who can’t afford health insurance will nearly double as well.

“That’s a mess.  It’s not right.  And it’s what Democrats have been working hard to turn around.

“You’ve heard much about our plan over the past months.  I hope you know we are fighting to protect what works about the system, fix what doesn’t and help the middle class get ahead.  You know we are fighting to stabilize health insurance for those who have it and help secure it for those who do not.  We are fighting to keep the insurance industry honest and protect Medicare. We are fighting to lower costs for every family so every American can afford good, quality care that can never be taken away.  And we’re going do it all without adding a dime to the deficit.

“That plan sounds pretty good to me.  But some Republicans don’t seem too fond of that plan.  You’ve heard much about that opposition, too, in recent weeks and months.  But what you haven’t heard a lot about is what the Republican do think is the best way to fix our broken health care system.

“Well, here are the basics:  Under the Republican plan, insurance companies can deny you coverage when you need it the most.

“Under the Republican plan, insurance companies can deny you coverage because you have high cholesterol or hay fever or heart disease.  They can raise your rates because you’re getting older or because your dad had prostate cancer or simply because you’re a woman.

“Under the Republican plan, if you do have health insurance, your family has to pay $1,000 more every year to cover all those other families who have none.

“If that plan sounds familiar – if it sounds like a mess – that’s because it’s exactly the same as the mess we’re already in.  As Ronald Reagan would say, that plan already goes by another name: the status quo.

“Some might ask, Why would they be supporting the status quo?  Why would they refuse to fix such a central part of our economy when it is so clearly and so badly broken?

“Paul Krugman has a theory.  Krugman, of course, won the Nobel Prize last year, teaches at Princeton, and writes a widely respected column in the New York Times.  In his column today, he blamed what he called ‘the politics of spite.’  He noticed that most Republicans who resist health insurance reform are fighting it for the sake of fighting it.  He observed that while we are fighting for hardworking families, Republicans are busy fighting us.  He pointed out there is no Republican plan to help people, only a plan to hurt the President.

“These politics are simply out of touch.  The majority of Americans know our recovering economy needs health insurance reform now more than ever.  The majority of Americans support the idea that health insurance companies should be required to cover every family.  The majority of Americans support creating more competition in the marketplace to drive down the cost of health insurance.

“There are those who reflexively and recklessly stand in the way of doing what we all know needs to be done.   Though their megaphone is loud, they constitute a small minority.  

“This is the same minority that happily pumped one fist when America lost its bid to host Olympics, but shakes the other fist at those it slanders as unpatriotic.

“This is the same minority that disputes indisputable evidence about how our health care plan will help seniors, or disputes indisputable evidence about our President’s birth records.

“This is the same minority that relies on distortions, distractions and deception to change the subject away from health care, rather than debate the facts in good faith.

“Krugman was right to call it the ‘politics of spite.’  And he was right to conclude that such blind malice has no place in the legislative process.

“But just as the majority of Americans yearn for the day when they can afford to live a healthy life – without fear of living just one accident, one illness or one pink slip away from losing everything – a majority of Americans are also hopeful about reform.  They are optimistic.

“Former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, a Republican and a physician, is one of them. He said last week that if he still served in this body, he would vote for the health insurance bill that will soon come to the floor.

“Former Senate Republican Leaders Bob Dole and Howard Baker have similarly supported reform.  All three have done so because it is necessary, it is overdue and it is right.  All three have recognized that the status quo is not an option.  And all three have done so in a spirit of service, not a sense of spite. 

“How did they reach this conclusion, when so many of their Republican colleagues in this body and elsewhere have not?  I’ll quote Senator Frist directly: he said, ‘I would take heat for it,’ but, he continued, ‘that’s what leadership is all about.’

“I encourage my Republican colleagues to consider the words of two men on opposite sides of the political spectrum – Paul Krugman, a progressive, and Bill Frist, a conservative – who disagree on much but both know that leadership, courage and honesty is what will improve the lives of the people we represent.

“And I encourage them to heed the words of a hero of the Republican Party – President Ronald Reagan – who knew that any time one defends a broken status quo, he is only making a bad situation worse.”