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Murray Speaks on Senate Floor, Debunks Health Care Misinformation and Scare Tactics Aimed at Seniors

Oct 07 2009

In speech on the Senate floor, Murray outlines the benefits of health care reform for Washington state seniors

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(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) delivered a speech on the floor of the U.S. Senate focusing on the benefits of health insurance reform for Washington state seniors. Murray debunked many of the rumors, misinformation, and scare tactics that have been targeted at seniors. Senator Murray also discussed the Democrats long-term work to keep Medicare strong.

Key excerpts:

“There’s a lot of concern out there.  And there’s a lot of bad information going around. The latest outrageous claim about reform is that it would hurt America’s seniors. And, Mr. President, I am here today to tell our seniors and their families – that claim is false. Let me make this perfectly clear. We are not proposing to cut Medicare benefits or do anything to negatively affect the health of those receiving Medicare. “

“Scoring cheap political points doesn’t do anything to help all Americans get affordable, quality health insurance. Our families – and especially our seniors – deserve better.”

“So don’t be fooled when Republicans tell you that Democrats don’t want to protect Medicare, or that health insurance reform won’t be good for seniors. Mr. President, the truth is that the Democratic proposal will help seniors get the care and coverage they need and have earned. But this should come as no surprise. After all, Democrats have a long history of working to improve the health and general well-being of seniors.”

“Under the Republicans’ plan, insurance companies can dump you for a pre-existing condition, or because you are a woman, or because you’re getting older or because you get sick – and Medicare will face bankruptcy.  Under our plan, if you like what you have you can keep it.  If you don’t there will be affordable choices for you.   We will protect Medicare, we will not raise taxes on the middle class and we won’t add a dime to the deficit.”

The full speech follows:

“Mr. President, I have been troubled recently by some of the claims I have heard about the health insurance reform legislation we have been working on here in the Senate.

“When I spoke here on the Senate floor this July, I said that all you had to do was look at a newspaper or turn on cable news to see that the rhetoric on health insurance reform was heating up. Unfortunately, as is often the case the debate hasn’t gotten better – but instead it has gotten louder.

“There’s a lot of concern out there.  And there’s a lot of bad information going around. The latest outrageous claim about reform is that it would hurt America’s seniors.

“And, Mr. President, I am here today to tell our seniors and their families – that claim is false.

“Let me make this perfectly clear. We are not proposing to cut Medicare benefits or do anything to negatively affect the health of those receiving Medicare.

“Mr. President, when you hear rumors about how reform will affect seniors, consider the source.

“Just listen to some of these inflammatory quotes. A Republican member of the House of Representatives said, “Let me tell you here and now it is socialized medicine.”

“Another Republican congressman said, “we cannot stand idly by now, as the Nation is urged to embark on an ill-conceived adventure in government medicine, the end of which no one can see, and from which the patient is certain to be the ultimate sufferer.”

“Well, Mr. President, these aren’t quotes about the current health insurance reform effort.

“These statements were made in 1965 – when Republicans were opposing the establishment of Medicare. And their position hasn’t changed. Republicans have voted against Medicare almost 60 times in the last 10 years. And now, all of a sudden, Republicans are claiming that Democrats support cutting Medicare benefits?

“This is why, last Sunday, the New York Times said that Republicans are ‘obscuring and twisting the facts and spreading unwarranted fear.’ And scoring cheap political points doesn’t do anything to help all Americans get affordable, quality health insurance.

“Our families – and especially our seniors – deserve better.

“You don’t have to go back too far to find a perfect example of the Senate’s history on this subject. Just last year, Democrats overcame a Republican filibuster and a veto by then-President Bush to pass the Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act.

“That bill prevented physicians from suffering cuts in the rate at which Medicare reimburses them for providing care to seniors. If those cuts had happened, many doctors would have been forced to stop treating patients with Medicare, severely limiting seniors’ access to health care. Democrats wanted to make sure there were enough doctors to go around.   And we did.

“That bill also made common-sense fixes to Medicare, including: Requiring that Medicare cover cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation programs; Lowering seniors’ co-payments for mental health services; And preventing cuts to vital oxygen equipment and wheelchairs.

“Though that bill shouldn’t have been controversial, it was vetoed by President Bush.  And when the Senate had a chance to pass the bill over that veto, it was only Republicans – almost 60% of those in the Senate – who sided with President Bush and said NO to seniors. Actions speak louder than words.

“So don’t be fooled when Republicans tell you that Democrats don’t want to protect Medicare, or that health insurance reform won’t be good for seniors.

“Mr. President, the truth is that the Democratic proposal will help seniors get the care and coverage they need and have earned. But this should come as no surprise. After all, Democrats have a long history of working to improve the health and general well-being of seniors.

“Democrats created Medicare – over the objections of Republicans – because we recognized that no American should go without health care – especially once they reach retirement age. And the American people know that it has been Democrats who have been protecting Medicare for seniors since we created the program 44 years ago. And nothing has changed. 

“Today, it is still Democrats who are fighting for better, more affordable health care for everyone – especially seniors. Specifically: Our plan moves towards closing the “donut hole” in prescription drug coverage and will provide access to more affordable generic drugs; If you have Medicare, our plan makes recommended preventive services – like colonoscopies and mammograms – free. It will ensure that, if you have Medicare, you get a free physical every year – not just when you enroll in the program. And our plan will aggressively attack the fraud and abuse that raise Medicare costs for seniors – and taxpayers.

“Mr. President, one thing that has been too often missing from this discussion is what will happen to Medicare if there is no reform.

“It is projected that as early as 2017, if we don’t make changes, the money Medicare spends on benefits and services will be greater than its income. At that point, seniors would have to pay a greater portion of their health care costs, or would receive fewer Medicare benefits. That is unacceptable.  Our current system is unsustainable. And that is one of the reasons that the non-partisan AARP supports reform this year.

“They know, like we do, that we must protect Medicare for our seniors over both the short term and the long term. And our plan will help prevent cost increases and overpayments to insurance companies in order to keep Medicare out of the red.

“Mr. President, now is the time to act. 

“And let me be clear. Under the Republicans’ plan, insurance companies can dump you for a pre-existing condition, or because you are a woman, or because you’re getting older or because you get sick – and Medicare will face bankruptcy. 

“Under our plan, if you like what you have you can keep it.  If you don’t there will be affordable choices for you.   We will protect Medicare, we will not raise taxes on the middle class and we won’t add a dime to the deficit.

“Every day, 14,000 more Americans are losing their health insurance.  And that has to stop.

“But this is not just about those who don’t have coverage. The costs of treatment for the uninsured are passed on to all taxpayers. It’s estimated that a family of four pays a “hidden tax” of one thousand dollars a year in premiums to help pay for those with no coverage.

“And so we will help remove that burden from our working families.

“We will provide stability and choice to families and businesses.

“We will return health care decisions will be back where they belong – in the hands of patients and their doctors, not insurance company bureaucrats.

“And rumors, misinformation and scare tactics about Medicare should not prevent us from passing meaningful health insurance reform legislation this year.”