Bennet: Now's the Time to Put Politics Aside, Pass Health Care Reform that Reduces Costs, Puts Country on Path to Sound Fiscal Future

Non-Partisan Congressional Budget Office Estimates Senate Health Care Bill Will Reduce the Long-Term Deficit

Bennet Says Reining in Skyrocketing Costs Single Most Important Step We Can Take to Get Deficit Under Control

Stating that health care reform is the single most important step we can take to get our deepening deficits and debts under control, Michael Bennet, U.S. Senator for Colorado, today urged his colleagues to put politics aside and get to work on the recently unveiled Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

In his remarks, Bennet highlighted the need to for reform that reduces the skyrocketing health care costs that are bankrupting families and deepening the deficit, and provides stability and security for those who have insurance and affordable, quality choices for those who don't.

"We must pass reform that reins in skyrocketing costs and helps to solve the fiscal problems that threaten our economy and our kids' futures," said Bennet. "Without reform...out-of-control health care costs will place an ever higher burden on taxpayers and create structural deficits that could persist for decades as it drags on economic recovery and growth."

Citing several studies showing that rising health care costs represent the single biggest threat to our nation's fiscal future, Bennet called for reform that drives down costs by reorienting incentive structures to focus on quality outcomes and patient care.

For audio of Bennet's remarks, please click here.

The full text of Bennet's remarks, as delivered, are included below:

Thank you, Madam President. I'm pleased to be here today with my colleague from New Hampshire to talk about fiscal accountability in the context of the health care reform discussion that we've been having.

Back in Colorado, people aren't talking about the far left or far right or democratic or Republican. That's not what concerns them. What concerns them is that for the last ten years they've seen double-digit increases in the cost of their health insurance year in and year out at a time, by the way, when their income has actually declined.

Madam President, even before we were in the worst recession since the great depression, which we're in today, during the last recovery, the Bush recovery, the first recovery in the history of the United States when median family income declined. It was, in effect, for our working families a recession. They're now having to recover not just from the greatest recession since the Great Depression, but from a ten-year period when they fell behind in terms of their income. What was happening at the same time their income was going down? The cost of health insurance was going up by 97% in my state. The cost, by the way, of higher education was going up by 50% during this same period.

What we have said to working families before this recession and now in the depths of this recession is that they're expected to do more with less. And we're threatened by politics in Washington that for decades has allowed special interests to get in the way of our passing meaningful health care reform for working families and small businesses.

At the same time, we have tripled our federal budget deficit and added to the national debt as we've been unable to deliver for families all across the United States. Well, today we are closer than ever to meaningful health care reform that lowers costs, reduces the nation's long-term deficits, and improves access to quality, affordable care for Colorado's families. With the release of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, we have taken a major step forward. This bill will help put our nation back on a track to fiscal responsibility.

There is much more we need to do, Madam President, to get us where we need to be. I'm the father of three little girls that are ten, eight, and five, and I am desperate about the amount of debt that we have loaded up on our federal government, about the size of our federal budget deficit. And while reforming health care is not sufficient to fixing that problem, it is a very important step forward. Our nation's annual deficits are enormous, and our debt is staggering.

Health care reform, as I said, must help solve that problem, not make it worse. I, for one, Madam
President, have said from the very beginning of this debate that I would not support a health care reform bill that added a dollar to our deficit. I'm very pleased to see that the bill that the leader has produced does not do that.

We must pass effective reform that will rein in skyrocketing costs in both the public and private sectors and help to solve the fiscal problems that threaten our economy and our kids' futures. Without reform, if we just hold on to the status quo, if we listen to the siren call of special interests, out-of-control health care costs will place an ever higher burden on government expenditures and create structural deficits that Could persist for decades, as a drag on economic recovery and growth, deficits and debt for as long as our eyes can see.

Rising health care costs, especially Medicare costs, are the longest driver of our deficits. Our nation's health care spending today is 17% of our gross domestic product, is slated to grow to over 20% in the blink of an eye. Health care will soon account for one-fifth of our economy. That might not be such a big deal if every other industrialized country in the world wasn't devoting less than half that percentage of their GDP to health care. It is like having two small businesses, one across the street from the other, one spending a fifth of their revenue on their light bill and the other spending less than half of that. You don't need an MBA to know which of those small businesses is going to be able to invest in their business plan and grow. And, if we expect to compete in the global economy we need to devote a smaller percentage of our GDP to health care.

Since 1970, every year for almost 40 years, year in and year out, Medicare spending per person has risen by over 8% a year and private insurance spending per person has risen by over 9% a year. We cannot expect reform to begin at the private or employer-based level. We must drive these costs down at the Federal level by reorienting our Medicare incentive structure.

The Congressional Budget Office Director Doug Elmendorf has said that "rising costs for health care represent the single greatest challenge to balancing the federal budget." If you're embracing the status quo, you're embracing skyrocketing deficits. The White House Budget Director Peter Orszag agrees saying, "The single-most important thing, the single-most important thing we can do to put the nation on a sounder long-term fiscal footing is to reduce the rate of growth of health care costs. Period."

Meanwhile, the cost of health insurance is eating into family budgets faster and faster. About 20 years ago, Madam President, the cost of an average family health policy was $4,700 in Colorado. Representing 12% of the average family's income. Today an average family's health policy costs roughly $12,000, amounting to 20% of the family's income, going by 2016, if we do nothing, to 40% of their income. Middle-class wages are not even close to keeping up with these rising insurance costs. In fact, median family income in this country fell by $300 as health care costs increased by 80% just while the last administration was in office.

Looking outside the confines of the budget context, health care reform will contribute significantly to economic growth. Health care reform will rein in skyrocketing health care costs and achieve close to $2 trillion of savings to the entire health care system. Savings that will result in real economic gains to families and businesses. The Council of Economic Advisors estimates that slowing health care costs will increase gross domestic product by 2% in 2020 and by 8% in 2030.

After eight years of irresponsible deficit spending, this legislation will be budget-neutral and will put us on course to reduce the deficit over the long term. You know, it's no wonder that people doubt that this is actually happening because it's been so long since this body was actually able to do something that was deficit-neutral. In this case, we're actually going to improve our deficit situation.

The Congressional Budget Office report confirms the senate bill is fiscally responsible and will reduce the deficit. Specifically, the report says that the bill cuts the budget deficit by $130 billion, cuts the budget deficit by $650 billion in the second decade, extends coverage to over 94% of Americans, including a 31 million-person reduction in the uninsured, costs $849 billion and achieves almost $1 trillion in cost savings.

Just this week, a bipartisan group of more than 240 leading economists released a letter urging passage of meaningful health reform. The economists said that our provisions to improve delivery system reform and slow the growth of health care costs "will reduce long-term deficits, improve the quality of care and put the nation on a firm fiscal footing."

The challenges facing our health care system are not new, Madam President; they are old. But if we fail to act, they'll surely get worse, meaning higher premiums, skyrocketing costs and deeper instability for those Americans that have coverage.

Today, thanks to a lot of hard work from a lot of people, we're closer than ever to enacting solutions to these problems and getting a finished bill to President Obama's desk as soon as possible. Now is the time for us to set aside the childish politics that put us here. Now is the time to ignore the siren's song of special interests. Now is the time to create meaningful health care reform for working families and small businesses all across the United States.

Thank you, Madam President.