Bennet: Status Quo on Health Care Is Not an Answer to America's Needs

Bennet Joins Udall to Continue Push for Meaningful Health Care Reform

Highlights Colorado's Transitions of Care Model, Pushes to Improve Patient Care & Lower Health Care Costs

Michael Bennet, U.S. Senator for Colorado and member of the Senate HELP Committee, today joined Senator Mark Udall in a continued effort to highlight the importance of passing meaningful health care reform for working families and small businesses.

In his remarks, Bennet laid out the need for reform that lowers costs and improves patient outcomes, reduces costly hospital readmissions by building upon a successful model for transitions of care pioneered in Colorado, and bends the health care cost curve in a way that will put Washington and the country on a sounder fiscal footing.

CLICK HERE FOR AUDIO OF THE SPEECH

Below is the full text of Bennet's remarks, as delivered. To view health care slides presented by Bennet on the floor of the Senate, please click here:

It is good to be here this morning with all of my colleagues to talk about health care reform.
There is a lot of disagreement on what the right answer is. What I'd like to spend my time on this morning is why the status quo is not an answer here. And I think that if we can get agreement on that, we can solve the issues that confront the working families in my state and all across the country.

Mr. President, the median income in Colorado has actually declined by $800 over the last 10 years. At the same time, the cost of health insurance has gone up by 97%. It has doubled over that period of time and that has happened all over the country. This slide shows the difference between the rate of the increase of wages in my state from 2000 to 2007 versus the rate of the increase in insurance.

I have talked to small business people all across the state of Colorado and they've said they're trying to continue to insure their employees just as they had for generations in family owned businesses, but they're finding that they have to make a tradeoff between people's wages because the cost of insurance is getting so large. By 2016, in my state, working families in Colorado are going to be spending roughly 40% of their income on health care if we don't change the status quo.

It's also having a profound effect on the finances of the Federal government. The biggest driver of our deficits, as the red line shows, are rising Medicare and Medicaid costs. If we can change that we can begin to restore our government to fiscal health. If we don't change it, we are going to continue to pile mounds of debt on to our kids and grandkids. Something that nobody in this chamber, and I can assure you, no one in my state wants us to do.

Finally, the last slide shows that we are consuming almost 20% of our gross domestic product on health care, devoting almost one-fifth of our economy to health care when all of our competitors across the globe are devoting less than half that to health care. It's no different than if you had two small businesses across the street from each other, one spending one-fifth of their revenue on their light bill and the other is spending less than half of that on the light bill. You don't need an MBA to know who is going to invest and grow their business.

The Senator from New Hampshire talked about a very important cost control measure in this bill that has to do with transitions of care. Right now in this country one out of five Medicare patients is readmitted to the hospital within the first month that they leave. And that's because nobody is following up to make sure they're getting the care they need to stay well. Nobody's checking to see whether they filled their prescription or whether they're taking it.

In Colorado, we have a great model, Mesa county and Grand Junction, where the hospital admission is not 20% but 2%. This alone is costing us $17 billion a year. If we could do it smarter, if we can do it more cheaply, if we can provide the kind of quality we see in Grand Junction, the Mayo clinic and other places across the country, we should. That's what this reform is about.

It's time for us to put the politics aside and come to an agreement that's going to create a much improved situation for our working families and small businesses and the ones they confront. The status quo is eating people alive all across this country. We ought to be able to do better than that.