Sunday, December 20, 2009

Senator Collins to vote against health care legislation

Says bill fails to reduce costs and will hurt Maine's seniors, health care providers, and small businesses

U.S. Senator Susan Collins announced today her decision to vote against the final health care bill unveiled by Majority Leader Harry Reid on Saturday. Following is her statement:

"Our nation’s health care system requires substantial reform. The status quo of soaring health care costs, families struggling, millions uninsured, and health care provider shortages is unacceptable. That is why I am so disappointed that the partisan legislation before the Senate falls far short of what should be the goals of reform. This bill will actually increase health care costs, impose billions in new taxes, fees, and penalties, and hurt our seniors, health care providers, and small businesses. I simply cannot support such a bill.

"It is particularly disappointing that the bill does not do enough to rein in the cost of health care and to provide consumers with more affordable choices. Whether I am talking to a self-employed fisherman, a laid-off worker, the owner of a struggling small business, or the human resource manager of a large company, the soaring cost of health insurance is a primary concern. Yet, the government's own actuary projects that health care costs will be higher as a result of this bill than under current law.

"I am deeply opposed to the nearly $500 billion in cuts to Medicare – a program that already has long-term financing problems. It is fiscally irresponsible to raid Medicare to pay for a new entitlement program at a time when the number of Medicare beneficiaries is on the rise.

"It makes no sense that the bill would slash more than $47 billion in payments to home health and hospice providers. That is completely contrary to the goal of controlling health care costs because home care and hospice services have consistently proven to be cost-effective alternatives to institutional care.

"According to the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Actuary, these deep cuts could push one in five hospitals, nursing homes, and home health providers into the red. Many of these providers would simply stop taking Medicare patients, which would jeopardize access to care for millions of seniors.

"The comments of the Chief Executive Officer of Central Maine Healthcare, reflect what I have heard from many of Maine's health care providers about this bill. He told me that its passage would be 'disastrous' for Maine and would saddle our hospitals with some $800 million in Medicare cuts over the next ten years.

"Aside from the devastating cuts in Medicare, additional financing for this bill comes through an array of new taxes, penalties, and fees on individuals, employers, insurance providers, and medical device and pharmaceutical manufacturers. The Congressional Budget Office and Joint Committee on Taxation have testified that these costs will simply be passed on to consumers, further increasing the costs of health care for many Americans – the opposite of what health care reform should produce.

"And there is a four-year gap between when billions of new taxes and fees are imposed and when the new subsidies go into effect. The bill would provide fewer and more expensive insurance choices for many self-employed individuals who will not qualify for subsidies.

"The detrimental impact of this bill on small businesses, our nation's job creators, concerns me greatly. This bill would discourage small businesses from hiring more employees and paying them better. It could lead to onerous financial penalties on small businesses that are already struggling to provide health insurance for their employees.

"Small businesses want to provide health insurance for their employees, but many simply cannot afford to absorb double-digit increases in their health insurance premiums year after year. The National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB), the nation’s leading small business association, says this bill does too little to reduce insurance costs, imposes new taxes, establishes new entitlement programs, and creates new mandates that will burden small business owners and their employees. In short, the NFIB says, 'the Senate bill fails small business.' I agree.

"To remedy some of these fundamental problems, I worked with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to offer significant bipartisan amendments aimed at containing costs, helping small businesses, increasing affordability, and providing more choices for consumers. Unfortunately, we were precluded from offering our amendments due to procedural roadblocks.

"It is unfair that Republicans were allowed to offer only seven amendments to a bill that affects every single citizen and one-sixth of our nation’s economy.

"The health care legislation before the Senate has enormous consequences for our economy and our society. The Senate missed the opportunity to produce true, bipartisan health reform. Unfortunately, the process became too divisive and partisan, and the result is a bill that takes us in the wrong direction and will do more harm than good. Keeping in mind the oath every physician takes to 'first, do no harm,' I will cast my vote against this legislation."

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